Esports Arena: Pro NASCAR Drivers Turn to Virtual Races After Coronavirus Cancellations

Nascar racing - Getty - H 2020
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Elsewhere in competitive gaming: 'Overwatch' League returns with online matches after a brief hiatus; 'CounterStrike' Rio de Janeiro tournament postponed to November.

Esports Arena is a curated weekly roundup of the biggest stories in the world of online competitive gaming.

Professional NASCAR drivers have turned to virtual races amid the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the racing league to postpone its scheduled live events.

Star drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano participated in the debut event of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series Invitational over the weekend, with Hamlin edging out Earnhardt Jr. to win the Dixie Vodka 150. 

A partnership between NASCAR and online racing simulation game iRacing, the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series race brought 35 drivers to the simulated track across all of NASCAR’s three national series, with each driver using his own setup to compete. Fox Sports covered the event live, as it would have with a real race, providing a feeling of authenticity to the viewers at home. 

The Pro Series will continue on with weekly virtual events until the NASCAR season is cleared to resume.

Elsewhere, the Overwatch League is returning after a brief COVID-19 related hiatus, with 16 online matches scheduled this weekend. Matches will feature many teams that have either not played yet or have played very few games thus far in the season, including the four Chinese squads and the Seoul Dynasty, who have yet to play a single match. The defending league champions, the San Francisco Shock, who have only played one match to date, will also compete.

The weekend of play begins with the Guangzhou Charge facing the Shanghai Dragons at 1 p.m. PT on March 28. Competition ends with the Seoul Dynasty taking on the Los Angeles Gladiators at 8 p.m. PT the following day. 

Here’s what else is happening in the world of esports.

Evil Geniuses Signs Two Major Fighting Game Pros

Esports organization Evil Geniuses have announced the addition of two top fighting game players to its roster, signing Dominique “SonicFox” McLean and Jon "dekillsage" Coello last week. The two have combined for multiple top finishes across various games, including McLean’s victory at Mortal Kombat 11’s Final Kombat earlier this month and Coello’s deep run in the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour Finals. The two join Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez as the only fighting game players on Evil Geniuses’ roster, and they will begin representing the team immediately. 

CS:GO Rio de Janeiro Tournament Rescheduled for November

What was supposed to be the first major tournament of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive season has found a new spot on the calendar, as the ESL Rio Major is now slated for Nov. 19-22. “The tournament will remain at the Jeunesse Arena and tickets purchased for the May date will be valid for the November date,” the ESL said in its official statement. “Fans who do not want to retain their tickets may easily request a refund in their Eventbrite account using the email address they purchased their ticket with.” The canceled May Major’s prize money will be added to the new November Major, making the total prize pool available $2 million. 

Xanadu Moves Super Smash Bros. Tournament Series Online

Xanadu Games, a weekly Super Smash Bros. tournament series in Maryland and Virginia, has announced it will be moving its tournaments online for the first time ever. VGBootCamp co-founder Calvin "GimR" Lofton made the announcement via the Xanadu Twitter account, also revealing that the events will be limited to Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware players, citing potential lag issues and “not wanting to interfere” with other regions’ Smash Bros tournaments as the key reasons. It was confirmed that Smash Ultimate Tuesdays, Melee Wednesdays and The Grind Ultimate Fridays will be featured, so players can choose which game or day works best for them. The Xanadu Online events are slated to begin the week of March 24.