William Byron easily won Nascar’s iRacing event on Sunday at a virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, where the drivers would have been racing before the coronavirus pandemic caused sports to shut down.
The entertainment again came from the drivers, most of whom streamed their gaming experiences for fans to eavesdrop on the action and the arguing.
Bubba Wallace appeared to “rage quit” the race after an incident with Cling Bowyer. “That’s why I don’t take this crap serious. Peace out,” Wallace said on his gaming stream. After fans ripped him on Twitter, he laughed at how seriously some are taking iRacing.
“I ruined so many peoples day by quitting … a video game,” he wrote. “Bahaha. A video game. Damn quarantine life is rough.” He also admitted to rage quitting in a second post.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson fired his spotter less than 20 laps into the race after falsely being told he was clear of another car, only to crash. Erik Jones had internet issues that caused him to miss qualifying, and Daniel Suarez was parked for the second consecutive week and was joined this time by Kyle Larson after the two tangled on track.
Suarez was not happy, complaining that Larson should have been disqualified as he was last week “and by the way our ‘racing incident’ was him pushing me to the apron… if this was real life my amigo would get his but kicked,” he tweeted.
Teams and drivers are doing anything they can to keep the sport moving as revenue has frozen. Landon Cassill signed a sponsor for his iRacing and had the sponsor’s logos featured prominently behind him as he raced.
The iRacing series has been a savior for the motorsports industry – IndyCar launched a series a week after Nascar, and Saturday’s second race was aired on NBC Sports – and Nascar’s first two televised events both set eSports records. More than 1 million people watched last week when Fox made the race available to affiliates and also aired it nationally on its cable channel.
Rita Wilson, who along with husband Tom Hanks recovered from Covid-19, sang the national anthem from her home in California, and Rob Gronkowski and Mojo Rawley gave the command for drivers to start their (virtual) engines from WrestleMania.