iRace Report: AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at COTA

AUSTIN—The results don’t show it but the Foyt team had some good runs in the iRacing AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at the virtual Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Both Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais were running in the top-10 midway through the race and Dalton Kellett was knocking on the door of the top-10. 

It was all the more impressive because COTA was cited as the trickiest of the circuits the iRacing INDYCAR Series has run to date. Two of the leaders spun while leading and the pole winner, 20-year-old Lando Norris, also spun in the race but recovered to win. Norris drives for McLaren in Formula One and was an invited celebrity driver this week.

Dalton Kellett, who was supposed to make his actual NTT IndyCar Series debut this weekend in the K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet, continues to be our top iRacer as he finished 18th today after a late race spin. 

Dalton Kellett and the No. 41 K-Line Insulators A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet on track at Circuit of The Americas (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

“Exciting race today at COTA!” Kellett said. “Lots of action off the start and the first few

laps. It was mostly clean, but I had a couple contacts with some late moves, so some damage on both runs hurt our pace but not to the point of being too detrimental. I’m happy that we were able to move up from our qualifying position, finishing 18th, but I lost the opportunity for a top-15 with a late spin in T11. My engineer Daniele [Cucchiaroni] and spotter Darren [Manning] did a great job calling strategy and spotting. Overall, I think it was an exciting race and I am happy that we were able to put on a good show for everyone watching at home. Tune-in next week to see the #41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It took five races, but Tony Kanaan actually enjoyed himself in the iRacing Challenge Series as there were no technical problems (which had plagued him throughout this series and limited his track time on race days). Driving the No. 14 Big Machine Hand Sanitizer Chevrolet, he found himself running competitively in the 32-lap race around the 20-turn, 3.427-mile circuit.

The No. 14 Big Machine Vodka / Hand Sanitizer A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet of Tony Kanaan on track at a virtual Circuit of The Americas (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

 Aside from the technological glitches, Kanaan was unhappy with his early performances, so he sought the help of two sim racing ‘driver coaches’ this week. He practiced as much as nine hours a day. His race pace improved where he was running in the top-six midway through the race. A couple spins, one of which included a battle with Jack Harvey, diluted the effort unfortunately and he finished 23rd.

“Good run,” Kanaan assessed. “I made a few mistakes myself so, as you’re getting better, you tend to become overconfident and try to overdo and I tried to overdo today. It was fun. I liked that I improved, and now I have to stop spinning!”

Sebastien Bourdais, who was the top qualifier of the three drivers, also felt optimistic about his race today but with about six laps to go Bourdais made his final stop. Exiting pit road, he and Simon Pagenaud made contact which damaged Bourdais’s car and he dropped back. He placed 24th.

“We had a race going on for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevy,” Bourdais said. “We definitely seemed to have a bit of pace this weekend and showed ourselves in the top 10. It just got a little complicated after the restart and got chewed up a little bit. It’s a shame because it looked like we could score a good result. We’ll keep trying and hopefully we can finish on a high note at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Sebastien Bourdais in front of a virtual front grandstand at Circuit of The Americas in the No. 4 Tresiba A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet (Photo Courtesy of A.J. Foyt Racing)

Following Norris (U.K.) across the line were Pato O’Ward (Mexico), Felix Rosenqvist (Sweden), Scott McLaughlin (New Zealand) and Santino Ferrucci (U.S. A. – Pennsylvania). The oldest in the group is 28-year-old Rosenqvist.

The final race of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Series takes place next Saturday afternoon at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will be broadcast on NBCSN.