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Pagenaud masters Motegi oval to win Firestone 175 after stirring duel with Dixon

INDIANAPOLIS (April 18, 2020) – Nearly a year after winning the biggest oval race of them all, Simon Pagenaud continued his mastery of virtual circle tracks by taking the checkered flag at the Firestone 175 on Saturday, April 18 at Twin Ring Motegi.

2019 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Pagenaud edged five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon by .3429 of a second after a spellbinding duel in the wild closing 10 laps of the 113-lap race. Pagenaud averaged 177.345 mph in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.

This was Pagenaud’s second consecutive victory in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. 2016 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Pagenaud also won the Chevrolet 275 on April 11 at Michigan International Speedway, the first oval event in the six-event virtual racing series.

Click: Results

“Today was a lot about tire saving, the right strategy once again,” said Pagenaud, who competed while wearing his real racing suit. “At the end it got a bit crazy. Yeah, what’s fun to me, it’s actually that you’re racing the exact same guys as usual, exact same moves as you would in real life. You keep turning your wheels in your head.

“Right now we’re not racing (on real tracks), so we’re racing (virtually) on the weekend. That gives me a lot of joy. The adrenaline was definitely at the maximum level at the end of the race.”

2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Dixon recorded his best finish in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He joined the series in Round 2 on April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park, with his previous best result 16th at that race.

2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power finished third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, as Team Penske drivers took two of the three podium spots. 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Power continued to flex his experienced sim racing muscles mixed with a twinge of frustration, as he has finished third, second, fourth and third, respectively, in the first four rounds. He led a race-high 61 laps.

Marcus Ericsson placed fourth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Pole sitter Robert Wickens rallied from early contact to finish fifth in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Dixon pulled up to Pagenaud’s gearbox as the white flag flew for the final trip around the 1.52-mile oval, which hosted INDYCAR events annually from 1998-2010. Dixon then pounced at an opening at the bottom of Turn 1 of the egg-shaped oval, trying to dive under Pagenaud for the lead and possible victory.

Pagenaud defended vigorously, and the front right tire of Dixon’s machine nearly brushed the rear left tire of Pagenaud’s car as Dixon’s car wiggled, blunting Dixon’s challenge. Pagenaud then hung on in the final three turns for the win.

“Honestly, what happened at the end, I didn’t know we were racing actually for the lead,” Dixon said. “I thought we were racing for second place. I was so focused on trying to get to the end, I didn’t even know we were racing for the win.

“Everybody’s racing hard. I thought it was awesome. It was a great show, a lot of fun. I think it was exciting. Simon did a hell of a job. That’s what it takes at the end to win, is you got to take risks. Kudos to them. It was fun to be a part of it and fun to watch.”

Pagenaud took the lead for good on Lap 106, driving past Power while running in a thicket of lapped traffic after a spirited battle between the two teammates.

Power was ripe for the passing due to front-wing damage suffered in an incident while leading a lap earlier when he got tangled in a collision with Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, running second, and the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Oliver Askew, who slid up the track and hit leader Power while racing hard to stay on the lead lap. Power’s car, running in the middle between Askew and McLaughlin, then hip-checked McLaughlin’s car hard into the SAFER Barrier.

“I saw it happening,” Pagenaud said. “He (Askew) came out of the pits on new tires right next to me. We had a bit of a battle, as well. Kind of touched a little bit. I let him by because I could see he was very aggressive and on new tires.

(Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

“My hope was that I was going to use his draft to get back to Scott and Will. Then he wiped them out. After that it was hard with Will. So much understeer, I chose the outside lane, which probably wasn’t smart. So, yeah, I thought that was Dixon’s win right there. We managed to come out of it and get another very strong result for Team Penske.”

Power tried to hold off the charging Pagenaud after the incident with Askew and McLaughlin, banging wheels with his teammate and keeping control of his machine despite missing part of his front wing. But that resistance ended up being futile, as Pagenaud and Dixon powered past.

“Yeah, Pagenaud was glued to my side pod,” Power said. “What’s going on (laughter)? He told me I had damage. I didn’t know I had damage. He’s like, ‘Dude, you’ve got damage.’

“That’s what lost us the race, basically. We couldn’t battle for the win anymore. Yeah, missing half a front wing, I was pushing a lot, obviously. I was happy to hang on for third. That showed how much of a gap we’d pulled on the whole field that I could just nurse it home and have another third place. Real consistent for me week in and week out.”

McLaughlin’s No. 2 Shell V-Power Team Penske Dallara suffered heavy damage in the late incident, and he was credited with 24th place. It was Round 2 winner McLaughlin’s first finish outside of the top four in the series.

Power, McLaughlin and Pagenaud took over the top three spots when Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden pitted from the lead in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet with 14 laps remaining. Newgarden was on a different fuel strategy from his teammates and trying to stretch fuel or get a late-race caution to make it to the finish, but he was forced to stop when that ploy proved fruitless.

Australian Power and New Zealander Dixon battled for position after the first round of mass pit stops, which were finished just before the halfway point of the race. McLaughlin chose to sit back in third, conserving fuel and tires.

The lead trio pitted for the second and final time on Lap 87, with Dixon leading Power and McLaughlin. Power and McLaughlin jumped Dixon in the pits after inexperienced sim racer Dixon drove through his pit box and had to back up, setting up the order for the final 26-lap dash to the checkered.

Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch finished 13th in the No. 51 Rowdy Energy Dallara in his series debut. Another series debutant, 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, finished 12th in the No. 30 Panasonic/Keihin Honda.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves placed 29th in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet in his series debut, three laps down, after suffering damage in an early crash.

Two more races remain in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, at Circuit of the Americas on Saturday, April 25 and at a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track Saturday, May 2.

The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.

Firestone 175 Fast Facts and 5 Things to Look For

SOURCE: INDYCAR

Firestone 175 Fast Facts
When: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 18

Track: Twin Ring Motegi, a four-turn, egg-shaped, 1.549-mile oval in Motegi, Japan. Turn banking: 10 degrees.

Race distance: 113 laps/175 miles/281.6 km (approximately 75 minutes)

Expected pit stops: Two. Fuel window is expected to be approximately 40 laps. Cars will be allowed one “Fast Repair” during the race.

Twitter: @IndyCar, @iRacing, @motegi_english, #INDYCARChallenge, #INDYCAR

TV/Online: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App. Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer, alongside the network’s INDYCAR analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy, and pit reporter Marty Snider. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by Big Machine Records country music star Carly Pearce singing the national anthem and global motorsports legend Mario Andretti giving the command to start engines. The podium finishers will be interviewed on the live NBCSN broadcast. Diffey also will host a post-race virtual press conference with the podium finishers for media members (call-in details will be distributed).

Spotter guide: Click here to see a detailed spotter guide for this Saturday’s race.

Race notes:

• Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) won Round 3 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, April 11, the Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway. He beat Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin by 13.4059 seconds in a race with thrilling action eventually decided by fuel strategy.

• Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) won the inaugural round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, March 28, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) won Round 2 on Saturday, April 4, the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

• Two-time and reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske), from New Zealand, has the best overall record in the series in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Team Penske Dallara, finishing fourth at Watkins Glen, winning at Barber and placing second at Michigan. Veteran sim racer McLaughlin has produced this impressive record despite competing in series races during the middle of the night in Australia, where he lives.

• In an example of the virtual world mirroring the real world, Team Penske is the team to beat so far in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Penske is the only team to score a podium finish in each of the first three races. Will Power placed third in Round 1 at Watkins Glen, Scott McLaughlin won Round 2 at Barber with Power placing second, and Simon Pagenaud won Round 3 at Michigan, with McLaughlin second.

• Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) is the only driver to lead laps in all three races of this virtual series, also winning the opener at Watkins Glen in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet. He also has led the most laps in all three races, pacing a dominant 116 of the 175 combined laps so far (66 percent).

• Participation continues to climb in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. The field for the Firestone 175 will consist of 33 drivers. Round 3 at Michigan International Speedway had 31 drivers April 11, up from 29 taking the green flag April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park. The series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen had 25 drivers.

• The Firestone 175, Round 4 of 6 in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, is the second consecutive oval race in the virtual series, after the Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway. The first two rounds took place on natural-terrain road courses, at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park. Future venues include the Circuit of the Americas road course on Saturday, April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track Saturday, May 2.

• Four new drivers will join the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge in the Firestone 175: two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch (INDYCAR Provisional), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Helio Castroneves (INDYCAR Provisional), 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing.).

• Fourteen Indy car races have been conducted at Twin Ring Motegi from 1998-2011. Adrian Fernandez won the first, on March 28, 1998, while Scott Dixon won the most recent, on Sept. 18, 2011. Danica Patrick made history at the circuit April 20, 2008, becoming the only female driver to win an INDYCAR race.

• Ten drivers in the field for the Firestone 175 on Saturday also competed in the last INDYCAR event at Twin Ring Motegi on Sept. 18, 2011: Scott Dixon (winner), Will Power (second), Marco Andretti (third), Sebastien Bourdais (sixth), Takuma Sato (10th), Graham Rahal (12th), James Hinchcliffe (15th), Tony Kanaan (17th), Helio Castroneves (22nd) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (24th).

