Roger Diez: iRacing, because it’s what we’ve got
As we enter another week of sheltering in place from the COVID-19 pandemic, there will at least be racing to watch. It’s iRacing, specifically the eNASCAR series, but it’s better than nothing. Last Sunday Denny Hamlin won the Homestead round of the computer-based series, narrowly beating Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the checker. Yes, Junior Nation, your hero is back with no chance of another concussion unless he gets excited and falls off his chair. Crew chiefs and mechanics are also thrilled with this format, because body damage and blown engines are easy to repair and cost nothing. FOX is committed to run the remainder of what is called the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational series, and the Texas round will air on FOX, FS1, and the FOX Sports app tomorrow starting at 10 a.m. PDT. Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, and Larry McReynolds will provide commentary with “in-car” coverage from Clint Bowyer. Response to this form of racing are mixed, with experienced iRacers opining that they could beat the real NASCAR stars, and real race drivers saying that skill at one doesn’t necessarily transfer to the other. Nevertheless, it’s what we’ve got for now.
The IndyCar series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have announced further changes to their schedule. IMS owner Roger Penske professed disappointment at having to reschedule the Indy 500, which will now run on Aug. 23. Qualifying will take place on Aug. 15-16 with practice starting on Aug. 12-14. NBC will air the race, which will honor the contributions and heroism of the doctors, nurses, first responders, and National Guard members who fought COVID-19. The 500’s move necessitates moving the Mid-Ohio round to Aug. 9, with the Gateway round the week after the 500, on Aug. 30. The Grand Prix of Indy will now run on the Fourth of July weekend, along with the Brickyard 400. The NASCAR Cup cars will run the 2.5-mile oval, while the IndyCar and Xfinity series will both utilize the road course with incorporates part of the oval. These changes are predicated on the lifting of bans on large gatherings by July.
Formula 1 is also making changes to accommodate the situation. The current shutdown of races will be considered the summer hiatus, and some of the postponed events will be rescheduled for August, when the series usually takes their break. At this point the Canadian Grand Prix will be the first race of the season, but 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve is doubtful that it will happen. Villeneuve lives in Milan, Italy, and has seen the devastation COVID-19 can cause. He feels that things won’t be back to normal by the scheduled June 14 date.
Formula 1’s new technical regulations due to be implemented in 2021 have been pushed back to 2022. The current regulations will still be in force for next season, so teams will be running the same cars as this year. Despite this, McLaren has said they will go ahead with their planned switch from Renault to Mercedes power plants for next year.
If you’re an F1 fan and looking for a way to pass some time while isolating at home, check out the F1 Manager app. It’s available for both iOS and Android platforms. Races are much shorter than the real-world versions, so you don’t need two uninterrupted hours to play. You are the team manager, making decisions on race strategy and coaching your drivers on winning moves. The game is free to play, but there are some optional in-app purchases. The more you compete, the more crates of parts and money you’ll acquire. The app is available in the Apple App Store for iOS and on Google Play for Android.