NASCAR makes a pit stop

eSports and NASCAR continue during COVID-19

In+a+computer-generated+image%2C+Denny+Hamlin+raced+his+No.+11+Toyota+on+March+29+at+virtual+Texas+Motor+Speedway+in+the+eNASCAR+iRacing+Pro+Invitational+Series.

NY Times/Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In a computer-generated image, Denny Hamlin raced his No. 11 Toyota on March 29 at virtual Texas Motor Speedway in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series.

All sporting events have come to a stop due to COVID-19. March Madness, both the NHL and NBA seasons, the College World Series, PGA tours, Wimberly and the Tokyo Olympics have been canceled or postponed in response to the virus.

But one sport hasn’t fully met its 2020 end, and it’s racing. Both NASCAR and Formula One racing have given their racers the chance to compete online via their respective video games. Drivers are competing in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational to keep fans entertained.

Racers that compete in real life have taken to their computers or consoles to race from home. No longer will drivers risk their lives for 150 laps, now they will risk bathroom and snack breaks between pit stops.

An interesting story to come out of all this is the real-life sponsor loss for racer Bubba Wallace, as he “rage-quit” after crashing on the 11th lap at the virtual Food City Showdown in virtual Bristol Motor Speedway. Wallace went on social media to defend his premature disconnection and lost sponsors due to his responses.

The question remains, “Why can these races take place legitimately, but the other furloughed sports can’t?” The obvious answer is the teamwork required for sports such as basketball and hockey. Their video games would require over ten people to cooperate and compete as they would out on the court or the ice. Drivers are individuals, and wouldn’t need the virtual effort of their team, as their computer-generated.

This change in the current climate of the world brings eSports into a more prominent standing. If it weren’t for eSports, these races wouldn’t take place at all. eSports have been around for over 20 years. Their rise to actual “sport” qualification is only about five years old. Tournaments consist of games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO). International competitions still take place virtually, with audience members watching from home. eSports have become more legit in recent years, with prize money in the millions.

Perhaps after sports get back to a sense of normalcy, we will see the eSport option make more of a presence. eSports events have aired on ESPN, with the network airing the spring playoffs for League of Legends. ESPN also reports on eSports news, regarding the story as “sports” news.

This time away from our typical sports may bring us on to new things. Maybe this will assist eSports into becoming a more mainstream/legitimate sport. These events have come a long way from the late 90s early 2000s where competitors met at their local tournaments, hoping to become “MLG” (a Major League Gamer). Now, teenagers compete in these televised tournaments and win millions of dollars. If this doesn’t mean eSports are legit, I don’t know what will.