• Two drivers in the field for the Firestone 175 each have two career victories at Twin Ring Motegi: Helio Castroneves (2006, 2010) and Scott Dixon (2009, 2011).

• Twenty-nine of the 31 drivers who started the Chevrolet 275 last Saturday at Michigan International Speedway were running at the finish, an impressive series high considering the closer quarters of oval racing.

FIRESTONE 175 PRE-EVENT QUOTES:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Oberto Circle K/Curb Honda): “I got a late start to the season, but really enjoyed Michigan and looking forward to returning to Motegi. My teammates and I have had some good DMs on our fuel strategy for this race. Looking forward to executing and hopefully bringing home a trophy.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I have never (virtually) raced the oval at Twin Ring Motegi, but the little practice I did so far has been quite fun. The tire degradation is high with the low downforce setup, so the end of stint gets rather interesting. Finally, I hope the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet will have better success than it has experienced in the prior events.”

KYLE BUSCH (No. 51 Rowdy Energy Dallara): “I really appreciate everyone at INDYCAR for inviting me to race with them this week. It’s a unique opportunity to showcase Rowdy Energy to the INDYCAR fans and race against a lot of talented drivers. I’m still fairly new to iRacing, but I’ve had a lot of fun racing different cars I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to try in real life because of my schedule on the NASCAR side. I started practicing with the group on Thursday, and things have gone well so far. These guys are really good at what they do in real life and equally as good in the sim world. Just want to thank all the INDYCAR drivers for welcoming me, and I’m really looking forward to racing with them on Saturday.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 50 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “I am very excited to be going back to Motegi. It was always such a fun track to race at, as well as an amazing place to visit. I hope a successful iRacing event can lead the way to adding this back on to our schedule!”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m so happy to be back in INDYCAR, even though it’s in a virtual race at Twin Ring Motegi. I feel like I have the edge for this weekend since I’m one of the few drivers in the field who actually raced there in real life and have been able to win there with Roger (Penske) back in the day. I also could not be more excited to be back in the virtual Pennzoil Chevy also known as the ‘Yellow Submarine.’ I’m excited to be back representing our great partners and our wonderful team. I’m not sure I can say it enough about how much I can’t wait to race against my fellow INDYCAR drivers and show the fans an exciting race on NBCSN!”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I’m looking forward to racing the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Last weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway was my first iRacing event ever, and even though we didn’t have the best race and it’s taken some time to get used to iRacing, I’ve been having a great time. Our engineers are having a lot of fun getting involved, and Felipe (Nasr) and I have both been working hard preparing for these race weekends on the sims. The oval at Twin Ring Motegi should make for some great racing for the fans this weekend, so hopefully we can stay away from any trouble on the start and come away with a solid result.”

CONOR DALY (No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “Motegi is quite a new challenge for me. I’ve never driven a lap there on a simulator – or in anything! – until Wednesday. I got out on track, and it’s very interesting. It’s way wider than I thought. It seems like a cool track, and I’m all for more oval racing! I think it will be exciting. I’ve always heard incredible stories about racing in Japan, and I wish I could do that myself. For now, we’ll have to virtually race there and put on a good show for everyone with the U.S. Air Force machine!”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I can’t wait to get to race this weekend again! Motegi, it’s actually a track I’ve been racing at back in ’09 in Formula 3, not on the oval, but the road course there. That was pretty fun. I can’t wait to try the oval! It looks like quite a tricky oval, to be honest. It’s going to be fun to race there. Also, I’m looking forward to building on my performance from last weekend. Last weekend was my first pole position with the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda car. That was great, and to be leading the race and running in the top group for the first half of the race was so much fun. Unfortunately, we had some issues there in the second half, and the result was not what we wanted. But getting there! Closer and closer, step by step. So, let’s make it a really good one this weekend!”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda): “I’m excited to virtually drive at Twin Ring Motegi this weekend. It’s been exciting to have fans vote on different tracks each weekend for us to race at. I’ve been spending more time practicing on the sim each week, and I’m starting to get the hang of it. Last weekend was great to come out P6 at Michigan, so I’m hoping that we can repeat that performance on Saturday.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Honda): “To be honest, I was only 11 when INDYCAR last raced at Motegi. To help out, my dad hooked up something he called a VCR, and I’ve been watching old races of him and RHR (Ryan Hunter-Reay) in Japan back in the day. It looks like a pretty cool circuit – I’m excited to give it a go.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “My family is so important to me when we go to a track like this, so really happy they were able to make the trip with me. It’s crucial to have good people in your corner who can feed you snacks and fill up the water bottle.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 7-Eleven Chevrolet): “I have a lot of good memories about Twin Ring Motegi. It was a track where I had a lot of success. It was a fun track to drive; it was a fast, fast oval. Driving the sim this week and remembering the times in Japan brought back a lot of good memories. I had a lot of fans and friends there. I think it is my second-biggest fanbase. This weekend I’m debuting the 7-Eleven car, which is a throwback livery, and I’m excited! Hopefully we’ll have a good weekend – I’m looking forward to it.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “I have raced on Twin Ring Motegi a few times with my simulator. But I was too young to race there in person, similar to the Michigan track last week. But I have practiced on it recently and getting ready to run up front again if possible. It’s a big field, and the racing should be outstanding again this Saturday. It’s amazing how advanced the iRacing technology has become in the recent years. You can feel the bumps through your sim steering wheel and feel the difference in the track surfaces. Marbles from the tires can develop, too, as does the change in track grip. You see shadows on the track and glare in your car’s windscreen. It’s truly awesome. Everyone is sitting in their homes and looking for things to watch in all sports, in general. The iRacing is a form of competition that has real drivers competing wheel to wheel. This is opportunity for fans to watch some good racing and the sponsors to gain exposure, too. Other sports can’t do that right now. We hope we are giving the fans some entertainment in these strange times.”

DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet): “I am excited that Twin Ring Motegi was chosen for the Random Draw iRace. It is a track I have never been to. Ovals on iRacing have proven to be great for exciting races, so I’m sure this weekend will be no exception. And I expect that we will make it to the green flag this time. Once again, tire management will be critical. I don’t believe we will be able to run multiple lanes for as long as we could at Michigan. Drivers will have to choose between being aggressive early on in the stint, to gain track position, or saving their tires to have something at the end. Looking forward to being back in the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet!”

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (No. 2 Shell V-PowerTeam Penske Dallara): “I’m ready to give the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge event another crack. I’ve loved being able to get to experience the series and to get to know the drivers, even just over a computer. This will be awesome as it’s another oval event, which is really different for me. Michigan last week was a learning experience for me, and this week will be the same because Motegi is totally different. We’ve had some good luck so far and hope to have the Shell V-Power car up front again this weekend.”

FELIPE NASR (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet): “I had a great first experience on an oval last weekend at Michigan, and I’m so glad we’re going back to an oval for this weekend’s event at Twin Ring Motegi. We qualified really well, and the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet ran with the leaders most of the race, so I know we have the ability to finish up front on an oval. If it wasn’t for my mistake late in the race in pit lane, I really think we could’ve come away with a podium last weekend, which makes me even more excited about the possibility of running up front again this weekend at Motegi. The Carlin team is taking the iRacing INDYCAR Challenge very seriously, and we’re all working together to get the Carlin cars up front. Hopefully we can come away with some good results for the 31 and the 59 this weekend.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The race this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi is really special for our team and for me. I’m a huge fan of Japan and Japanese culture, so it’s really cool to be doing this race. But for Team Penske, the relationship with Hitachi pretty much started thanks to this race years ago. So, the entire Hitachi group is really excited about it. So, I’m going to work with my team and give the Hitachi Chevy all we got.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “The randomly selected track this weekend by INDYCAR is definitely a great surprise since it’s such a neat track. Twin Ring Motegi is pretty unique, so it can be a really exciting challenge. Thanks to Ben Bretzman and other members of the team who helped me prepare, we had a really great race last weekend and are looking for another successful result. I’m looking forward to having all the fans join us through NBCSN since this is going to be one really great show!”

ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “I’m super, super excited for this weekend’s race. It’s probably the most exciting one for me so far because it’s an oval, and it’s in Japan, even if it’s just virtual. I love Japan because of the experience I’ve had there in the past. I experienced my first oval race last weekend, and it was really fun. We were really competitive. We didn’t maximize the result because of the strategy. There were some other drivers that had a bit more luck on the strategy side. We were learning, and hopefully we can take all that experience and try to get a proper result at Twin Ring Motegi, and we’ll try to go for the win.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Motegi is such a neat road course – I wish we still raced there. I raced there back in the day, and it was such a fun place. I’ve really started enjoying ovals more and more. We had some success there, so it’s a track I am really looking forward to racing in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I’ve been working hard with my team to get the Verizon Chevy in a good spot to just keep building on the momentum we have had. We’ve had some really great speed in the past few races but haven’t gotten a win yet. That is 100 percent our focus going into this weekend.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): “I am very excited to return to a virtual Twin Ring Motegi circuit this weekend. It’s a track that I genuinely love and have had success at. While we are improving in our iRacing journey, I’m hopeful we can find our way to the front and pick up a W there this weekend for Fifth Third Bank and all of our partners. And, because it is an oval, there are a lot of laps and therefore a lot of potential to add to our Turns for Troops program with United Rentals.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Motegi, it’s a track I have been to before. I haven’t been to the oval, but I have been to the road course two times in Super Formula and Super GT. It seems like it’s a cool track! Many people are talking about that race in the team, so there’s a bit of nostalgia going back to Motegi. I didn’t have very much luck last race. I made it 300 yards, then I was on the roof. So, hopefully we’ll have better luck this time. Trying to go for that first win still in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda car!”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda): “I’ve been training extra hard for the elevation this weekend in Motegi. Also had a new floor fan delivered and pretty excited to try that out. Might put it near my feet. Not sure yet.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic/Keihin Honda): “I was surprised when I saw INDYCAR will go to Twin Ring Motegi again! I have never raced in iRacing, but I have been watching the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge and was very impressed. I finally have my equipment this week and am thrilled about my debut in iRacing at Motegi; what amazing timing! The Japanese fans are already very excited and very happy that they can watch the current INDYCAR SERIES race in Motegi virtually. I have been visiting Twin Ring Motegi every winter as Honda held fan appreciation days. Honda’s riders and drivers attend and have a fun time. A lot of current and historical cars and bikes were making exhibition runs. However, my first time to drive an Indy car since 2010 on the oval in Motegi was at Honda Racing Thanks Day in 2017 when I drove the Andretti Autosport Indy 500-winning car. That was a very special moment. Even the engine was original, so everyone that attended at Motegi that day listened to the same exhaust note as May in Indianapolis. It was an absolutely amazing moment to share the time with loyal fans. Racing in front of home crowds is always very special, so you could imagine the Indy Japan days were crazy, but I am very fortunate to drive some very historical special cars in front of Japanese fans there still today. We missed racing in an INDYCAR race in Japan for a long time, but who could imagine we are going back there for virtual racing? We are living in extraordinary times at the moment, but this is an amazing story to be able to race an Indy car at virtual Twin Ring Motegi. The fact is that the Twin Ring Motegi oval was quite popular for drivers and a very tough track. Turns 1-2 are super-fast, but Turn 3 is very tight. There is not such an oval (anywhere) apart from some short ovals today where you have to brake and (make) two or three downshifts for every single lap! Overtaking is usually done by braking into the corner, just like a road course. I drove on virtual Motegi in iRacing for the first time on Thursday. The graphics look great. I can’t wait for the race!”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “I’ve never been to Japan before, so I’m really looking forward to racing at Motegi this weekend. The travel over to the race was a lot shorter than I expected; it’s almost as if I didn’t even leave my house – and no jet lag!”

RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I am very happy to finally be able to compete in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge! This will be my first time using iRacing and I’m looking forward to giving it everything I’ve got.”

‘5 Things To Look For …’ heading into
Firestone 175

INDIANAPOLIS (April 17, 2020) – The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues Saturday, April 18 with the Firestone 175 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET at Twin Ring Motegi.

The 113-lap event, which will last approximately 75 minutes, will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh DiffeyTownsend BellPaul Tracy and Marty Snider will call the action. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by Big Machine Records country music star Carly Pearce singing the national anthem and global motorsports legend Mario Andretti giving the command to start engines.

Click: Entry List | Spotter Guide

The entry list of 33 drivers – the largest so far – includes series champions Scott DixonJosef NewgardenRyan Hunter-ReaySimon PagenaudWill PowerSebastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan, eight Indianapolis 500 winners and collectively has registered 244 series victories.

Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and two-time Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard winner Kyle Busch is making his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge this week.

The Firestone 175 is the fourth of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. After this event, remaining venues include Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2).

Here are “5 Things To Look For…” heading into Saturday’s Firestone 175:

‘Remembering Hank’

Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport driver Colton Herta will compete in the Firestone 175 with a special livery paying tribute to New York Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner, who died Tuesday at age 63. Steinbrenner is the father of Andretti Harding Steinbrenner team principal George Steinbrenner IV.

The livery of the No. 88 Capstone Honda, developed by Capstone Turbine and the Steinbrenner family, features the famed Yankee pinstripes and a logo featuring the initials “HS” in two locations. All six Andretti cars in the race Saturday will feature the “HS” logo decals.

“It’s been a tough week for the whole Andretti Harding Steinbrenner team with the passing of Hank Steinbrenner,” Herta said. “Hank wanted to carry the Yankee tradition of winning into racing, and I’m really proud to be able to help honor him this weekend with our pin-striped Capstone livery as a tribute. We’ll be racing with heavy hearts and hoping for a great result to honor his name.”

‘Vintage TK’

2013 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Tony Kanaan will have a familiar, classic look to his No. 14 Chevrolet fielded by A.J. Foyt Enterprises this Saturday in the Firestone 175, racing with the green, white, orange and red colors of longtime sponsor 7-Eleven.

Kanaan became synonymous with the 7-Eleven colors during his tenure with Andretti Autosport, highlighted by capturing the 2004 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. Kanaan completed all 3,305 laps of competition that season, with three victories and 15 top-five finishes.

‘Taku Comes Home’

2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato couldn’t have picked a more fitting track than Twin Ring Motegi to make his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge debut Saturday.

Sato is a native of Tokyo and beloved by Honda and the Japanese public due to his longtime affiliation with the iconic Japanese company. Sato raced exclusively with Honda power during his entire Formula One career, from 2002-08, and also in INDYCAR since his arrival in 2010.

His best finish in two NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts at Twin Ring Motegi was 10th in 2011, the last year the series raced at the 1.52-mile oval.

‘Carpenter Skates to New Number’

Three-time Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Ed Carpenter will make his third start in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday in the Firestone 175, but he will race with yet another new number.

Carpenter is carrying No. 50 on his Direct Supply Chevrolet, ceding the No. 21 he used in his first two starts – at Barber Motorsports Park and Michigan International Speedway – to Ed Carpenter Racing teammate Rinus VeeKay, making his series debut. Carpenter competes in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in car No. 20, but he gave that number to teammate Conor Daly for the virtual series debut March 28 at Watkins Glen since Carpenter didn’t run that race.

Owner-driver Carpenter picked No. 50 for Twin Ring Motegi because his son Ryder wears that number for his youth hockey team in Indianapolis.

Both of Carpenter’s sons are avid youth hockey players, and Cruz Carpenter honors his father by wearing No. 20 on the ice. Daly already has that number for the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, so proud hockey dad Carpenter picked Ryder’s No. 50 for his car this Saturday.

‘Road to Indy Virtual Race’

Virtual racing for the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, the ladder series of INDYCAR, continues Saturday with Round 4 of the Ricmotech Road to Indy Racing eSeries at 12:45 p.m. ET Saturday from virtual Road America, less than two hours before the start of the Firestone 175 for the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.

A field of 37 drivers from the Road to Indy will attempt to qualify for 28 spots in the race, which will be streamed live on Road to Indy website and app, ApexRacingTV’s YouTube, the iRacing eSports Network, the series’ respective Facebook platforms, and Cooper Tires’ Facebook page.

Indy Pro 2000 Championship regular Phillippe Denes is dominating the eSeries after winning all three rounds. USF2000 Championship driver Eduardo Barrichello, son of Formula One and Indianapolis 500 veteran Rubens Barrichello, is second in the standings.

ABOUT INDYCAR:

INDYCAR is the Indianapolis-based governing body for North America’s premier open-wheel auto racing series known as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The series features an international field of the world’s most versatile drivers – including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, reigning series champion Josef Newgarden and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud – who compete on superspeedways, short ovals, street circuits and permanent road courses. The season, which runs from March to September, currently consists of 17 races in the United States and Canada and is highlighted by the historic Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge held annually in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions are owned by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. For more information on INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, please visit www.indycar.com.

ABOUT iRacing.com:

The world leader in the online racing simulation and gaming market, iRacing was founded in 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and John Henry. Kaemmer was co-founder of Papyrus Design Group, developers of award-winning racing simulations including “Grand Prix Legends” and NASCAR 2003.” Henry is principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, as well as co-owner of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing. iRacing.com has developed dozens of formal partnerships in the motorsport industry to help create the most authentic racing simulation in the world including with NASCAR, IndyCar, International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, IMSA, World of Outlaws, Mazda Motorsports, McLaren Racing, Williams F1, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, the Skip Barber Racing School and General Motors.

Castroneves, Sato, Busch join INDYCAR iRacing Challenge for Round 4 at Twin Ring Motegi oval

Field grows to series-high 33 drivers for Firestone 175 Saturday on NBCSN

INDIANAPOLIS (April 16, 2020) – As the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge leaves the United States for the first time Saturday, April 18, three fan favorites of American motorsports who are new to the virtual racing series are coming along for the ride.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, 2017 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Takuma Sato and two-time reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch will make their respective series debuts in the Firestone 175 on the 1.549-mile oval at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan.

