Could the eNASCAR Heat Pro League throw motoring esports a lifeline?

Qualifying is already underway for the eNASCAR Heat Pro League where gamers are invited to compete in America’s premier stock car racing simulation. The tournament has been organised by the US games developer, 704 Games, and it gives anybody the chance to qualify for real-life NASCAR teams in the 2019 Pro Draft.

Whilst traditional US stock car racing has been in trouble for a few years, there’s hope that tournaments based around the NASCAR Heat 3 game will help the sport find a new lease of life in the digital realm. This follows on from other successful motor racing esports such as the Formula One Esports Series and the Porsche iRacing World Championship. But with stock car racing offering a much more chaotic approach, it’s hoped that the eNASCAR Heat Pro League could be the motor racing tournament to break through into the esports mainstream.

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© Porsche iRacing World Championship

The format of the eNASCAR Heat Pro League

Gamers get until 15 January to qualify for the 2019 Pro Draft of the eNASCAR Heat Pro League. To do this, you will need to play NASCAR Heat 3 either on a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One, and once you’ve registered your account with 704 Games, you will race as often as you can over a series of challenging test tracks.

Each day from 6 December until 15 January features a new test circuit that includes classic US race tracks in Indianapolis, Talladega and Martinsville. Your race data will be carefully analysed to see how you match up against your rivals, and if you are lucky, then you will make it through to the Pro League Draft.

Only the 32 top gamers will get to reach the draft stage that will be announced in February 2019, and from here players will get the chance to compete for real-life teams such as Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports. Each team will have two competitors, one for Xbox and one for PlayStation, and then the gamers must compete over the course of a 16-track tournament from May 2019 for the chance to be crowned champions of the eNASCAR Heat Pro League.

At the moment, the full final eNASCAR Heat Pro League schedule has yet to be unveiled, and there is no mention of what the prize pool could include. But it’s hoped that the open format of qualifying could see many amateur gamers competing for a chance to sign for a top NASCAR team and take part in what should be a thrilling opening race in Charlottesville.

Why has NASCAR got involved in esports?

The traditional sporting world has been showing a much greater amount of interest in competitive gaming recently. Attitudes that started with scepticism and indifference have shown a dramatic turnaround as sports clubs aim to diversify their incomes by catering to young esports fans who tend to shy away from mainstream media formats.

This is especially true when it comes to NASCAR racing. Although the sport is one of America’s most famous motor racing sports, it has been suffering from dwindling audiences both in the grandstands and on television. Much of this has been put down to the fact that several star drivers have recently retired, and meddling with track formats is also thought to have had a negative effect on the viewer experience.

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© NASCAR Esports

But with 704 Games’ ambitious plans for NASCAR esports, it is hoped that a whole new generation will get to experience the excitement of the classic US sport. 704 Games have been working with the Race Team Alliance for NASCAR to see how they could supercharge the race experience in order to make the tournament for testing for the drivers, and more captivating for any streaming audiences.

As a result, you will not only see a wide variety of tracks in the eNASCAR Heat Pro League, but 708 Games will also aim to introduce more of a level playing field so that the races are more open. In addition to this, gamers will also be tested through features that affect things like tyre wear and fuel consumption so that they have to pit more frequently.

Could the eNASCAR Heat Pro League hit it big in esports?

The current range of the most popular esports is awash with battle royale games, first-person shooters and battle arena titles. Although sports simulators like the FIFA eWorld Cup and the NBA 2K League have performed pretty well in the competitive gaming domain, motor racing esports have tended to stay more of a niche activity.

However, motor racing titles like Gran Turismo have been some of the most popular video games around, and so the time could be right for tournaments like the Formula One Esports Series or the eNASCAR Heat Pro League to make a big impact in the competitive gaming world.