Sim racing is helping to fill the void during this pause in real-world racing. On Saturday, INDYCAR and iRacing will join forces to stage six virtual races featuring drivers from the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Each race will be streamed live on indycar.com while the current 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is suspended through April as a result of the coronavirus situation. While indycar.com will serve as the primary live streaming source, there also will be secondary platforms to watch the virtual race events each week - INDYCAR's YouTube and Facebook Live as well as iRacing's Twitch.
Each virtual race event, which will last approximately 90 minutes to two hours, will begin at 4 p.m. ET each Saturday through May 2.
Two current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers have already competed in two international all-star sim racing events the past two weekends. Felix Rosenqvist and Colton Herta were impressive in the first edition of “The Race All-Star Battle” on March 15. They were the only two professional drivers in the world that finished in the top 10 against a lineup of highly skilled professional gamers.
One eSports expert, Darren Cox, CEO of Torque Esports, predicts Herta will become an international superstar because of his ability to combine real-world racing with social media and virtual racing.
At 19, Herta has grown up in the age of virtual sports and social media, making him a perfect face for a new generation of racing fans.
“I think Colton Herta in the sim world and the real world is going to be a superstar,” Cox predicted. “Look at Lando Norris in Formula One. He is a big name in the UK, but in the racing world, he’s not one of the biggest yet. After this shutdown ends, Lando Norris will be the one everyone wants to talk to other than Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen because he’s the crossover guy. He’s been on Twitch and he’s streaming. He’s the man.
“If you want a United States equivalent, Colton Herta is your man. He’s young. He’s fast in the real car and he’s very fast in the virtual car. He understands social media and understands what it takes to do the streaming stuff.
“For me, the pick for the American audience is look out for this young kid, Colton Herta. He’s the future of INDYCAR racing and in sim racing in the United States.
“Colton Herta is the future of INDYCAR. They will lead the way for American motorsports. He’s an absolute superstar and the American fans should get behind him.”
Cox believes gamers have the edge at the moment because many of them have been playing for five years. He believes in the next three weeks; professional racing drivers will begin to show their ability.
“I believe Colton Herta will win one of these races in the next few weeks,” Cox said. “The gamers have been playing for years; the professional drivers are just not learning the platform.
“I love the fact that these drivers are communicating back and forth with each other. When I asked who was in for next weekend. Within 27 seconds, Herta messaged back that, ‘I’m in.’ He wasn’t happy that he didn’t win, and he is already working on his setup.
“Colton Herta is going to be an absolute superstar.”
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge events will feature qualifications in addition to the races. Teams will be able to design car liveries to match their desired paint schemes. To further give the action an authentic look and feel, each car will be equipped with INDYCAR's new Aeroscreen, a revolutionary cockpit-protecting device introduced for the 2020 season.
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.