The fourth of six rounds in the series featuring NTT INDYCAR SERIES stars and special guest drivers will be the second straight event on an oval, with a series-high field of 33 drivers ready to race for 113 laps on the tricky, asymmetrical oval that hosted INDYCAR races from 1998-2011. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. ET, with live coverage on NBCSN.

Click here: Entry List

Castroneves joins the series in the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet with a certain distinction besides having his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy three times, more than any other driver in the field. He is one of three drivers in the Firestone 175 who has won at Twin Ring Motegi in NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition, capturing victories there in 2006 and 2010 for Team Penske.

Other Motegi race winners competing Saturday are Scott Dixon in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (2009 and 2011 Motegi winner) and Tony Kanaan in the No. 14 7-Eleven Chevrolet (2007 Motegi winner).

2017 “500” winner Sato will make his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge debut in the No. 30 Panasonic/Keihin Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. While this is Sato’s first race in this series, he knows Twin Ring Motegi well. Japanese native Sato has two career NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts at the track, in 2010 and 2011, and he also has visited the actual circuit for the annual Honda Thanks Day every year since his 2017 Indy victory.

The addition of Castroneves and Sato increases the number of Indianapolis 500 winners in the Firestone 175 field to eight, along with Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Alexander Rossi.

Two-time Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard winner Busch is the latest NASCAR star to join the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. He will drive the No. 51 Rowdy Energy Dallara as the lone NASCAR representative at Motegi in his INDYCAR debut, virtual or real.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson raced in the first two rounds, on March 28 at Watkins Glen International and April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park. Two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third April 11 in the first oval race of the series, at Michigan International Speedway.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Rinus VeeKay is the fourth newcomer to the series in the Motegi field. He will drive the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing.

All newcomers – and most of the rest of the field – will have their eyes on the Team Penske trio of Scott McLaughlin, Power and Pagenaud.

Two-time and reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion McLaughlin, from New Zealand, has the best overall record in the series in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Team Penske Dallara, finishing fourth at Watkins Glen, winning at Barber and placing second at Michigan. Veteran sim racer McLaughlin has produced this impressive record despite competing in series races during the middle of the night in Australia, where he lives.

2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Power is just behind McLaughlin in terms of strike rate. Another experienced sim racer, he has finished third at Watkins Glen, second at Barber and fourth at Michigan in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and is aiming to become the third Penske driver to win in this series.

2016 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and reigning Indy 500 winner Pagenaud was the latest Team Penske driver to take the checkered flag, using patience and deft fuel strategy to win last Saturday, April 11 at Michigan in the No. 22 DXC Team Penske Chevrolet. The victory marked the pinnacle of a climb of steady improvement for the Frenchman, as he finished sixth at Watkins Glen and fifth at Barber.

While recent results may not indicate it, INDYCAR and Indianapolis 500 veteran Sage Karam must be considered another favorite for victory at Motegi.

Vastly experienced and successful iRacing competitor Karam is the only driver to lead laps in all three races of this virtual series, also winning the opener at Watkins Glen in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet. He also has led the most laps in all three races, pacing a dominant 116 of the 175 combined laps so far (66 percent).

Karam finished 27th at Barber after a collision while dueling with position with Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda midway through the race, and he ended up 14th at Michigan due to a spin in traffic while climbing back toward the front after an early pit stop.

Threading the needle in traffic will be a primary concern for all contenders, as thickets of cars should form in the big field on an oval approximately a half-mile shorter than last week’s thrilling race at Michigan. The fuel window is expected to be approximately 40 laps, creating a two-stop race that will add plenty of strategic options.

The starting lineup will be set through a 10-minute qualifying session prior to the event.

Two races remain in the six-round series after Saturday, the Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2. he INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.

ABOUT INDYCAR:

INDYCAR is the Indianapolis-based governing body for North America’s premier open-wheel auto racing series known as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The series features an international field of the world’s most versatile drivers – including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, reigning series champion Josef Newgarden and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud – who compete on superspeedways, short ovals, street circuits and permanent road courses. The season, which runs from March to September, currently consists of 17 races in the United States and Canada and is highlighted by the historic Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge held annually in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions are owned by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. For more information on INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, please visit www.indycar.com

ABOUT iRacing.com:

The world leader in the online racing simulation and gaming market, iRacing was founded in 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and John Henry. Kaemmer was co-founder of Papyrus Design Group, developers of award-winning racing simulations including “Grand Prix Legends” and NASCAR 2003.” Henry is principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, as well as co-owner of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing. iRacing.com has developed dozens of formal partnerships in the motorsport industry to help create the most authentic racing simulation in the world including with NASCAR, IndyCar, International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, IMSA, World of Outlaws, Mazda Motorsports, McLaren Racing, Williams F1, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, the Skip Barber Racing School and General Motors.

News from INDYCAR: Speed, strategy help Pagenaud climb from rear of field to win Chevrolet 275 at Michigan

Speed, strategy help Pagenaud climb from rear of field to win Chevrolet 275 at Michigan

INDIANAPOLIS (April 11, 2020) – Simon Pagenaud used a combination of smarts, speed and strategy to win Round 3 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, the Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Pagenaud beat Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin by 13.409 seconds – a deceptively large margin in a thrilling race that featured nine leaders and 18 lead changes. It was his first victory in the virtual racing series, in which NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes and special guests compete in the iRacing computer racing simulation.

Pagenaud pitted later than the early lead group and stretched the fuel in his No. 22 DXC Team Penske Chevrolet to the finish, making only one pit stop in the 85-lap race.

2016 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Pagenaud averaged 189.463 mph for victory after starting 22nd in the 31-car field. The Chevrolet 275 was slowed by only one caution period due to a multi-car crash on the front straightaway as the field took the green flag to start the race. That pileup shifted race strategists’ minds into overdrive, trying to figure the best fuel strategy.

Click: Results

“All credit to (strategist) Ben Bretzman and my virtual team behind me,” Pagenaud said. “We worked hard to understand this kind of racing. It’s a pleasure to bring the DXC car into Victory Lane this year.

“We were just saving fuel trying to stay out of trouble. At the start of the race, everybody piled up (in a crash). We were trying to avoid it. We didn’t have the pace in qualifying. We qualified toward the back and decided to use option B, which was saving fuel and conserve tires.”

Two-time Daytona 500 winner and NBC Sports motorsports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third in the No. 3 Nationwide JR Motorsports Chevrolet in his series debut, using a similar fuel strategy as Pagenaud to climb through the field in the closing laps as leading cars peeled off the 2-mile oval for late pit stops.

2018 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power finished fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, his third top-four finish in the first three rounds of the series. Power and Round 1 winner Sage Karam traded the lead for most of the first half of the race but were forced to make two stops for fuel, along with most of the lead pack that snaked around the high-speed oval in lockstep for lap after lap after the early caution.

Graham Rahal rounded out the top five in the No. 15 TOTAL Honda.

Pagenaud took the front for good with three laps to go by passing Zach Veach’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Veach then quickly dove into the pits for a second stop, as his first stop came on Lap 43.

Kyle Kaiser, who also last pitted on Lap 43, tried to soft-shoe his throttle enough in the No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet to hang on to a top-three finish late in the race. But he ran out of fuel on the last lap.

The late pit stops and thirsty cars of drivers trying to stretch their fuel to the finish helped elevate McLaughlin and Earnhardt into the top three in the final laps. McLaughlin’s last pit stop in the No. 2 Snap-on Tools Dallara came on Lap 46, the same as Pagenaud, while Earnhardt’s last of two stops came on Lap 45.

Earnhardt also pitted under caution on Lap 3 due to damage suffered in the race-opening crash. That extra fuel early in the race helped him stretch fuel enough to make a different kind of two-stop strategy work.

“It was a lot of fun,” Earnhardt said. “We got a little damage in that wreck on the front straightaway at the start of the race. I had a real bad push in the car, so I couldn’t really run with the lead pack.

“A lot of those guys were pretty ticked off about how the strategy worked out for them with that wreck on the front straightaway at the start. It took a bunch of guys down pit road and put a bunch of us in fuel-mileage mode. The fastest cars didn’t win, the best sim racer today probably didn’t win, but this is the closest I’ll probably get to the real thing. That’s why I like it.”

Power and Karam wasted no time flexing their respective muscles when the race restarted on Lap 6 after the early caution period. Power took the lead from pole sitter Marcus Ericsson’s No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on the first lap after the restart, with Karam in tow.

Then Power and Karam swapped the lead eight times through Lap 40 in a wild, weaving show of precision driving and pack racing.

But running up front and trading the lead took its toll on the fuel loads and tires of Power and Karam. Karam was forced to pit on Lap 41, five laps earlier than Pagenaud, with Power following on Lap 42.

Experienced and successful sim racer Karam converted quick, smooth entry and exit laps from that stop into a lead of approximately two seconds on Power after all other cars cycled through their stops. But Power used the power of slipstreaming to pull up to Karam’s rear wing by Lap 50, and their duel resumed over the next 22 laps.

Karam was forced to the pits for a second time on Lap 73 in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet, with Power following him a lap later for his second stop. That promoted NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Alex Palou to the lead in the No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda.

