DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – After debuting last season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is set to return this year.
NASCAR and iRacing jointly announced Tuesday that a new-look Pro Invitational will see NASCAR Cup Series stars compete virtually in a 10-race schedule that will complement NASCAR’s real-life racing schedule, offering fans a new mid-week competition featuring NASCAR’s top drivers.
FOX Sports, which helped NASCAR and iRacing set viewership records with the inaugural Pro Invitational last season, will broadcast the first five races of the series live in primetime on FS1. NBC Sports will air the final five races of the series, with its schedule and details to be announced at a later date.
With the NASCAR Cup Series set to visit new tracks and new markets in 2021, this year’s Pro Invitational will feature a mix of tracks designed primarily to preview the upcoming weekend’s real life race – a feature that will be particularly beneficial in giving fans an idea of what to expect as the real-life drivers take on challenging new circuits throughout the season.
“The success of our eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series was underscored by an industry-wide effort to entertain fans during the early months of the global pandemic,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer. “This year the Pro Invitational will return with a schedule of midweek races that will bridge the gap between our real-world races each weekend.”
“After last year’s Pro Invitational success, we’re proud that our partners at NASCAR, FOX, and the race teams view the series as an integral part of their marketing and fan engagement strategies for 2021,” said Steve Myers, iRacing executive producer. “It’s even more fulfilling that the industry has rallied around our platform not only as the most authentic re-creation of the sport, but also a terrific tool to help grow NASCAR’s audience and generate revenue to strengthen the entire ecosystem.”
The first five mid-week events will air on FS1 on select Wednesday nights beginning March 24, featuring a mix of races that include Bristol Motor Speedway’s new dirt configuration, fan-favorites such as Talladega Superspeedway (April 21) and Darlington Raceway (May 5), and Austin, Texas’ Circuit of the Americas’ facility (May 19). NBC Sports will pick up the second half of the 10-race season once the network’s broadcast window begins in June.
“FOX Sports embraced the eNASCAR iRacing Invitational Series in the spring as a way to keep race fans entertained, but we quickly realized it was a product and collaboration that we would continue to explore,” said FOX Sports Executive Producer, EVP/Head of Operations and Production Brad Zager. “The product is best-in-class, it delivers NASCAR to an even broader audience and, let’s face it, it’s a heckuva lot of fun.”
Details around the fifth race in the FS1 window on June 2, plus further plans for the second half of the ’21 Pro Invitational schedule, will be announced at a later date.