NASCAR has been a huge partner for esports, creating what we know as eNASCAR. We have talked to legends of the sim about NASCAR and its involvement in esports.
Photo Credit: Justin Melillo
Many racing fans have it in their blood. Beloved in America and known across the world is the racing organisation known as “NASCAR” (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing). It is only logical that NASCAR is featured across numerous games and esports series as well. But instead of being an approving bystander, NASCAR has taken the initiative to take sim racing to the next level. Over the years, a staple of series has formed that is supposed to represent the large following of NASCAR’s virtual fan base.
Over a decade of dedication
On 29 June, an article on nascar.com announced a continuing partnership between iRacing and NASCAR.
This comes as no surprise as for over ten years now, these two entities have created great projects. iRacing featured the first officially sanctioned eNASCAR series in 2010. The 2010 NASCAR iRacing Drivers World Championship was the start of the fan-favourite we now know and love.
Everything after that is history. Today the official website describes NASCAR’s esports aspirations as follows:
‘Aimed at fostering fan engagement and driver development, eNASCAR is uniquely positioned to drive the sport forward through the use of gaming and esports. The various initiatives under the eNASCAR umbrella will see drivers, teams, and the industry come together like never before to create a brighter and stronger future for the sport.’ The series’ approach is very special and has produced some very successful racing so far.
The big dog
As a predecessor to the old NASCAR games, iRacing’s whole focus was on the stock-car series at one point. Over the years, the sim has developed great road racing as well and diversified its portfolio.
But NASCAR has never vanished from the playing field. In fact, the contrary has happened. eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series 2021 is known as one of the two biggest competitions on iRacing to date. One of the OGs of eNASCAR is multi-time world champion Ray Alfalla. The Cuban-born driver has achieved legendary status by winning it all four times in his career. He is also still going strong and winning races.
His success gave Alfalla quite some possibilities to interact with the NASCAR org. Besides getting to know tons of real-life NASCAR legends, he says he has had some awesome experiences that have stuck with him over the years.
Getting to go to Homestead as champion four different times was awesome! I’ve gotten to meet so many sim racers from around the world and made many friends along the way.
With over ten years of experience, both the series and the racers have had chances to be involved with NASCAR as an organisation. Nowadays, even real-life drivers go head-to-head in series like the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series. This very close connection to reality is what creates a lot of the appeal. But iRacing is not the only option for passionate NASCAR fanatics.
Leaving no one behind
While sim racing is known to be mainly practiced on PC, NASCAR clarifies that they don’t differentiate between the platforms. Console gamers have the chance to experience everything first-hand with NASCAR Heat. The game is played on Xbox and PlayStation and has its own eNASCAR series as well.
The eNASCAR Heat Pro League is played in a split format. Each half of the field competes on their respective console. It has a dedicated following, and as such, NASCAR is also invested in building it up to be as big as other competitions.
The series champion Daniel Buttafuoco has revealed to OverTake many insights into the involvement of NASCAR in the eNASCAR HEAT pro League and their opportunities to virtual drivers.
NASCAR is instrumental in broadcasting our races, and you get the opportunity to meet people in the industry. After the eNASCAR Heat Pro League championship, I was interviewed by quite a few organisations during a press conference the day after the finale. What an unforgettable experience!
I had two very different NASCAR experiences during my two years in the league; both were fun. The first year, pre-COVID, the NASCAR atmosphere was incredible. I raced for Joe Gibbs Racing (Real-life NASCAR team), met all the JGR drivers, got to meet Coach Gibbs, Ty Gibbs, and many people involved in the Joe Gibbs Racing organisation.
Additionally, I got the chance to go to four races. I took a few laps around New Hampshire in the pace car, and watched all four races in the pits, sometimes in the pit box. After Martin Truex Jr. won, I was in victory lane twice, once at Dover and the other time at the Coca-Cola 600.
Even during the pandemic, there were lots of experiences Daniel was able to enjoy. One of them was a casual conversation with a real-life NASCAR driver over the phone. The NASCAR genre sees great value in integrating virtual drivers into the real-life ecosystem.
Daniel Buttafuoco concludes his NASCAR experience as such: “The last two years have been wonderful. I have had NASCAR experiences far beyond any expectation. I believe the series is moving in a positive direction for years to come.” At large, that has to be attributed to the strong emphasis NASCAR puts on the equality of their series.
A bright future
But this is nothing like the end. In the announcement of the continued partnership between iRacing and NASCAR, many points were mentioned. The future plans for the cooperation include fields like:
The two organisations work closer than ever before to promote the various eNASCAR series which live on the iRacing platform, while also collaborating around a number of innovation initiatives which have far-reaching implications on the future of NASCAR — including the design of new and proposed NASCAR race tracks, collaboration and technical support on the NASCAR NextGen race car project, the creation of sim racing-oriented content for NASCAR Digital Media channels, and the use of iRacing as a training tool for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity class.
This statement sounds very promising to the passionate fan. While this will only apply to one game, there is no word of other paths like the eNASCAR Heat Pro League stopping or getting a second role. As for the drivers, Daniel Buttafuoco has nothing but words of gratitude when talking about the future:
“I have had an incredible experience racing in the eNASCAR Heat Pro League. I certainly hope it continues to grow and bring new fans into the exciting world of NASCAR racing.”
Meanwhile, four-time champion Ray Alfalla would love to see more eNASCAR coming to living rooms across the world: “The biggest improvement to me would be to get the eNASCAR series on TV, every race. It would greatly contribute to the long-term growth of the series and add value for potential sponsors.”
No matter where NASCAR will head with their eNASCAR ambitions, we sure have had a lot of fun already, and it looks like is even more to come.
What is your favourite eNASCAR moment? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!