RPW Column: Thousands Watch NASCAR Stars Compete Online During Racing Hiatus

Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – BOSTON, MA – As racing has all but nearly halted in the United States, people are now turning to the online realm to get their racing fix. How many people? Over 22,000 viewers tuned in for what turned out to be for a vast majority of race fans, the only way to watch a race of any kind this weekend.

iRacing’s online racing simulation was the grounds for the special event Sunday afternoon called ‘The Replacements 100’ featuring NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Truck Series drivers along with crew chiefs, spotters, iRacers and a few celebrity guests.

Josh Williams, spotter for Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Penske Racing Ford won over Cup Series regular William Byron in a competitive and entertaining event on Twitch, a digital internet streaming platform.

“I was more prepared to be good on the long run.” Williams said in the post race interview, “We never really got a long run the first half of the race so you just had to be prepared to defend pretty hard the first few laps until everyone got single file. I was worried with having to pit. On restarts if you pit from the lead it’s hard to get it back again.”

Byron was not available for post race comments, however Steven Steffen, an iRacing regular, JR Motorsports employee and third place finisher commented on the virtual racing against real life NASCAR competitors.

“I had a blast and I think it’s awesome that we got to put this event on, especially in the times we have in the world today, so that was really cool to be able to have some racing and have some real life drivers join us.”

The race itself was marred early by cautions as drivers came to grips with the online simulation, however after the first 20 or so laps, they got down to business as they would on any regular race weekend.

Once the field settled in and began the task of chasing the leader over a long run, Josh Williams proved he had the dominant machine. Even with the late race charge and ensuing battle with Byron, Williams eventually got the advantage and drove off to a victory with a margin of just over two seconds.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also took part in the event was caught in an early race incident putting him three laps down. However, Earnhardt Jr. rallied back for a strong 8th place finish in the end.

No further races are currently scheduled, however with the warm reception this event got from real world race fans, sim racing fans and industry insiders, don’t be surprised if more of these events begin to pop up to help fill the void in the racing world over the coming days and weeks.