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Here's how you can still enjoy NASCAR and racing until the Cup Series comes back

The Charlotte Observer — By Alex Andrejev The Charlotte Observer

March 20-- Live sports have gone dark in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn't mean racing fans are lacking consumable content. NASCAR fans can still engage with the sport through a variety of media, including video games (as both players and viewers), podcasts and broadcast alternatives.

On Tuesday, for example, NASCAR announced the introduction of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, a virtual exhibition racing series that will run in lieu of NASCAR's traditional races in the coming weeks. Drivers scheduled to compete in the weekly "iraces" include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.

"Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day," NASCAR's vice president of racing development Ben Kennedy said. "Our long-time partners at iRacing offer an incredible product and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing."

NASCAR president Steve Phelps said that in addition to iRacing, the sanctioning body is working with FOX Sports, NBC Sports and its proprietary channels to fill those live racing gaps in the coming months.

"Our fans are obviously thirsty for this content," Phelps said. "We want to provide it to them smartly and have interesting content as opposed to just repurposing some of the content that's already been done."

Phelps said there would be "more to come" on what shape NASCAR's media takes in the coming months. In the meantime, here are some ways you can keep up with racing.

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GAMING

NASCAR has built its virtual racing presence in recent years, with many younger drivers embracing esports. Cup Series driver William Byron, for example, began his career through iRacing, the virtual racing simulation game.

Byron finished second behind Josh Williams (spotter for Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney) in Sunday's virtual race that replaced the postponed QuickTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"Well dang congrats @joshtwilliams snookered me on that start!" Byron tweeted after the race. "That was fun."

The iRacing world has attracted big names, including Earnhardt Jr. and country music star Tim Dugger, who both participated in the Replacements 100. (Earnhardt Jr. finished eighth and Dugger finished 22nd.)

Earnhardt Jr. will continue to compete in virtual races in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series alongside current Cup, Xfinity and Truck drivers.

The multi-week series is set to kick off Sunday, March 22 at 1:30 p.m. on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway and can be streamed through eNASCAR.com. The remaining race and broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

In additional to its recent exhibition series, NASCAR also has three standing iRacing series fans can stream online. The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series is the sport's official iRacing league, which features 40 elite sim racers competing for a prize pool of over $300,000. The series fields professional esports teams, including those established by NASCAR Cup drivers Byron, Hamlin and Austin Dillon.

The two other eNASCAR series include the Heat Pro League, which uses the NASCAR Heat series of console and PC games, as well as the Ignite series, which serves as eNASCAR's youth development circuit. Races for those series can also be streamed through eNASCAR.com.

If you'd rather explore the world of racing from the driver's side, you can also purchase and play the NASCAR Heat video game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. NASCAR Heat 4 is the latest version of the sim driving game, and features options to play in the Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, Truck Series and compete in dirt-track races. The Charlotte Motor Speedway road course is also featured for the Roval 400 race in the game's latest version.

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PODCAST

In addition to gaming, Earnhardt Jr. has his hand in the podcasting world. His weekly podcast, The Dale Jr. Download, offers commentary from the veteran racer and a slew of NASCAR-affiliated guests, including current Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, former Cup Series drivers Rick Mast and Ken Schrader, as well as personnel, such as former Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler.

Other NASCAR and racing podcasts include The Racing Writer's Podcast, NASCAR on NBC podcast and The Teardown.

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BROADCAST

As Fox Sports works with NASCAR to create a broadcast schedule for its postponed races in the coming weeks, FS1 will continue to air racing content this week, primarily on Wednesday and Friday.

Replays of the first four Cup Series races of the 2020 season, including the Daytona 500 and races at Las Vegas, Fontana and Phoenix aired consecutively on FS1 on Wednesday beginning at 6 a.m., followed by a documentary NASCAR feature film "Beyond the Wheel."

National Hot Rod Association races will also air throughout the day on Wednesday and Friday. You can find a full broadcast schedule for the week here.

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