With nine laps remaining, 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead in the No. 28 DHL Honda. But Hunter-Reay, making his series debut, also was forced to pit from the lead for fuel with on Lap 81. Veach took the top spot, driving in a sim rig that featured a throttle pedal with a spring from the sewing machine of his girlfriend after the pedal’s original spring failed shortly before the race started.

Today’s race was the third of six events to take place every Saturday through May 2. Future venues include a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2. The series opened March 28 at Watkins Glen International, with Round 2 on April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park.

The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.

Expect the Unexpected as INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Heads to Michigan Oval Saturday

Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Earnhardt Join Stacked Field for Chevrolet 275

INDIANAPOLIS (April 9, 2020) – In a series in which the only predictable trait has been unpredictability, the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge could get even wilder during Round 3 on Saturday, April 11.

That’s because the virtual racing series featuring stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and some special guests is moving to an oval – the super-fast, wide, 2-mile Michigan International Speedway – after the first two rounds took place on natural road courses at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park.

The Chevrolet 275 will feature exciting, tight action for all 85 laps after the green flag flies at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday (live on NBCSN). INDYCAR events at the popular track in the Irish Hills of Michigan included wild racing with numerous photo finishes from 1968-2007, as the generous racing surface with multiple lines creates many passing opportunities.

Drivers in this six-round virtual series, which takes place every Saturday through May 2, use identical car setups provided by iRacing. That will place a premium on slipstreaming in packs for position and managing tire wear as fuel loads drop.

Click here: Entry List

Statistics – both overall and recent – also point to a very competitive race Saturday. Three of the 10 INDYCAR races featuring the most lead changes in history have occurred at MIS. And the last time INDYCAR raced at the 2-mile oval, Tony Kanaan edged Marco Andretti by a scant .0595 of a second for victory Aug. 5, 2007.

2004 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Kanaan and Andretti could repeat that photo finish Saturday, as Andretti is joining the series for the first time this week in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda fielded by Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian.

Andretti is one of three prominent drivers making their INDYCAR iRacing Challenge debuts Saturday, along with 2012 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hunter-Reay is driving the No. 28 DHL Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport, while veteran iRacing competitor Earnhardt – now a motorsports analyst for NBC Sports – will be behind the virtual wheel of the No. 3 Nationwide JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers Max Chilton and James Davison also will join the series Saturday, with Carlin Racing’s Chilton in the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet and Davison in the No. 33 Honda.

Those newcomers will be among 31 drivers taking the green flag in the largest field yet for the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.

Among the favorites for victory Saturday will be Sage Karam and Scott McLaughlin. Round 1 (Watkins Glen) winner Karam will drive the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet fielded by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and two-time Virgin Supercars Australia champion McLaughlin will try to earn a second straight win in the No. 2 Snap-On Team Penske Dallara after holding off teammate Will Power by .4241 of a second to win Saturday, April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park.

2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Power also must be considered a primary threat for victory in the Chevrolet 275. He is the only driver to finish on the podium in both INDYCAR iRacing Challenge races so far, placing third in the opener at Watkins Glen and second last Saturday at Barber in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

While Power is the only driver with two podium finishes in the series, the level of unpredictability goes even deeper throughout the field. Just six drivers have earned top-10 finishes in both races to date: Power (3-2), 2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist (2-6), McLaughlin (4-1), 2016 series champion and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud (6-5), two-time and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Josef Newgarden (7-9) and 2019 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Rookie of the Year Santino Ferrucci (8-10).

The fuel window for this race is expected to be approximately 37 green flag laps, slightly less than half of the race distance. So, depending on the number of caution periods, drivers and their team strategists could decide on two stops for service or try to stretch fuel to finish the race on one stop, creating even more strategic elements. There will be no competition caution to bunch the field Saturday, unlike Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park.

The starting lineup will be set through a 10-minute qualifying session prior to the event.

Saturday’s race at a virtual version of Michigan International Speedway, located in Brooklyn, Michigan, is the third of six races in the series. Future venues include a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2.

The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.


Chevrolet 275 Fast Facts
When: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 11
Track: Michigan International Speedway, a four-turn, D-shaped, 2-mile oval in Brooklyn, Michigan. Turn banking: 18 degrees. Turn width: 73 feet.
Race distance: 85 laps/170 miles/273.6 km (approximately 75 minutes)
Expected pit stops: Two. Fuel window is expected to be approximately 37 laps. Cars will be allowed one “Fast Repair” during the race.
Twitter: @IndyCar@iRacing@MISpeedway, #INDYCARChallenge, #INDYCAR
TV/Online: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App. 

Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer, alongside the network’s INDYCAR analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy and reporter Marty Snider. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by NBC’s “The Voice” contestant Beth Griffith-Manley singing the national anthem and NBC Sports host Mike Tirico giving the command to start engines. The podium finishers will be interviewed on the live NBCSN broadcast. Diffey also will host a post-race virtual press conference with the podium finishers for media members (call-in details will be distributed).

Spotter guide: Click here to see a detailed spotter guide for this Saturday’s race.

Race notes:
• Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) won Round 2 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, April 4, the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park. He edged Team Penske teammate Will Power by .4241 of a second.
• Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) won the inaugural round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, March 28, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Karam beat Felix Rosenqvist (Chip Ganassi Racing) to the checkered flag by 3.6174 seconds.
• Will Power (Team Penske) is the only driver to finish on the podium in both races of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. He placed third on March 28 at Watkins Glen and second on April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park.• Participation continues to climb in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. The field for the Chevrolet 275 will consist of 31 drivers. The series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen had 25 drivers, with 29 drivers taking the green flag last Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.
• The Chevrolet 275, Round 3 of 6 in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, is the first oval race in the virtual series. Future venues include a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2.
• Five new drivers will join the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge in the Chevrolet 275: 

