The popularity of virtual motorsports racing on television has come with surprising success stories and occasional complications as race teams scramble to create value for sponsors and partners.
IndyCar drivers participating in the series' online races represent their real sponsors and for the most part that is also true in NASCAR.
Some of the small-team drivers have seized the opportunity presented by being the only racing available. Landon Cassill, who doesn’t currently have a Cup Series ride, landed a paying sponsor for the iRacing league and is hopeful the platform keeps him on the radar when racing resumes.
Timmy Hill, best known as the guy who found out the concession stand was out of chicken during a rain delay of the Daytona 500, has skyrocketed in popularity. Not only did he win a NASCAR race, Hill, a regular gamer considered among the best in the iRacing community, has put together a partnership with Pit Boss Grills for the virtual racing. The deal may not be for cash, but that’s not really the point.
Blue-Emu, who did have contracts for real-life money with Cassill and Bubba Wallace, canceled its deal with Wallace after Wallace admittedly “rage quit” the game last week at Bristol.
The company is a partner on Wallace’s actual car with Richard Petty Motorsports and there could be fallout once the season resumes.
Some sponsors also want to see their logos on the virtual rigs and want drivers to practices hours and hours each day, giving them more exposure to fans. Hendrick Motorsports last week had Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott virtually connect with sponsors the duo would have hosted at the actual track.
“I think the first race that was done in Atlanta was much less about the business; and then when the TV component came in, it switched to business, absolutely,” veteran NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson said. “There’s maybe not pressure from the sponsors. But I can tell you what I feel in my own head is: How do I show value for our partners and how to show value for our team and our company and everybody involved in this tricky time?
“So, I just feel like there is a pressure we’re all feeling, if it’s self-inflicted or if its coming from the outside in, but we’re trying to figure out how to create value and how to deliver for our partners.”