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Volume 21 No. 13
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NASCAR tracks to stage video game tourneys

NASCAR is finalizing an esports venture that would stage racing-themed video game competitions during event weekends across the sport starting this season, according to sources.

The sanctioning body was still working on completing the project as of last week, and it was unclear when it would be announced. However, sources said an announcement could come in the next several weeks. The season-opening Daytona 500 is Feb. 18.

The effort is based around holding tournaments for two racing games — iRacing and the “NASCAR Heat” franchise — at NASCAR venues. It’s seen as a fresh way to get involved in the esports movement, bring younger fans to races, and provide extra value to racing video game enthusiasts who may already be attending. iRacing, a subscription-based racing simulator, is a more advanced and technical offering for hard-core race fans and actual racers themselves, while “NASCAR Heat” is seen as a hybrid between a rudimentary arcade-style offering and a more in-depth offering.

Exactly how many tracks would hold the events this season was unclear, but sources said that International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks, and Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns eight venues, are both involved in the effort. It was unclear whether the three independently owned tracks that host NASCAR premier series races — Dover International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway — were involved.

A source said the events could involve using mobile trucks to host the tournaments. It was not known whether or how much tracks would have to pay to bring the mobile display to their venues, or whether corporate sponsors have been secured. Blake Davidson, NASCAR’s vice president of licensing and consumer products, is helping head up the effort for NASCAR.

NASCAR declined comment.

Last season, Richmond Raceway became the first venue in the sport to host a tournament for the “NASCAR Heat” game, which is owned by 704Games, now headed up by former NASCAR executive Paul Brooks. The 64-person tournament in September was sponsored by GameStop and Aaron’s.

Many in racing believe the sport is primed to take advantage of the esports craze, because it’s one that has long used simulators as an actual element of training. For example, SMI-owned Las Vegas Motor Speedway is upgrading its premium grandstand seating, and one of the upgrades is a new indoor/outdoor lounge with banks of TVs that aims in part to attract esports events.

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.