eNASCAR’s iRacing proves popular for bettors

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Friday, the Nevada Gaming Control Board approved eNASCAR iRacing weekly racing events for wagering within the state to William Hill and Circa sportsbooks after two weeks of denying two of the only four books still operating their mobile phone systems.

It was unknown to NGCB and they needed more info on it before approving, but eventually were satisfied that it met the state’s strict criteria.

William Hill’s eNASCAR odds and trends

Both books got right to it with odds to win for Sunday’s race at the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway because they had been ready to post odds for the first two weeks of the iRacing Pro Invitational Series that features up to 32 actual NASCAR Cup drivers who are racing from their homes on high-tech simulators which give the drivers all the elements of real racing.

William Byron won Sunday’s race from the pole with Circa posting him as the initial +315 favorite while William Hill had him at 7-1 and took 28 percent of its wagers on the event on him before closing at +300. Circa was pleased with its action and win results, especially on their Yes-No win props where you can bet on drivers not to win. Denny Hamlin was +850 to win the race, but you could lay -1500 that he wouldn’t. That’s a new wrinkle for any NASCAR event.

Taking bets on iRacing likely wouldn’t have happened, at least this year, if it wasn’t for everything being shut down due to COVID-19. What sent it over the edge and had bettors requesting it was because the real drivers were participating and the simulators proved to be much more advanced than the typical video game.

Fox Sports picked it up, broadcast it live on television and it was the most-watched sports event for its first three weekends getting at least 1.3 million viewers in all three.

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As a comparison, some of the sports networks tried to replicate it by having real players compete in Madden or NBA 2K and it came nowhere close to eNASCAR’s rating success. At no point would Derwin James’ actual skills on the football field translate to his skills playing the video game as it does with Clint Bowyer driving a simulator.

 “I’m worn out,” Bowyer said following Sunday’s Food City Showdown. “I’m sweaty. I’m frustrated. I’m mad. But, man, it was still a lot of fun. Bristol is a very challenging racetrack, as it is in real life. I can’t wait to get back on a bigger track and, more importantly, back in real life. Bristol is such a fun track, such a fun weekend. I had people texting me all week saying what they would be doing at that particular moment.”

It’s not easy for the Cup drivers and the drivers who have regularly been participating in iRacing have an edge, but the Cup drivers are catching on. What’s even better is they love bringing something to all their fans during the shutdown. It gives the NASCAR fan something to look forward to all week while being quarantined. It’s not real racing, but it kind of is since we know all the characters. There are times when watching that I can’t tell it’s not real racing because the graphics are so perfect.

Of course, the main difference is that the drivers aren’t putting their lives at risk at 200 mph. And in iRacing, just because a driver wrecks it doesn’t end his day as they have two re-sets that completely fix their cars. It makes drivers more aggressive than they might usually be with no consequences.

Sunday’s race also brought us something we haven’t seen before when Bubba Wallace lost his sponsor on Twitter. Wallace, who had a rough race early on, used up his two re-sets and was still not competing well and simply quit. He turned the game off and walked away knowing he couldn’t do any better than last place. Then Wallace turned to twitter to respond to criticism, “Bahaha I’m dying at my mentions right now,’ he tweeted. “I ruined so many people’s day by quitting a video game. Bahaha. A video game. Damn quarantine life is rough.”

His sponsor for the Bristol race, Blue-Emu, saw the tweet and wasn’t pleased and promptly fired him saying “GTK (good to know) where you stand. Bye-bye Bubba. We’re interested in drivers, not quitters.”

It is one of the most righteous twitter burns I’ve ever seen. Blue-Emu initially knew Wallace couldn’t win the race but they offered to sponsor him because it was being seen by 1.3 million viewers and every time his No. 43 car is seen on national TV it’s worth thousands of dollars in advertising for the sponsor. The one thing the sponsors want is for the car to be seen and if a driver quits that can’t be done.

The next event is April 19 at the virtual Richmond Raceway.

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