Bristol Motor Speedway could be the toughest test yet

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Ses Bristol, baby. Well, sort of.

Thanks to the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational series, the season is going well in the virtual world during the coronavirus pandemic.

iRacing is a motorsport racing simulation that has caught the eye of a large segment of NASCAR fans with Fox Sports, which partners with NASCAR to keep at least one form of competition alive.

NASCAR even provides media interviews with key drivers every week before the simulation race.

iRacing is an online video game that puts competitors in control for virtual races. Equipment can be as basic as a steering wheel and pedals for accelerating and braking, or as complex as a cockpit with a video game console and multiple monitors.

In this computer generated image in the game, Denny Hamlin, left, races with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (8) during the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 at Virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway postponed this weekend, the NASCAR field will participate in a virtual race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox and Fox Sports 1), and the Cup driver Bubba Wallace said that the half-mile track will be a challenge on the simulator.

“It’s such a small and short track where we can get close to each other in real life and almost like leaning on each other and being OK,” said Wallace. “But when you lean on someone in the virtual world, you sort of hit a mismatch, and so you delay each other and end up in ruins. This makes Bristol really difficult because it is so small and so tight. “

NASCAR IN BRISTOL:TV program, list of entries for the Sunday iRacing event

Wallace also said it would be especially important in Bristol for drivers to be aware of other drivers around them at all times.

“As with Kyle Busch, we were running over the weekend in Texas and he was jumping all over the place and the internet wasn’t great,” said Wallace. “You have to be careful with this stuff because you could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and (Busch) could blink for a second and come back and it’s over your car and you all end up in ruins. These things are not what you deal with in real life, and that’s what makes it difficult, especially on the short tracks. ”

Bubba Wallace said driving on the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway will be a challenge on the simulator.

In total, 1.3 million viewers watched last week’s virtual race at Texas Motor Speedway, won by Timmy Hill.

This surpassed the previous week’s race at Homestead-Miami, which aired only on FS1 and had 910,000 viewers.

Denny Hamlin won the Homestead-Miami race by overtaking Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the last lap.

“I think we attract two different types of viewers,” said Fox broadcaster Mike Joy. “We drive NASCAR fans who are hungry for live content. And I think we also attract people who are curious about racing simulation and how much, or little, it may sound like the real thing. “

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NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Jeff Gordon joined Joy in the call of each of the first two races.

Joy said the competition should not be taken too seriously. It’s just a way for NASCAR teams to step in to provide some form of entertainment for fans during the pandemic.

“In many ways, this is a step into the unknown for all of us,” said Joy. “We are not here to find the best iRacer in NASCAR. To that end, we have the greatest American drivers having fun and getting reps and being really competitive for an hour and a half Sunday, and we are very fortunate to bring all the racing fans to the race. ”

Join Mike Organ on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

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