The arrival of the iRacing Pro Invitational Series on major TV channels, as well as through online streaming services, has become a much-discussed topic in recent days, as well as breaking records.
What is perhaps most interesting about this series, which takes traditional NASCAR and turns it into a virtual sporting event which still features the same pros behind the wheel, is that real-world experience is not as relevant. This means that some drivers who are dominant on the asphalt are having to play catch-up after the switch to a digital equivalent.
Since betting on esports events is already as commonplace as playing at an online casino, a lot of attention is already falling on how pros will fare now that the iRacing series is underway.
Here is a look at how the odds are stacking up at the moment and what betting strategies might be sensible to pursue over the course of the next few races.
As the name suggests, this invitational is not just open to current high-ranking pros but also to veterans of the sport who have been called up to compete using the uniquely realistic iRacing platform.
The fact that Denny Hamlin won the opening race is made all the more intriguing given that the man himself took to Twitter the day before to post a hastily concocted list of odds for the event. He only put himself at 6/1, while ranking Ty Majeski and William Byron as more likely to triumph during this maiden outing.
What this suggests is that while Hamlin may not be that accurate when coming up with odds himself, he is definitely one to watch as this series progresses. If he continues to prove that he is an adept operator when driving virtually, his 11th place overall standing in the cup series will be worth overlooking.
Out of the frying pan
Although the purported realism of the iRacing platform has been repeatedly cited, it is arguable that the results of the first race prove that NASCAR skills are not entirely transferable, or at least that there is a definite learning curve to overcome.
This means that it is probably unwise to make any firm predictions about how the rest of the races in the series will pan out, at least at this early point.
It is not just the fact that the software needs to provide an accurate emulation of what it is like to drive a real NASCAR vehicle; the thing which is missing is the sense of risk that comes with actually being in the driving seat of a physical car. In a virtual environment, pros do not need to worry about their own safety, or the integrity of their cars, which explains the higher than average number of cautions given in the opening race.
This might make things more exciting for audiences, but for anyone who is hoping to wager on the outcome of a race, it adds quite a bit more randomness into proceedings. As such, it is once again sensible to adopt a cautious approach.
What could give you the edge if you have the opportunity to bet on the iRacing series over the coming weeks is checking out any of the streams that some of the racers are running over on Twitch. These will let you see them practicing and could help you to identify which drivers are clearly taking to the switch to eNASCAR better than others.
Of course even if you are not much of a gambler, being able to watch your favorite pros both race and interact with an audience is a real silver lining to the situation which has necessitated the suspension of live NASCAR events.