For those of us in the world of sports betting, the suspension of most significant sports has left us with little to keep busy. While fans of the NBA, MLB, or NHL are left with few alternatives, the racing world has embraced virtual competition to keep the party going.
F1 and NASCAR Racing Goes Virtual
When COVID-19 stole most worldwide sports from us, the competitive racing scene barely missed a beat. It was quite amazing to see F1 & NASCAR drivers online almost immediately to compete with eSports professionals in virtual racing simulators. This was due in large part to drivers already using such software regularly to keep their skills sharp.
Now, the world of competitive racing is nothing new. What is new is the participation by actual pro drivers now that they are forced off the track.
So far, these events have been an enormous success. So popular in fact that sportsbooks quickly started to add them to their odds boards.
With professionals, celebrities, and the sanctioning bodies of INDYCAR, F1, and NASCAR on board, virtual racing has shot into the spotlight.
Between the trio of racing bodies mentioned above, there are a ton of events coming up that we can wager on. So let’s take a look at the main three leagues going on right now and some odds for upcoming races.
eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series
The 2020 NASCAR season was put on hold after just four races were completed. They were also one of the quickest sports to make a move to virtual in the hopes of keeping their season going online. The NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitation was spawned out of those hopes and picked up right where the Cup Series left off and uses the popular iRacing platform to simulate weekly events.
Taking place on Sunday’s, this unique series pits NASCAR drivers, employees and dignitaries against each other on virtual recreations of real-world tracks. With names like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Bush involved, it’s no wonder this series has seen such immediate success.
Hamin guessed that most of the racers and a majority of employees at NASCAR have iRacing rigs in their homes already and compete regularly. This allowed for a quick and smooth transition to take these races from the asphalt to digital circuits.
The fifth event of the series, the Finish Line 150, is on May 3rd at Dover International Speedway’s virtual Monster Mile. Alex Bowman is coming off a win last week at Talladega with William Byron winning the previous two races. That makes three in a row for Hendrick Motorsports and will try to go for the four-peat on Sunday.
Odds to win the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational event at Dover are:
William Byron +175
Timothy Hill +650
Ryan Preece +800
Denny Hamlin +1000
Alex Bowman +1000
Garrett Smithley +1000
Dale Earnhardt Jr +1000
Kyle Busch +1200
John Hunter Nemechek +1400
Paker Kligerman +1400
There are also odds for finishing in the Top-3, a wager I prefer in this situation. Timmy Hill finished Top-3 in all but one Pro Invitational race this season and is +165 to take podium spot yet again. Byron (-240) is also a strong play to finish in the Top-3, but the value really sits with Hill at Dover.
F1 eSports Virtual Racing Grand Prix Series
While real track F1 racing has been postponed, the eSports Virtual GP Series has stepped up to ease our pain. With a starting grid consisting of pro drivers, track legends, championship gamers, and noobish celebrities, this series has a lot to like. Due to the varying skillsets, this series is viewed more like an exhibition event, but an exhibition event we can bet.
The one significant difference between the F1 Virtual Series and most other eSports racing events is the software used. See, much like the NBA & NFL, Formula One has its in-house video game series, so it makes sense to use that instead of the iRacing platform. Several drivers are unhappy about this, considering the F1 game to be just that. A game. While iRacing is considered more of a simulator than a game. It’s why F1 drivers practice on it and not the F1 arcade experience. Several F1 drivers are abandoning this series and choosing instead to race the IMSA, NASCAR and INDYCAR series.
Despite this drama, the fact remains that the Formula One Virtual Series is a viable betting option for those looking to explore something new.
After taking a week off to run some head to head exhibition events, the Virtual Series returns this weekend with the Dutch Virtual Grand Prix.
Participating drivers include two-time winner Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, George Russell, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Alex Albon. We might also see an appearance by Sebastian Vettel, who confirmed he did order and receive a racing rig recently. The older generation of racers has yet to get involved in the Virtual GPs, but Vettel’s involvement could change that.
As with previous events, the Virtual Dutch GP will take place after an 18-minute qualifying session to determine the starting grid while the race itself will be at 50% distance. That should be good for around 35 laps of action around Interlagos, which is filling in for Zandvoot’s Circuit, which won’t be in the game until later in the year.
As of this writing, odds are only out on the team who will win this weekend as the official participants aren’t announced yet. Team Renault (+400) is the favorites followed closely by McLaren (+500) and Mercedes (+600). The latter is probably the most exciting bet of the three with the team of Guiterrez and Vanoorne likely teaming up again. They are each F1 test drivers and avid gamers who should keep team Mercedes in this race down until the final lap.
IndyCar iRacing Challenge
IndyCar drivers were also familiar with the iRacing platform, and much like the NASCAR guys jumped at the chance to continue competing. The entrants are a mix of current NTT IndyCar Series drivers along with some special guests like Lando Norris of Formula One.
Norris was the guest driver for Arrow McLaren at the Circuit of the Americas last week. He is also one of the F1 racers I mentioned earlier who hates the Formula One video game and the series tied along to it. The 20-year-old came into IndyCar instead and dominated the field of 33 drivers to win his inaugural race in the series. More than 20,000 people watched his live stream of that big win.
The races last a little over an hour and are broadcast live on NBCSN and IndyCar’s website. Commentary is provided by a full broadcast team and does an excellent job of mimicking an actual live event. They even have pre-race entertainment, including a live national anthem rendition. You have to give it to IndyCar; they are committed to realism.
The final event of this series will take place on Saturday, May 2nd at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will be open to full-time IndyCar teams, anyone who has won an iRacing Challenge race thus far, and any previous Indy 500 winner. A qualifying session on the 29th will determine the rest of the field. Once the starting grid is official, we will update you on the odds for this championship race.
These are just a trio of the many many virtual racing series that are all going on right now. IMSA, Porche, Subaru, and the WRC are all running eSports events right now that you can find odds on to keep life interesting.