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This Weekend: IndyCar Oval Racing Finally Goes Virtual, F1 Champ Gives Online Racing a Shot

And Subaru goes virtual rally racing for charity.

If there was anything to take away from last weekend’s packed schedule of sim racing, it’s that virtual competition is more life-like than ever before. Just ask IndyCar iRacing Challenge winner Scott McLaughlin, who worked with his actual race engineer to plan a stellar two-stop strategy at Barber Motorsport Park. Or, of course, you could talk to Bubba Wallace after he lost a full-fledged sponsor over rage-quitting the eNASCAR Pro Invitational race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In short, this weekend has plenty to live up to.

Exciting news has already been announced for several eSports leagues, including that of high-profile guests and high-dollar prize pots. So let’s get into how, when, and where we can watch the latest and greatest rounds of digitized motorsports.

  • Who: IndyCar regulars like Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud with special guest Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • What: The third round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge series
  • When: Saturday, April 11 at 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: The race will be held at a virtual version of the beloved Michigan International Speedway, and it’ll be broadcasted on NBCSN

America’s premier open-wheel racing series will take on Michigan International Speedway for the first time in 13 years this weekend, as chosen by the drivers themselves. They’ll be pitted against a stacked field of new and old professionals, along with the fresh face of Dale Earnhardt Jr. The 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee was given an invite to compete after a round of playful tweets, and while he’s certainly experienced behind the wheel, this will be his first sanctioned venture in an Indy car—virtual or otherwise.

Better yet, he’ll be racing the No. 3 car to honor his dad, seven-time NASCAR Cup champ Dale Earnhardt Sr.

The Race All-Star Series: Legends Race

  • Who: Some of motorsports’ biggest names including F1 world champions Jenson Button, Jacques Villeneuve, and Emerson Fittipaldi, among others like Juan Pablo Montoya
  • What: A race featuring seasoned professionals from top series
  • When: Saturday, April 11 at 11:00 a.m. ET
  • Where: The racing venue has yet to be announced, but the race will be shown on The Race’s YouTube channel as well as ESPN on cable TV

Past Legends races have proven to be entertaining in the sense that you have multiple legit racers with various degrees of simulator experience. This makes for great spectating as you have three-time Indy 500 winners like Dario Franchitti struggling to stay on track, while older folks like former F1 racer Johny Herbert somehow manage to get into the top five. It may not be the most hardcore race you’ll watch this weekend, but it’ll certainly be the most fun.

Subaru iRX All-Star Invitational

  • Who: Rallycross stars Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, and more against races from other series like IndyCar’s Alexander Rossi and Formula Drift’s Vaughn Gittin Jr.
  • What: Initial round of the 2020 Subaru iRX All-Star Invitational
  • When: Friday, April 10 at 6 p.m. ET
  • Where: The series will first visit a digital Hell Lankebanen, located in Norway, and be streamed across iRacing’s social media channels

While not everyone normally has the opportunity to drive a fire-spitting, all-wheel-drive rallycross car, iRacing makes it possible for casual sim drivers and seasoned pros. What’s more, Subaru is putting on the iRX All-Star Invitational series that’ll feature racers from all disciplines—IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula Drift, and NHRA included. This means the likes of James Hinchcliffe will take on rallycross champion Scott Speed at Norway’s Lankebanen, a challenging track with varying elevation and a mix of asphalt and gravel.

MotoGP Virtual Race 2

  • Who: Real-life MotoGP racers including Honda’s Alex and Marc Marquez, Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, and Yamaha legend Valentino Rossi
  • What: The second “Stay at Home GP” hosted by MotoGP
  • When: Sunday, April 12 at 9 a.m. ET
  • Where: A scanned version of Spielberg, Austria’s Red Bull Ring that’ll be streamed on NBC as well as MotoGP’s official website

The inaugural Stay at Home GP was won by Honda’s Alex Marquez at Mugello, though there was one famous name missing from the field: Valentino Rossi. The most decorated MotoGP rider in history was slated to compete last weekend, though he withdrew shortly before the race. Now, he’ll contend against nine of the series’ professionals during Sunday’s 10-lap race, racing virtually on the MotoGP20 console game.

The Others

Several sim racing series are taking this weekend off given the Easter holiday, including NASCAR and its iRacing Pro Invitational as well as Formula 1’s Virtual Grand Prix league. Both are slated to return next weekend, with NASCAR taking on short-oval action at Richmond Raceway while F1 makes its digital stop at an undisclosed track since the Vietnam Grand Prix circuit is not available on the F1 2019 game made by Codemasters.

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