Marco Andretti (Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian), Max Chilton (Carlin), James Davison (INDYCAR Provisional), two-time Daytona 500 winner and NBC Sports motorsports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. (INDYCAR Provisional) and 2012 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport).
• Fifty-six Indy car races have been conducted at Michigan International Speedway from 1968-2007. Ronnie Bucknum won the first, on Oct. 13, 1968, while Tony Kanaan won the most recent, on Aug. 5, 2007.
• Five drivers in the field for the Chevrolet 275 on Saturday also competed in the last INDYCAR event at MIS on Aug. 5, 2007: Tony Kanaan (winner), Marco Andretti (second), Ryan Hunter-Reay (sixth), Scott Dixon (10th), Ed Carpenter (14th), 
• Among active INDYCAR drivers, Tony Kanaan leads with two career victories at Michigan International Speedway (1999, 2007). Kanaan is racing in the Chevrolet 275.
• Twenty-three of the 29 drivers who started the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama last Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park were running at the finish, proving these athletes are just as skilled in the virtual world as in reality.
CHEVROLET 275 PRE-EVENT QUOTES:SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I have been turning laps around MIS on my own and in small groups. It is pretty easy flat on your own with fresh Firestones, but when you get past half tanks, if you catch some traffic, it gets very tricky. Much like the first two races, it will be a game of survival where managing to stay out of trouble will prove very hard. I am looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of our No. 4 Tresiba car and hope to make AJ Foyt Racing and Chevrolet proud.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I am thrilled to get back on an oval! Michigan is a track I am familiar with from the past, and I am excited to race there again. I hope that all of our friends in Detroit tune in for this one, especially since we won’t see them until 2021 on Belle Isle. Any Michigan race are always extremely important for Chevrolet, so we will be trying to get one for them this weekend!”
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I’m actually really excited to get back to some form of racing in the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet this weekend with the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I’m in the same boat as a lot of the other drivers in terms of not having much iRacing experience, but I’ve done quite a bit of work on the simulators over the years, so I’m really hoping that it translates in some way. I’ve never raced at Michigan International Speedway, but I’ve been working remotely with our engineers on the Carlin simulator trying to get up to speed, and it’s honestly been a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to Saturday!”
CONOR DALY (No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “I’m really excited to get back to oval racing in an Indy car – or a virtual Indy car, that is! Michigan is going to be a lot of fun. Even the practice laps with the INDYCAR Challenge league have been entertaining. It looks like the cars are going to race well there. It may be tough for people to get their heads in the game and there’s the potential for stupidity, but that’s the hilarious part of sim racing! Hopefully, we can put on a good show for the U.S. Air Force and all the people at Ed Carpenter Racing.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR. (No. 3 Nationwide JR Motorsports Chevrolet): “Practice was a lot of fun, and I don’t have any time in the car on the simulator. I’ve been on iRacing for a couple decades, but I haven’t put much time on the Indy car and obviously have no real-world experience, so there’s a lot of learning and trying to understand why the car reacts the way it does and what creates those issues because some of them are realistic and some of them may be because of the sim or the tire model of the sim. I had such a great time when I went to the Indy 500 last year, and I have so much respect for the guys that are in the field and the guys that we’ll be practicing with and racing with this weekend. I think these guys have such great personalities, and they’re even more diverse than what we have in NASCAR because they’re from all over the world. I think that that’s the real value in the series is the drivers and their personalities and who they are, and so I’m ‘fan boying’ myself just being out there hearing them talk, hearing them interact with each other, getting to know them better. I’ve got a few friends in the series but certainly want to know the other guys and get to know the rest of them really well, so this is such a great opportunity for me to do that. I think the fans are really going to appreciate getting the opportunity to see them on the racetrack, on the virtual racetrack throughout this break, to get to know them even more. I love it.” 
MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m hoping for a third time luck this weekend. I’ve been taken out in Lap 1 in the first two races without anything I could do differently, so that has been a bit frustrating. I’ve felt like I’ve had good practice, and hopefully now this will be my weekend! It’s very exciting to go on an oval for the first time in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I think it’s going to be a very entertaining, fun race to both drive and to watch. I’m hoping the fans will love it and that we’ll have a great show. I’m also hoping to bring the Chip Ganassi Huski Chocolate No. 8 car up to the front!”
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda): “I think Michigan will be a great race. I’ve watched old races at the speedway to prepare, and the track is so naturally cool. It will be great to virtually drive it. I got my very first iRacing race out of the way last weekend at Barber. I’ve been doing a lot of practice all week, so hopefully we’ll have a better go at it this weekend.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I’m look forward to taking part in the iRace Saturday. Due to not having equipment at home and managing the schedules of home school with the boys, I haven’t been able to join the previous rounds. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do future rounds yet, but I was able to come up with some borrowed equipment to take part at the Michigan race this week. After the Thursday practice session, I think it will be an interesting experience, but I’m thankful to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and iRacing for providing the opportunity. I’m looking forward to being back behind the wheel of the DHL car, even if it’s just a virtual version for now!”
KYLE KAISER (No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “I’m very excited for the first iRacing oval on the schedule. After practicing all week, I know this race is going to be even more crucial to stay out of trouble and keep clean. This week I’ll be utilizing a crew chief and spotter remotely, which will allow me to focus more on just driving. We’ve been able to run three-wide through the corners at Michigan, so this will be an exciting race for the fans. I’ve been getting more comfortable each week, so I’m hopeful we’ll be fighting for a win this weekend!”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet): “I think this weekend’s race will be more fun on the oval. You will see more passing, you’ll see more close racing because it’s the nature of the ovals. It’s a bit more fun for us, too, because at least you can run in a pack.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “I have been practicing on the ovals lately. I never was able to race at Michigan. I was too young then. But I did race at Fontana in 2015, and it’s a similar track, 2-mile oval. I got fifth there that year. I think Saturday’s race at MIS will be just like that Fontana race – pack racing. Anybody can win from any starting spot. I don’t think you want to lead until the last lap. Traffic will be heavy, and guys need to play it smart. It will be pretty wild. I think our DRR WIX Filters Chevy will be strong again. That Barber was tough to take because we had a car to win. Just didn’t get to the finish. I’d like to get back to the front again this Saturday.”
DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet): “This weekend’s race at MIS is going to be exciting, judging from the practice sessions this week. As the cars are configured, we can definitely run two-by-two at both ends of the track. I think we can expect pack racing with tire degradation and fuel strategy coming into play. I don’t think the pack will spread out as it did during the first two rounds, so it will be a fun race to watch. Important things to focus on will be staying out of trouble and finding clean air to save the front tires.”
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (No. 2 Snap-on Team Penske Dallara): “I’m really excited to be running the No. 2 Snap-on Tools car in this weekend’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge race in Michigan and am proud to be representing this iconic brand on the racetrack. This year, Snap-on Tools are celebrating their 100-year anniversary by acknowledging all skilled workers who use their tools through their ‘Makers and Fixers’ campaign. It’s fantastic way to recognize the work they do. And I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to get my first crack at an oval in an Indy car – and to get to race against Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. at the same time. No matter what, the goal is to go out there and be competitive and stay out of the wrecks and finish near the front.”
FELIPE NASR (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet): “We haven’t had the best of luck in the first two races of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge with early contact in both events, but it’s honestly been so much fun being on track in some capacity these last few weeks! I’m excited to be joining another INDYCAR iRacing Challenge event this weekend at Michigan International Speedway, which will actually be my first ever go on an oval. It’s something new for me, and honestly I’m pretty excited to try it out. I’ve been able to get in quite a bit of practice with the other INDYCAR drivers since they announced that we’d be at Michigan this weekend, and I’m just trying to learn everything I can before Saturday. After getting in some practice on the oval, I think it’s safe to say we’re going to produce some really good racing for the fans at home. The field is definitely going to be tight, and it’s going to be a matter of strategy and looking after the tires, so it should be a lot of fun for everyone. I couldn’t be happier to have my teammate Max (Chilton) in the race this weekend and also having Dale Earnhardt Jr. joining the field is going to be great for the fans and the race itself. Hopefully luck will be on our side this weekend, and we’ll be able to get the No. 31 up front.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet): “I cannot say how excited I am for us to race an oval in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I love racing ovals and to race at Michigan virtually, it just adds icing to the cake. I’m also really excited to have XPEL’s colors on my Chevy this weekend. It’s a really cool design that I can’t wait for fans to see on the virtual racetrack. I’ve been hard at work practicing on my sim at home and am getting more and more comfortable. NBCSN did such a great job with the broadcast last week, so it’s awesome they’ll be airing our race again.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m really excited to head to Michigan in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge because it’s a new track for me and that it’s our first oval since we started doing iRacing as a series. Ovals have become one of my racing specialties, so I have been just waiting for a chance to race one virtually with the rest of the series. I’ve been doing a lot of training on my sim at home running ovals and trying new things to see what might apply best here for the DXC Technology Chevy. I’m thankful that NBCSN will be airing the race and that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be joining us. I met him last year and did his podcast. He’s really into iRacing like me, so I’m excited for the chance to race against him. It’s going to be another great show for the fans!”
ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “When I imagined my first oval race, I didn’t think it would be a virtual one! But I’m actually really excited about it, even if it’s on iRacing. I think it’s going to be really fun, and I’m going to learn a lot from the other drivers. It’s also the first time I’ll be using a spotter when I race. I need to learn about oval racing because I don’t really know a lot about strategy and how to manage the car driving-wise. It will be a new experience for me. I’m also excited after last weekend’s result. The other drivers gained a podium on strategy, but I think we did the best we could. They risked it and they won, but I’m happy with our fourth place. It was a good result and a good race. Hopefully we can have another good one on the virtual Michigan track. I think it will come down to the last 10 laps because when I did some testing this week, it was really close between all the drivers, and that’s going to make the race more exciting. I hope everyone watches, and they can also tune in to my Twitch channel.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Oh, man. I am so excited to go oval racing with the rest of the INDYCAR Series at the virtual Michigan. Ovals have really become one of my favorite types of tracks to race and racing via iRacing is no exception. I’ve been practicing ovals quite a bit to prepare for the race with the help of my engineer. It’s also really cool that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to join us. I did his podcast awhile back, and he’s just a really cool guy and a great racer. We’re going to do everything we can in the Verizon Chevy to try and win our first INDYCAR iRacing Challenge event.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 TOTAL Honda): “I’ve done a few oval races on iRacing. They’re fun and forgiving in the sense you can drive on lines that you normally can’t in real life, but it makes it fun and exciting for everyone. I think people will be thrilled to watch Michigan this weekend, for sure. Oval racing is easier, for sure. It’s much more forgiving on iRacing than real life but also more than iRacing on road courses. I think it’ll be a pretty hectic race!”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Looking forward to Week 3 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge! I haven’t practiced that much yet, but I’ve had a look at the track. I think it’s always going to be very different when a lot of people run, especially because it’s an oval this time. It looks like it’ll be good fun. I did an iRace, the Open Wheel 250, at Indy the other day and it was a different challenge, for sure. Ovals probably require more respect from the drivers to not have any crashes. It’s going to be fun to try an oval with everyone for the first time!”

——–

‘5 Things To Look For …’ heading into Chevrolet 275

INDIANAPOLIS (April 10, 2020) – The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues Saturday, April 11 with the Chevrolet 275 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET at Michigan International Speedway.

The event, which will last approximately 75 minutes, will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh DiffeyTownsend BellPaul Tracy and Marty Snider will call the action. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by NBC’s “The Voice” contestant Beth Griffith-Manley singing the national anthem and NBC Sports host Mike Tirico giving the command to start engines.
Click: Entry List | Spotter Guide

The entry list of 31 drivers – up from 29 last week at Barber Motorsports Park and 25 from the series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen International – includes series champions Scott DixonJosef NewgardenRyan Hunter-ReaySimon PagenaudWill PowerSebastien BourdaisTony Kanaan, six Indianapolis 500 winners and collectively has registered 209 series victories.

Two-time Daytona 500 winner and NBC Sports motorsports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge this week.
The Chevrolet 275 is the third of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. After this event, remaining races include a “Random Draw” track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2).

Here are “5 Things To Look For…” heading into Saturday’s Chevrolet 275:
‘Round and Round’
The Chevrolet 275 is the first oval race in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge after events at two natural terrain road courses, Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park. All competitors will use fixed setups from iRacing, which will create big packs of cars slipstreaming for position.

