• Race: Toyota Owners 150 (Round 4)
• Series: eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series
• Time/Date: 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 19
• Location: Virtual Richmond Raceway (.75-mile oval)
• Distance: 150 laps (112.5 miles)
Where to Watch:
• FOX network
• Announcers: Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds, with in-race commentary from Clint Bowyer.
• FS1 (DIRECTV Channel 219 and Dish Channel 150)
• FOX Sports Racing for fans in Canada
• Trivia Question: What are the three most-watched esports events on TV in United States history? Answer: The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series and the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. The March 29 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway was the most-watched esports event on TV in United States history. Simulcast on FOX and FS1, 1.34 million viewers tuned in, breaking the previous record set by the first eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race March 22 at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway by 47 percent. That broadcast earned 903,000 viewers on FS1 alone, which bested the previous record of 770,000 viewers when Mortal Kombat aired on The CW in 2016.
• But Wait, There’s More!: The last eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race April 5 at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway averaged 1.179 million viewers across FOX and FS1, making it the second most-watched sports telecast of the weekend and the No. 1 sport among adults age 18-49.
• Bet On It: The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has been cleared and approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for wagering. Two types of bets are allowed for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series: winner of the race and head-to-head winner between drivers. Provisions for licensing the event includes a posting of the official rules for the tournament organizer and that all bets must cease once a race has started. Additionally, each bookmaker is allowed to create its own odds.
• The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is an exhibition esports series featuring a collection of past and present racecar drivers from the NASCAR Cup Series.
• The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series is a multi-week series emulating the original 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
• With the sports world on a necessary hiatus to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series exists in place of actual NASCAR events.
• The iRacing undercard event the day prior to Sunday’s headlining eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race is the Saturday Night Thunder race where 43 drivers will compete in virtual NASCAR Xfinity Series cars. The Thunder event complements the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, and NASCAR Cup Series drivers not competing in Sunday’s race are eligible for this race. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe will compete in Saturday Night Thunder.
• The livestream of Saturday Night Thunder begins at 8 p.m. EDT on eNASCAR.com/live. Single-car qualifying begins at 8:05 p.m., which sets the lineup for the four, 10-lap heat races, with each heat race including as many as 15 drivers. Six cars advance from each heat to the feature, with the final two spots in the 26-car field coming from the top-two finishers of a 15-lap consolation race, which takes place after the heat races and is comprised of drivers who have not yet qualified. The 125-lap feature race then follows.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang:
“I’ve been trying to practice one hour a day. I’ve got Busch Light on my Ford Mustang and I’m going to have fun with it. I did win a street stock race this week (on iRacing)…after I wrecked in the first four. I won a Legends race by default because the whole field crashed. But those are really my only two iRacing wins. They’re not pretty. I did wreck the whole field in a Legends race the other day after starting on the front row on lap one. So, that was high entertainment. I figure the whole iRacing thing is really something that’s supposed to be fun for everybody, supposed to be filler for a gap in time during this crazy pandemic. The whole iRacing thing has introduced me to a whole new network of people and it’s opened my eyes to a whole new group of racers. It’s a different culture, but it’s still a racing culture.”
• This is Harvick’s first eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race.
• In actual NASCAR Cup Series racing at Richmond, Harvick has three wins, 15 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes in 38 career starts.
• Harvick’s three wins came in September 2006, September 2011 and April 2013.
Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze Ford Mustang:
“iRacing is extremely realistic. You’re using the same mechanics, the same forces, and the same movements you use in real life to make your car go fast, and that includes your hand-eye coordination and your feet. You drive these things so much with the pedals, with the gas, the brake, the steering input. All of those inputs in your mind are the exact same thing we use to put our car to the front of the field on any given Sunday. That being said, the only sense that you don’ t have in a simulator is the feel from the seat of your pants. We kind of call it the ‘butt dyno’. You balance a racecar kind of like if you put a plate on the end of an ink pen. That’s how you balance a racecar. That thing wants to go on all four different axis’, whether it’s the right-front, left-front, right-rear, left-rear, you can feel all those things, and that’s how you balance a car is through the seat of your pants. In iRacing, you don’t have that. All you have is your visuals, so once you have the hang of that and your mind finally catches on, it’s kind of like riding a bike. It’s a struggle for a little while, but once you catch on to that and realize what’s going on with the movements of your car and the movements of the track and things like that – when to pick up the gas, your timing – once you get all that set, it’s exactly like what we do in real life with our PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze Ford Mustang.”
• Bowyer started 32nd and finished 11th in the previous eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race at Bristol.
• Bowyer considers himself a hobby iRacer. Sunday’s race at Richmond will be just his fourth official iRacing start in a virtual NASCAR Cup Series race.
• Bowyer’s eponymous iRacing team competes in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series with drivers Brandon Kettelle and Brian Schoenberg, and Bowyer’s dirt late model team has been sponsored by iRacing for several years.
• In actual NASCAR Cup Series racing at Richmond, Bowyer has two wins, five top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 28 career starts.
• Bowyer’s two wins came in May 2008 and September 2012.
Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Ford Project Apollo Ford Mustang:
“My goal is to just finish the race clean in my Haas Automation/Ford Project Apollo Ford Mustang. I haven’t done much iRacing before, so it’s definitely a little hard to get used to, but hopefully I can get some laps under my belt and get better as I go. I’ll look at the format and figure out what type of strategy I want, and see how I’m running and go from there. There’s going to be some learning because I’ve never done it. I’m definitely going to have someone around me helping through the race. It will be hard keeping track of everything because it is new to me and there’s a lot to handle. I’ve been talking with Chase Briscoe a little about it. He’s had iRacing for a little while now and is pretty good at it, so just getting a general idea of what to look for is important. I’ve also asked Justin Bolton, SHR’s iRacing driver, some questions. I’ve worked with him in the past because he was an engineer on my Xfinity team last year and he obviously knows a lot about it.”
• This is Custer’s first Saturday Night Thunder race.
• In actual racing, Custer has made a total of eight starts at Richmond – one in the NASCAR Cup Series and seven in the Xfinity Series.
• Custer is a winner at Richmond, as he earned an Xfinity Series victory at the track in April 2019.
• Custer also has the opportunity to race his way into Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race. After the Saturday Night Thunder event, Custer will compete in a 25-lap race at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday. Should he finish first or second in that race, he will earn a starting spot in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race.
Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 98 HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang:
“I’m ready to get back in my No. 98 HighPoint.com/Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang at Richmond. In the real world, Richmond is a track that I struggled at my first time there, but like anywhere else, I was able to improve with experience. The same things apply to sim racing. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get. Richmond is a tough track, so if you haven’t put in the time to test it out, it’s probably going to be a struggle. I enjoy short-track racing. It’s always exciting and I think we’ll see a lot of those same short-track racing characteristics in the iRacing event Saturday night. Hopefully, I’ll qualify well and have a good run in the heat race to lock into the main so we can put on a show.”
• This is Briscoe’s first Saturday Night Thunder race, but he is a regular iRacer, with most of his races coming in the Xfinity Series.
• In actual racing, Briscoe has never competed in the NASCAR Cup Series. He is currently in his second full season of Xfinity Series racing.
• Briscoe has three Xfinity Series starts at Richmond. He has two top-10s, with a best finish of fifth in September 2019.