The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series have joined the sim racing fun. On Monday, the series’ operating body Team FJ announced the creation of the EuroNASCAR Esports Series, an iRacing championship for drivers to compete in while the actual sport is sidelined by COVID-19. Although the races will be virtual, the effects will be real: unlike other newly-formed sim racing leagues like the main eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, all points earned in the EuroNASCAR Esports Series will go to the real-life Teams Championship.
“First of all, this is a challenging time and we encourage everybody to be smart and stay safe. It is very important for us to connect and support our fantastic fans, competitors and partners,” Euro Series president Jerome Galpin said. “The EuroNASCAR Esports Series is a great way to provide them with close racing and entertainment while waiting to get back to normal. This is also a good means to bring in a virtual dimension and continue to develop our very successful NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.”
The series will race across eight rounds, including following dates on the actual Euro Series calendar. The final three races will serve as the playoffs and award double points. After an exhibition on 21 April at the Daytona International Speedway road course, the first points-paying event will be the following week at Brands Hatch. In addition to existing Euro Series courses like Circuit Zolder, the series hopes to compete on American tracks such as Watkins Glen International, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A finalised schedule has not been revealed.
The decision for the real-life standings to be impacted by a sim racing series is unprecedented. Although iRacing is a racing simulator, virtually every league formed like the NASCAR Cup Series‘ Pro Invitational Series have emphasised driver and fan entertainment and a relaxed atmosphere with no effect on actual standings. Incidentally, the real-world implications caveat comes with apt timing; after wrecking in Sunday’s Pro Invitational race at Bristol Motor Speedway, media attention was drawn to Bubba Wallace and sponsor Blue-Emu, who publicly withdrew their support after Wallace rage-quit the event.
The start of the 2020 Euro Series season is currently on hold due to the pandemic. The original season opener at Circuit Ricardo Torno was moved to the fall, while its replacement at Brands Hatch in June suffered a similar fate following Motorsport UK‘s plan to extend its suspension. Once it is safe for the series to race again, the Euro Series expects to have its largest full-time grid in history with thirty-three different entrants.