NASCAR: More surprise competitors in the near future?

We have seen several non-IndyCar drivers compete in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, including some NASCAR drivers. Will this continue and perhaps translate to non-NASCAR drivers competing in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series?

The fields for the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series and the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, the two virtual racing series introduced by NASCAR and IndyCar, respectively, along with iRacing in response to the unexpected stoppage in action brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, have been loaded with drivers who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to compete.

In the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, this has included several drivers who are not ordinarily IndyCar drivers. Specifically, it has included two NASCAR drivers who have never driven IndyCars in their lives: seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and 15-time Most Popular Driver Award winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Johnson, who does want to compete in IndyCar road course races at some point and had a test at Barber Motorsports Park scheduled but canceled due to the pandemic, competed in the first two races at virtual Watkins Glen International and virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Earnhardt, who has never had much interest in actually competing in IndyCar, competed in the first oval race at virtual Michigan International Speedway.

Could we see more drivers like Johnson and Earnhardt make the crossover to the “other side”?

There are certainly several other NASCAR drivers who would be perfect candidates to compete in at least one race in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. In fact, one of the drivers previously discussed as being one of those candidates, Kyle Busch, is set to make his IndyCar iRacing Challenge debut this weekend at virtual Twin Ring Motegi.

Will any IndyCar drivers take on the challenge of driving a virtual stock car in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series?

This is not something that has been as widely discussed as NASCAR drivers competing in IndyCar iRacing Challenge races, sort of like how the drivers who talk about doing the Memorial Day Double are often full-time NASCAR drivers as opposed to full-time IndyCar drivers.

But like 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan said several weeks ago, “it is not us and them. It is the motorsports world.”

He added that he was going to “invite himself” to compete in one of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series races, although he has not yet done so.

Especially after Earnhardt finished in an impressive third place in his IndyCar “debut”, look for more drivers on both sides to try something new over the next few weeks.

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Both the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series schedule and the IndyCar iRacing Challenge schedule could be extended depending on how the pandemic plays out.

As of now, the remaining races on the schedule for the former are scheduled to take place at virtual Richmond Raceway on Sunday, April 19, virtual Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, April 26 and virtual Dover International Speedway on Sunday, May 3 to replace the postponed race weekends at these tracks.

The remaining races on the schedule for the latter are scheduled to take place at a “Random Draw” virtual track, confirmed as Twin Ring Motegi, on Saturday, April 18, virtual Circuit of the Americas on Saturday, April 25 to replace its canceled race weekend and a non-IndyCar “Dream” virtual track on Saturday, May 2.

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