The fuel window for this 85-lap race is approximately 37 laps, slightly less than half of the race distance. So, depending on the number of caution periods, drivers and their team strategists could decide on two stops for service or try to stretch fuel to finish the race on one stop, creating even more strategic elements. There will be no competition caution to bunch the field Saturday, unlike Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park.
There will be 31 drivers in this race, the largest field yet in the virtual racing series.

‘Andretti Fleet Grows’
Andretti Autosport is the largest team in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and that’s also the case in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge with the addition of two more team drivers to the Chevrolet 275 field.
2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay is making his series debut in the No. 28 DHL Honda, while 2006 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Marco Andretti also joins the virtual sim racing world in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda.
Their addition increases the Andretti fleet to six drivers in the 31-car field at Michigan International Speedway, joining teammates Colton HertaJames HinchcliffeAlexander Rossi and Zach Veach.
‘Hello, Dale Jr.’

NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. visited the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge for the first time last May in his role as a motorsports analyst for NBC Sports. Now Earnhardt is diving into competition in INDYCAR – in the virtual world – by racing Saturday in the Chevrolet 275.

While this is Earnhardt’s debut in the series, he is an avid virtual racer and has competed in iRacing since the racing simulation launched in 2008. Earnhardt will drive a Chevrolet sponsored by longtime backer Nationwide, carrying the No. 3 made famous by his late father, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt.

Earnhardt has been an enthusiastic participant in pre-race practice sessions this week, chatting with INDYCAR drivers for tips about how the aerodynamics and handling of Indy cars differ from stock cars.
This race will cap an eventful week for Earnhardt, who was named Wednesday as a nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021.

‘McLaughlin Ruling Sim World’
Scott McLaughlin has won the last two Virgin Australia Supercars championships for DJR Team Penske, and he’s enjoying similar success in virtual racing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand native McLaughlin will aim for his fourth sim race victory in eight days in the Chevrolet 275 on Saturday, driving the No. 2 Snap-on Tools Dallara for Team Penske. He started his hot streak in the virtual world by winning Round 2 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Saturday, April 4.

Veteran sim racer McLaughlin then followed with wins in two of the three Supercars All Stars eSeries on Wednesday night, April 8, taking the checkered flag at virtual Phillip Island in Australia and virtual Monza in Italy.

‘Road to Indy Virtual Race’
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge provides an uncanny resemblance to actual INDYCAR races, including an invocation, performance of the national anthem and a command to start engines during pre-race before on-track action that looks a lot like the real thing.

That customary cadence of an INDYCAR weekend will reach a new dimension this weekend, as 36 drivers from the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder series will compete in Round 3 of the Ricmotech RTI Racing eSeries at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, just 90 minutes before the start of the Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway.

Round 3 of the Road to Indy virtual series will take place on the road course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will be streamed live on Road to Indy website and app, ApexRacingTV’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the iRacing eSports Network and the series’ respective Facebook platforms.

Indy Pro 2000 Championship regular Phillippe Denes leads the eSeries by 18 points after two victories. USF2000 Championship driver Eduardo Barrichello, son of Formula One and Indianapolis 500 veteran Rubens Barrichello, is second in the standings.

ABOUT INDYCAR:
INDYCAR is the Indianapolis-based governing body for North America’s premier open-wheel auto racing series known as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The series features an international field of the world’s most versatile drivers – including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, reigning series champion Josef Newgarden and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud – who compete on superspeedways, short ovals, street circuits and permanent road courses. The season, which runs from March to September, currently consists of 17 races in the United States and Canada and is highlighted by the historic Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge held annually in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions are owned by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. For more information on INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, please visit www.indycar.com.

ABOUT iRacing.com:
The world leader in the online racing simulation and gaming market, iRacing was founded in 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and John Henry. Kaemmer was co-founder of Papyrus Design Group, developers of award-winning racing simulations including “Grand Prix Legends” and NASCAR 2003.” Henry is principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, as well as co-owner of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing. iRacing.com has developed dozens of formal partnerships in the motorsport industry to help create the most authentic racing simulation in the world including with NASCAR, IndyCar, International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, IMSA, World of Outlaws, Mazda Motorsports, McLaren Racing, Williams F1, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, the Skip Barber Racing School and General Motors.

McLaughlin hangs on to edge teammate Power in Round 2 of INDYCAR iRacing Challenge at Barber

SOURCE: INDYCAR

INDIANAPOLIS (April 4, 2020) – Scott McLaughlin made the most of working the night shift, winning the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, the second round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.

New Zealand native and two-time Virgin Australia Supercars champion McLaughlin held off Team Penske teammate Will Power by .4241 of a second to earn his first win in the virtual racing series while driving through the early-morning hours at his home in Brisbane, Australia. McLaughlin started practice at 2 a.m. in Australia and qualified eighth for the 45-lap race, taking the checkered flag around 5:40 a.m. local time.

McLaughlin, who started eighth, averaged 115.276 mph for the victory in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Team Penske Chevrolet. He finished fourth in the series debut March 28 at Watkins Glen International.

Click: Results | Transcript 

“I’m really happy,” McLaughlin said. “I actually brought in (via voice chat) the INDYCAR engineer I’ve been working with in the States, Jonathan Diuguid. I give him credit. He put me on an awesome strategy. It’s a bit better than last week. I was playing with the fuel myself and trying to remember the numbers while I was driving. It was a bit easier this week.”

2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Power earned his second consecutive podium, finishing second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Three-time Global RallyCross champion Scott Speed finished third in the No. 98 Surgere/Curb Honda fielded by Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Alex Palou finished fourth in the No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda, with 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top five in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

Veteran sim racer McLaughlin passed Speed with six laps remaining, diving inside in Turn 2 of the rolling, challenging 2.38-mile road course at Barber, located in Birmingham, Alabama. The circuit was scheduled to host the second event of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season Sunday, April 5, but the event weekend was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Then the final six laps of the race crystalized into a compelling duel between New Zealand native McLaughlin, racing in the wee hours of the morning in Australia, and Australian native Power, racing from his home in North Carolina.

Power closed to within seven-tenths of a second of McLaughlin with three laps to go, that gap closing to .533 of a second with two laps remaining. Power appeared to have a chance to close on McLaughlin’s gearbox as McLaughlin encountered the lapped car of five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon, but Dixon moved out of the racing line on the final lap to let the leaders through in a sportsmanlike gesture in his series debut.

McLaughlin maintained the gap and his composure throughout the final lap until the final corner, when a puff of virtual smoke rose from his front Firestone tires due to locking his brakes. But he quickly recovered and held off Power for the win.

“When we pitted early, we pitted into a lot of traffic and lost a lot of seconds in that sequence,” Power said. “I wasn’t aware that Scott (McLaughlin) was on that strategy. I actually thought Sage (Karam) was still leading.

“My engineer just said, ‘Just focus on your laps: We can still win this thing.’ I thought he was just, ‘Come on, don’t worry about anything else,’ but what he was saying was, ‘You need to push out some laps.’ So, I think we could have made that a little more tight (at the finish), but I’m still really happy with second.”

The introduction of a competition caution to the series for the first time at this race bunched the field on Lap 15 and created many more strategic options than in the series debut Saturday, March 28 at Watkins Glen International.

McLaughlin, under direction from Team Penske lead engineer Jonathan Diuguid, made the bold move of pitting on Lap 14, just before the competition caution. McLaughlin was running ninth on Lap 21, two laps after the restart from the competition caution.

“It was crazy,” McLaughlin said. “I was particularly nervous at the Safety Car restart after the caution. I had new tires, but a lot of people didn’t in front. We got a good restart there, but it was a bit chaos.”

Leader, pole sitter and Watkins Glen race winner Sage Karam pitted for the first time from the lead on Lap 25 in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet, handing the top spot to 2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Rosenqvist pitted on the next lap, and McLaughlin found himself in the lead due to his early stop.

“The biggest thing was lapped traffic, getting blocked by lap traffic,” McLaughlin said. “That enabled us to get that jump in the pits because I was in clear air for a long time where others weren’t. Credit to Jonathan and the strategy. He put me out in front and put me in some clear air, and I was able to bang lap times out lap after lap.”

Meanwhile, Karam and Rosenqvist collided on track while dueling for position after Rosenqvist exited the pits. Karam eventually retired from the race after the collision and a subsequent tangle with a lapped car, placing 27th.

“We were looking pretty good after qualifying with another pole,” Karam said. “The DRR WIX Filters Chevy was in good shape, and the pace was going our way. At the competition yellow, the car still felt good and I got good restart, too. I was stuck behind (Sebastien Bourdais) just before the pit stop and lost a lot of time. He was just blocking me. That screwed up my in lap and out lap from the pit stop. That’s how Rosenqvist got in front of me after the pit stop.

“We were racing real hard and both being aggressive. He then overshot the corner. I couldn’t tell if I hit him then. He was spinning, and we made contact. We were racing for the win.”

McLaughlin led by 19.4 seconds on Lap 32 when he made his second and final pit stop, handing the lead to Speed. After that stop, McLaughlin had fresher Firestone tires than Speed and more than enough fuel to go the distance, so he stood on the throttle in pursuit.

