35 NASCAR drivers ran an iRacing event on Sunday; On LIVE television, the learning curve caused comical results for some
NASCAR, like nearly all of sports, sits in a state of postponement. The next seven races are currently put on hold as the world waits out the coronavirus outbreak.
Unlike other sports, auto racing has a way of digitally putting the drivers in front of the fans. 35 NASCAR drivers dusted off their simulators and flipped on iRacing.
The first race of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational took place on Sunday at the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. For the first time ever, the race was broadcast from start to finish on live television via FS1.
Some drivers, like retired NASCAR Cup Series driver Bobby Labonte, turned well over 1000 laps coming into this weekends iRacing event. Other drivers, like Jimmie Johnson, jumped in cold turkey.
Johnson struggled to make the race on time as he struggled to start up the sim software. He went laps down early as a result.
Things went downhill from there…
Jimmie Johnson crashes the field
On lap 20, there was a crash ahead of Jimmie Johnson on a restart. As they went into turn one, cars were sliding across the track.
Johnson was clipped in the left rear. He was pointed toward the infield grass and stopped against the inside wall.
Johnson was forced to find reverse and back out of the situation. At this point, he assumed the caution was out.
But, Johnson was unfamiliar with the iRacing system. There was no yellow flag on his screen.
Johnson was coasting around the track. He was slowly trying to catch up to the field, which he mistakenly thought was behind the pace car.
As the green was out, Johnson was trying to figure out if he was the lucky dog, getting his lap back, even though he was involved in the crash.
“I don’t know, I’m just going with the flow of things here. And realizing how hard it is to think and drive,” Johnson said on his live stream as the field was coming in a hurry.
Just as he said that, Hamlin went by on his outside at full speed. Byron went by on his inside. Johnson looked totally perplexed as he tried to figure out what was happening.
Johnson grabbed a gear, “These cars are all racing? Oh great, now I’m in the freaking middle of the track!”
They ran out of room and several cars slammed into Johnson. It was the first big crash of the new series, caused by error.
“What’s going on? I thought there was a caution. That’s interesting.
“Jimmie on old tires, back from a restroom break, he was too eager,” Clint Bowyer joked.
Jimmie Johnson’s tv interview
Toward the end of the race, the broadcast booth went to Jimmie Johnson for an in-car interview during the caution.
“I am learning as I go here. Even as far as trying to get signed in, in time to make the start of the race,” Johnson said to the FOX Sports crew.
“So, I lost a few laps there. Just stopped in my pit box has been a challenge. I didn’t know that I wasn’t close enough to the pit sign for the pit stop to take place.”
“Thought we were under caution one time, we weren’t and I caused a huge pile up with the leaders. I am completely lost, I’m trying to read the screen and figure out what I’m suppose to do,” Johnson added during his tv interview
As they went back green, Johnson was black flagged once again. This time, it was for passing under the yellow.
“That’s what happens when you talk on television folks,” Johnson added.
Sunday was a learning process for many drivers in teh field. Next week, it will likely be a much better show. NASCAR has plans to do this every weekend as the fans and drivers ride out the postponement in their living rooms.