When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, one of the big surprises was the success of NASCAR’s efforts to get their drivers on simulated tracks to keep the competition alive. With races back for real in 2021, the league has announced plans to continue its esports format, allowing drivers to race virtually during the week in a 10-race schedule that will complement the real-life racing schedule.

NASCAR and iRacing will run the new-look Pro Invitational, with Fox Sports airing the first five races in primetime on Wednesday nights on FS1. NBC Sports will air the final five races, with a schedule to be determined.

The Pro Invitational will feature a mix of tracks designed primarily to preview the upcoming weekend’s race at an actual track. The hope is to give fans an idea of what to expect in the race ahead by seeing drivers race the circuits in a virtual format.

“The success of our eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series was underscored by an industry-wide effort to entertain fans during the early months of the global pandemic,” said Tim Clark, NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer. “This year the Pro Invitational will return with a schedule of midweek races that will bridge the gap between our real-world races each weekend.”

“After last year’s Pro Invitational success, we’re proud that our partners at NASCAR, Fox, and the race teams view the series as an integral part of their marketing and fan engagement strategies for 2021,” said Steve Myers, iRacing executive producer. “It’s even more fulfilling that the industry has rallied around our platform not only as the most authentic re-creation of the sport, but also a terrific tool to help grow NASCAR’s audience and generate revenue to strengthen the entire ecosystem.”

2021 eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series (First Five-Races)

Wednesday, March 24
Bristol – Dirt
8:00 p.m. — 9:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday, April 21
7:00 p.m. — 8:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday, May 5
8:00 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 19
Circuit of the Americas
7:00 p.m. — 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 2
Track TBD
8:00 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.