IndyCar is partnering with NBC Sports for the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, a new esports competition featuring a field of NTT Indycar Series drivers.
The inaugural virtual race, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, will be broadcast at 2.30pm ET on April 4 on NBCSN. The event will also be streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App.
More than two dozen IndyCar drivers are expected to compete in this weekend’s race, including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, two-time and reigning series champion Josef Newgarden, and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud.
To provide added authenticity, NBC Sports’ lead IndyCar broadcast team of Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Paul Tracy (analyst), and Townsend Bell (analyst) will call the action.
IndyCar recently enforced temporary layoffs and pay cuts amid the sports shutdown that has followed the global Covid-19 pandemic. Approximately 50 employees at IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been temporarily laid off, with their benefits remaining intact.
The move has followed, in part, the postponement of the Indy 500 until August, with construction workers reportedly affected.
Numerous sports organizations around the world are leveraging their competitive gaming properties as a means to stay active and relevant in the indefinite absence of live athletic action in arenas and on broadcast channels. They include the National Basketball Association, Nascar, LaLiga, Formula 1, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the United Soccer League and Major League Rugby.
Nascar and the NBA in particular have sought to use real-world stars in their new esports efforts, and the auto racing property is also working with iRacing.