NASCAR races once more, Barefoot Hamlin wins Digital Homestead – CBS Detroit

The grandstands were full, Jimmie Johnson caused several wrecks, Denny Hamlin raced barefoot, and damaged cars were repaired at the push of a button – some virtual signs that NASCAR was sponsoring a rather unreal race.

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (EDITORS NOTE: This image was computer generated in-game). # 51 Chevrolet driver Garrett Smithley leads the field at the start of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 at Homestead-Miami Virtual Speedway on March 22, 2020 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images) (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

NASCAR released the brakes on the real sports world suddenly stalled by the coronavirus and introduced the country to iRacing with some of the sport’s biggest stars. Hamlin, the three-time Daytona 500 winner, defeated Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the final corner of the Homestead-Miami virtual speedway on Sunday to win the bizarre spectacle.

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“So that the community, the racing community, the NASCAR drivers come together and bring drivers to the racetrack at short notice, everyone is buying simulation equipment this week and last week to prepare for the event, so that everything comes together and has a great finish , I think it was definitely a success, “said Hamlin.

“IRacing got involved and emailed everyone saying, ‘Hey, this is what we’re thinking about.’ NASCAR got in, television got in and said they’d be interested. But no one really spoke to the drivers about association and participation. It was all free will, and the exciting thing is that there were full-time cup boys out there willing to spend their time with it. “

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (Editor’s Note: This image was computer generated in game) Denny Hamlin, driver of the # 11 FedEx Toyota, celebrates after winning the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 22, 2020 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

It was Hamlin’s 31st iRacing win, where it was first spotted by Earnhardt, long before he made it to NASCAR. Hamlin was heavily involved in putting together Sunday’s fake race, which was broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 and called up by his core team of Mike Joy and Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.

NASCAR has suspended racing until at least May 9th and with literally nothing else to do, the executives of the series and iRacing put together the first eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series in about a week. The first event was held in Homestead, where NASCAR was scheduled to race on Sunday before COVID-19 brought the sport to a standstill.

This was a unique competition for most of the home viewers and ended with a well-known winner.

It could serve as a petri dish for other sports to try out the whole gamer thing. The classic games that were televised on weekends are getting old fast, and broadcasters are desperate for something new until the sport resumes.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 19: NASCAR Drive For Diversity Driver, Rajah Caruth competes in the eTruck Series Night in America Powered by FilterTime, a live online NASCAR truck race on March 19, from his bedroom at his parents’ home Series on the iRacing Platform, 2020 in Washington, DC The online race was organized by NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ryan Vargas in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic – it benefited multiple charities and included other professional ARCA and NASCAR -Driver. Caruth, 17, who is currently driving in the NASCAR Late Model series and is due to make his debut, is back home due to the pause in action due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to a NASCAR release, they suspended the season until the first weekend in May after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were instructed not to hold mass gatherings for the next eight weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Caruth, representing Rev Racing, is one of the first drivers with an iRacing background to be selected for the above NASCAR program. Previously it came from the eNASCAR IGNITE series. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

The drivers immediately showed interest – even those with little or no experience in simulator racing. Some rushed to buy “rigs” to get into the field of 35 riders, and the social media show-and-tell of the setups made the event a fun build-up.

Hamlin, who raced barefoot on an elaborate rig in the living room of his North Carolina home, had said earlier this week he would donate $ 5,000 to COVID-19 families in Miami if he won the race, and Kevin Harvick said he would with Hamlin’s promise. Hamlin also set the odds for the race and was instrumental in a group chat among the participants.

Ranked one of the best iRacers in the world, Truck Series driver Ty Majeski competed from a computer set on a wooden table with a steering wheel attached. Kyle Larson said he spent $ 6,800 building his rig, while many of the lesser-known riders who use iRacing to improve their skills can build a setup for a few hundred dollars. All a competitor needs is a chair, computer, steering wheel, and pedals, but NASCAR’s superstars have spent a lot more to outsmart their simulators.

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WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 19: NASCAR Drive For Diversity Driver, Rajah Caruth competes in the eTruck Series Night in America Powered by FilterTime, a live online NASCAR truck race on March 19, from his bedroom at his parents’ home Series on the iRacing Platform, 2020 in Washington, DC The online race was organized by NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Ryan Vargas in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic – it benefited multiple charities and included other professional ARCA and NASCAR -Driver. Caruth, 17, who is currently driving in the NASCAR Late Model series and is due to make his debut, is back home due to the pause in action due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to a NASCAR release, they suspended the season until the first weekend in May after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were instructed not to hold mass gatherings for the next eight weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Caruth, representing Rev Racing, is one of the first drivers with an iRacing background to be selected for the above NASCAR program. Previously it came from the eNASCAR IGNITE series. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Hamlin estimated the cost of his rig at over $ 40,000 – but defended the price because his simulator has motion capabilities – and said better gear made no difference. He also said he walked barefoot because “I like to feel the pedals”.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Johnson, who practiced sports car and IndyCar racing on the simulator in his garage, competed from a device that seemed better suited to one of those cars than his virtual # 48 Chevrolet. But Johnson turned out to be early on than less than Elite iRacer with a weird crash that made his car seem like a ping pong ball off the wall and several other cars.

“I hope everyone enjoyed that today. I clearly have a lot to learn, ”said Johnson.

Among those hit by Johnson was Alex Bowman, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports and one of the highly rated computer racing drivers. But drivers can reset to “fix” the damage and continue.

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (EDITORS NOTE: This image was computer generated in-game). William Byron, driver of the # 24 Axalta Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 at Homestead-Miami Virtual Speedway on March 22, 2020 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images) (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

“Don’t worry, my virtual crew used a quick fix and it’s as good as new. I also eat an uncrustable one, ”Bowman tweeted after Johnson destroyed it. “And yes, I still tweet and fake driving.”

The drivers took the event seriously, and most took the opportunity to present their sponsor – Landon Cassill even hired a sponsor specifically for the event – and to satisfy the fans’ hunger for racing. Many recruited their real spotters and crew chiefs to help. Bowman’s real crew chief Greg Ives and spotter Kevin Hamlin watched the event from home in team shirts and gave Bowman advice.

Many of the younger NASCAR drivers are world-class iRacers and use the game to work on their craft. The iRacing game is as close to reality as any professional sport can get because of the granular details and precise rendering of every NASCAR track. The venues are laser scanned to capture the bumps and imperfections in the asphalt as well as duplicating the grandstands and billboards and pit lane.

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (EDITORS NOTE: This image was computer generated in-game). Alex Bowman, driver of the # 88 Llumar Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Dixie Vodka 150 at Homestead-Miami Virtual Speedway on March 22, 2020 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images) (Photo by Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

The race, called Dixie Vodka 150, led over 100 laps around the virtual 2.4 km long Homestead oval. Dixie Vodka said it will donate $ 10,000 to the NASCAR Foundation, which centralizes charitable donations in the NASCAR industry to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professional iRacing drivers – NASCAR hosts a league – can create their own setups, but a fixed setup has been installed for Sunday’s event.

The event gave NASCAR the opportunity to showcase its esports offering on live television while providing entertainment at a time when most of the world is locked in for fear of the coronavirus spreading.

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