NASCAR to feature Chicago street course in 2021 virtual racing series

The race course is possible through a partnership with the city and iRacing, which scanned real streets and avenues to develop the virtual rendition of the course.

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eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will feature a street racing course in Chicago for its 2021 season.

eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series will feature a street racing course in Chicago for its 2021 season.

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In NASCAR Cup Series’ 73 years it has never had its drivers compete on a street course but, like many things in our post-pandemic world, that is about to change.

Or at least it will virtually.

NASCAR announced Wednesday its Cup Series drivers will race through the streets of Chicago for its 2021 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series — a virtual racing exhibition featuring the sport’s most high-profiled drivers.

These drivers will speed through city streets passing by iconic architecture and driving on Lake Shore Drive past Buckingham Fountain and Grant Park.

The race course is possible through a partnership with the city and iRacing, which scanned real streets and avenues to develop the virtual course.

“On behalf of the city of Chicago, I am thrilled to work with NASCAR and iRacing to showcase our great city to NASCAR fans who will be watching this cutting-edge event from around the country,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “Through this exciting and innovative exhibition, fans will be able to see and experience Chicago’s iconic downtown in a way that has never been done before.”

iRacing is the leading virtual racing platform that offers open practice, head-to-head racing, team racing and other competitions. The racing portal designs “officially sanctioned” racing circuits from around the world and replica race cars.

The partnership between NASCAR and iRacing was formed last year after the coronavirus pandemic shut down racing circuits across the country. The two organizations created the Pro Invitational Series.

Map of the street course of the race taking place June 2 at 7 p.m.

Map of the street course for the race taking place at 7 p.m. June 2.

Provided

Last year’s series, broadcast on FOX and FS1, ranked as the highest-rated esports TV programs that garnered 6.8 million unique viewers.

NASCAR said that while it won’t race at Chicagoland Speedway in 2021, “running through the heart of Chicago demonstrates the sport’s commitment to engaging fans across the region.”

“The success of our eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series was underscored by an industry-wide effort to entertain fans during the early months of the global pandemic,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer. “This year the Pro Invitational will return witha schedule of midweek races that will bridge the gap between our real-world races each weekend.”

Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s vice president, told NASCAR.com the course is about 80% to 90% completed.

Once the course is finished, iRacing will make Chicago’s new virtual race course available to customers to test their driving skills.

The Pro Invitational Series will kick off its 2021 season at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Virtual Bristol Dirt on FS1 and the FOX Sports app. The season comprises 10 races. The virtual street race in Chicago will take place June 2.

The series will feature 36 NASCAR Cup Series drivers with FOX having the discretion to add up to four additional drivers. Drivers will include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch.

FS1 will air the first five races at Bristol, Talladega Superspeedway, Darlington Raceway, Circuit of the Americas and the new Chicago Street Course.

NBC Sports will broadcast the second half of the season with locations to be announced at a later time.

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