By: Tanner Watkins
April 16, 2020 | 8:00 AM
For a series that has seen an impressive list of cameos, the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge just landed another pair big fish for this weekend’s race at Twin Ring Motegi.
Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch will join the stars of open-wheel racing for Saturday’s race on NBCSN, in addition to three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
Busch, the defending Cup Series champion, joins Jimmie Johnson (a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (a two-time Daytona 500 winner), and Scott McLaughlin (two-time defending V8 SuperCars champ) as notable multi-discipline drivers to compete in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.
In Earnhardt Jr.’s maiden run last week at Michigan International Speedway, the third-generation driver scored a podium finish – which also helped boost NBCSN’s viewership to over 200,000 for their Saturday afternoon airing. That signaled an approximate 25% increase in viewership over the previous week’s debut airing for the INDYCAR iRacing series on cable television.
Earlier this week, Roger Penske touched on the topic of featuring guest drivers in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge – noting that while their draw is noticeable, it is important to keep each event unique.
Perhaps this is why Earnhardt is not competing this week while Busch will. Johnson started the first two races – both road courses – and has not been on the entry list since.
Making an appearance this week at a track in his (virtual) homeland will be Takuma Sato. The Japanese driver will pilot the No. 30 Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, signaling Sato’s first run in official INDYCAR iRacing competition.
Not to be forgotten, the fan-favorite Castroneves will be making his debut in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge at a track he has won twice at as a real-life competitor. Look for Helio in the yellow-clad Pennzoil livery, driving the No. 3 Chevrolet for Team Penske.
Castroneves has been active in various races on the iRacing service in the last two weeks, so he should be relatively sharp when the green flag falls on Saturday at 2:30 PM Eastern. The race will be shown live by NBCSN once again, with commentary from Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, and Paul Tracy.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.