While Bristol Motor Speedway awaits a new date for its fan-favorite Food City 500 NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) race, the eyes of the racing world will still be on The Last Great Colosseum on Sunday, April 5 as NASCAR’s top stars compete short-track style on a virtual replica of the famed half-mile all-concrete oval.
The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, created following the postponement of traditional NASCAR Cup Series competition due to the COVID-19 virus, will see NASCAR Cup Series drivers past and present take on the demanding high banks of Bristol during the Food City Showdown. Race action will feature two 50-lap heat races to determine the final starting lineup for the 150-lap main event and will air nationally on the FOX broadcast network (where available and subject to change), FS1 and the FOX Sports app and feature the FOX NASCAR broadcast team of Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and Larry McReynolds. Green flag is set for shortly after 1 p.m. with the broadcast welcoming former New England Patriots great Rob Gronkowski and current WWE superstar Mojo Rawley as co-Grand Marshals.
"The NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has been a great way to keep fans engaged during a tough situation and we're thankful to NASCAR, iRacing and FOX for pushing forward," said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. "It's going to be surreal to see some of NASCAR's biggest names compete on a virtual version of The Last Great Colosseum. Race fans get the best of both worlds: a virtual short track race providing some sense of normality during our originally scheduled race date as well as the opportunity to return to the track for the eventual running of the Food City 500."
iRacing is the world’s premier motorsports racing simulation, allowing competitors to experience NASCAR in a virtual format. iRacing is a fun, inexpensive and highly competitive way for race enthusiasts to experience the head-to-head challenges that professional racers experience in competition. Virtual Bristol Motor Speedway is sure to be a test for the stars of NASCAR.
“Bristol Motor Speedway on iRacing is going to be a wild race for sure, just like it is any other time we race there,” said William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Hendrick Motorsports in NCS and a longtime proponent of iRacing. “It’s a track that throws many challenges at you and I think this weekend will be no different even though we’re racing there virtually. The fast closing rates coming out of the corners, lap traffic, track position in the top lane, are all things that will come into play. Fans can also expect to see a lot of bumping and banging, that’s for sure. It’ll be entertaining for everyone involved and I’m excited to see how this Sunday’s race turns out.”
Along with the FOX NASCAR broadcast team in FOX’s Charlotte, N.C. studio, NASCAR Cup Series star Clint Bowyer will provide commentary as he drives in the virtual Food City Showdown. In addition to FOX coverage in the U.S., the Food City Showdown will be broadcast internationally, including on TSN and FOX Sports Racing (Canada), Motorvision/Sport 1 (Europe) and Fox Sports Australia (Australia) among other countries/territories.
The Food City Showdown will be the third event in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series following virtual races at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, but the first on a short track, meaning intensity will be at an all-time high for drivers. Denny Hamlin grabbed the inaugural win at Homestead, edging Dale Earnhardt Jr. on a last lap pass while Timmy Hill bumped William Byron out of the way to take the checkered flag at Texas. Both races smashed the previous record for the most-watched esports event in U.S. television history, with the TMS race earning 1.339 million viewers via FOX and FS1.
In addition to the Food City Showdown, drivers from other NASCAR national series, including the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander Outdoors RV & Truck Series, ARCA, the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, will compete in a special exhibition this Saturday evening, April 4. Saturday Night Thunder will be broadcast on eNASCAR.com/live at 8 p.m.
Prior to Sunday’s Food City Showdown, Bristol Motor Speedway is pulling out all the stops to give race fans a true pre-race experience. The Colossus TV crew of Jose Castillo, Ashley Strohlein and Hannah Newhouse will do an Instagram Live on the BMS Instagram page at 10 a.m. to get viewers excited for the virtual racing action. Race fans will also want to stay tuned to BMS Instagram throughout the day as virtual Texas Motor Speedway race winner Timmy Hill takes you through his race day preparations.
Bristol Motor Speedway will then host a Sunday pre-race concert on all BMS social media pages featuring Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, country group The Steel Woods and country singer Tennessee Jet. The 30-minute concert is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.
Instead of a TweetUp at-track this weekend, The Athletic.com motorsports reporter Jeff Gluck will host an official Instagram Live session with special guests on his profile @jeff_gluck at Noon on Sunday.
NASCAR social channels also will provide a 30-minute pre-race show featuring country music singer Justin Moore, hosted by NASCAR.com personality Alex Weaver and NCS driver Austin Dillon. The NASCAR Pre-Race concert will air at 12:30 p.m. E.T.
To celebrate the Food City Showdown, Bristol Motor Speedway is giving one lucky fan the chance to win the ultimate weekend getaway to The Last Great Colosseum. Fans can enter beginning Saturday by visiting https://www.
Before the Food City Showdown begins, tag the BMS social channels with photos of your Food City homestyle tailgate using the hashtag #TuneInTailgate.
While watching the virtual Bristol Motor Speedway action, all are encouraged to participate in a virtual version of a Speedway Children’s Charities tradition: The Red Bucket Brigade. Normally during BMS NASCAR races, red buckets are passed out for fans to donate their loose change, which is then used to support SCC’s mission to help agencies that support children in need. During the Food City Showdown, race watchers are encouraged to visit https://www.speedwaycharities.