By Lap 38, McLaughlin sliced Speed’s lead to just 1.5 seconds before making the decisive pass for the lead on Lap 40.

The other star of the race, televised live on NBCSN, was 2018 series Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens, who finished an incredible and eventful eighth in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

This was Wickens’ first racing competition of any kind since suffering serious injuries in a racing crash in August 2018 at Pocono Raceway. He only received his SimCraft simulator two days ago, equipped with special hand controls for throttle and brake since he has restricted use of his legs due to a spinal cord injury suffered in the crash.

Wickens spun in qualifying and started last in the 29-car field but wasted no time getting up to speed. He passed 10 cars in the opening seven laps and was up to 11th halfway through the race.

With 13 laps to go, Wickens spun into the gravel and suffered front wing damage but was able to continue from 11th place. Using a clutch paddle on his wheel for an accelerator and a separate lever for a hand brake, Wickens calmly continued to the finish for a strong top-10 result.

“It was a riot,” Wickens said. “We made the bold strategy of trying to make it on one stop under yellow. That was going to be my best race, as when I was saving fuel, that was my best strategy for not spinning out. We did massive fuel save the entire time after that yellow flag, and we just made with 0.2 gallons left at the finish line. It was great teamwork.

“It was great to have the Arrow McLaren SP engineers in my ears the whole time. In a way, it felt like the real thing. I’m just excited.”

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson finished 12th in the No. 48 Jimmie Johnson Racing Chevrolet. Dixon placed 16th in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in his series debut.

Today’s race was the second of six events to take place every Saturday through May 2. Future venues include the first oval event, on April 11 at Michigan International Speedway, a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2. The series opened March 28 at Watkins Glen International.

The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.

Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Fast Facts

When: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 4

Track: Barber Motorsports Park, a 17-turn, 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Alabama

Race distance: 45 laps/107.1 miles (approximately 60 minutes)

Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for a 10-second duration

Expected pit stops: One. Cars will be allowed two “Fast Repairs” during the race.

Competition caution: A planned competition caution period will bunch the field on Lap 15. It will consist of three laps, followed by a single-file restart.

Twitter: @IndyCar, @iRacing, @BarberMotorPark, #INDYCARChallenge, #INDYCAR, #HIGPA

TV/Online: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App. Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer, alongside the network’s INDYCAR analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by Miss Alabama 2019 Tiara Pennington singing the national anthem and NBA and Auburn University legend Charles Barkley giving the command to start engines. The podium finishers will be interviewed on the live NBCSN broadcast. Diffey also will host a post-race virtual press conference with the podium finishers for media members (call-in details will be distributed).

Spotter guide: Click here to see a detailed spotter guide for this Saturday’s race.

Race notes:

• Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) won the inaugural round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, March 28, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Karam beat Felix Rosenqvist (Chip Ganassi Racing) to the checkered flag by 3.6174 seconds. Will Power (Team Penske) finished third in the 25-driver field.

• INDYCAR has conducted 10 Indy car races at Barber Motorsports Park. Takuma Sato won the most-recent race at the track, in 2019. Helio Castroneves won the first Indy car race at Barber, in 2010.

• Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden is the winningest Indy car driver at Barber Motorsports Park with three victories (2015, 2017 and 2018). Newgarden is in the field for the virtual race Saturday after finishing seventh last Saturday at Watkins Glen.

• The field for Saturday’s race at Barber consists of 29 drivers, including 21 with previous starts in Indy car races at the track. Watkins Glen INDYCAR iRacing Challenge winner Sage Karam has just one previous start at Barber, in 2015 for Chip Ganassi Racing. Most notable among drivers without Indy car starts at Barber is seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson , who raced in an Indy car last Saturday at Watkins Glen after 18 Cup Series starts at that track.

• Four drivers are joining the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge for the first time this Saturday: Five-time series champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), 2018 series Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens (Arrow McLaren SP), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole winner Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing).

• Nineteen of the 24 drivers who started the inaugural event last Saturday at Watkins Glen were running at the finish, proving these athletes are just as skilled in the virtual world as in reality.

VIRTUAL HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA presented by AmFirst PRE-EVENT QUOTES:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I am still trying to understand how the whole system works and how to generate lap time. Overall, I miss the feel of the race car to perform, but I have spent a fair amount of time trying to improve. Hopefully it pays off and I can put on a good performance in the Tresiba car.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I am looking forward to finally getting some racing in on Saturday! It has been a long time since I competed in a road race, both the cars and iRacing have changed quite a lot. I am a week late to the party, but hopefully I will be up to speed enough to give the 21 car a good ride! I know my friends and family are excited to watch me, so no pressure! Hopefully everyone tunes into NBCSN and enjoys a little bit of relief from their quarantine.”

CONOR DALY (No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “Really, the most exciting thing about this weekend is that Ed Carpenter is going racing on road courses again. I’m very excited to have my teammate out there! We’re ready to battle it out against our virtual opponents that are also in their basements or closets or laundry rooms, playing video games on the internet. Let’s hope this U.S. Air Force car looks good on internet screenshots! It’s going to be a good show for the people and hopefully make them smile a little bit.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’m really looking forward to the second round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Barber Motorsports Park is a fun track to race on. I’ve been practicing a bit this week, and it feels pretty good! I’m still quite new to this sim world but getting there step-by-step. And I think it should be better than last week, at least. Now I’ve connected my motor for the force feedback unit more properly and not have it in safety mode like last time. So, that’s a good improvement already there! So, hopefully it’s going to be a good race, good entertainment. I hope we can put on a good show and get the Chip Ganassi Huski Chocolate Honda car up to the front!”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “I’m super-excited to be racing the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda this weekend in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park. I’m really happy that INDYCAR has opened the grid to a bigger selection of cars and drivers. I’m also incredibly impressed with how iRacing is continually updating things. The updates and field will benefit the show for the fans, which is the most important things. It’s also a lot of fun for the drivers. To race against guys like Jimmie Johnson, who you wouldn’t normally see, is really awesome. It’s also really great to see that we are back on NBCSN this weekend, so tune in: There is going to be a lot of action.”

KYLE KAISER (No. 11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “I’ve been extremely impressed with INDYCAR and iRacing’s collaboration. The first race was a lot of fun in the No. 11 Juncos Racing entry, and as everyone gets more comfortable on the simulator, it’ll only become more exciting. I’m glad the second race will be broadcast live on NBCSN for more fans to watch the great product INDYCAR has put together. I’m hoping the hours I’ve been putting in on the simulator this week will get us a top-10 finish!”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet): “Another virtual race this weekend. I’ve been putting a bit more hours on the sim, but it’s still very new to me. I’m doing this for the fans, but to be honest, I can’t wait to get to the real racetrack.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR Wix Filters Chevrolet): “I was pretty worn out after Saturday’s race. It was very mentally draining. In iRacing, we don’t have the fear factor of crashing or wrecking the car. But you are racing on the edge with proper steering and pedal pressure as in an Indy car, and you are racing wheel-to-wheel in a competition. And all of the drivers are extremely competitive. You have to continue to concentrate like a regular race. As a part time driver in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, I needed to be sharp with my reflexes and car control when I wasn’t on track. I discovered iRacing quite a while back, and I truly believe it has helped me with my racing career. I was more nervous before the Glen race than at the Indy 500. I paced the house for six hours before the race. When I was a kid, one of my dreams was to be interviewed on ESPN ‘SportsCenter’ after winning a big race. And then last Saturday, I was on the 11 p.m. ESPN ‘SportsCenter’ talking with John Anderson after winning the iRacing race. I always thought it would be after a regular INDYCAR race, not from iRacing. But this current pandemic has caused the world to really turn upside-down. And we are doing this racing for our fans, too. With nothing happening in sports, it is a fun way for them to watch INDYCAR racing in a different form. The Barber track isn’t one of my favorites, but I’ll be ready on Saturday.”

DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet): “Barber Motorsports Park is one of my favorite road courses in the U.S. I wasn’t slated to drive the No. 14 car there this season, so I am actually very excited to have a chance to race there in the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet! Last weekend showed that we can put on a good race for the fans, and the quality of competition will only improve as everyone gets accustomed to the nuances of iRacing. Looking forward to a good show!”

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (No. 2 Shell V-Power Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was bloody fun to race against everyone in INDYCAR last weekend in iRacing and to do it again this weekend at Barber. I got a lot of pub back here in Australia and in New Zealand for just being a part of it. We had some pretty wild moments, but it was all in good fun. These dudes are just as tough of competitors online as they are in person. So, we will do it all again this weekend. My alarm will be set to go off at 2 a.m., which is super early, but no worries. I heard it’s going to be broadcasted in the U.S. on NBC Sports Network, and that’s just awesome. I’m ready to get after it.”

FELIPE NASR (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I can’t wait to get back out there this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet for the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Racing with everyone last weekend at Watkins Glen was so much fun, and even though I got taken out early and had to battle back, I had a great time. I’ve been putting in a lot of time on the simulator this week, so hopefully we can come away with a better result this weekend!”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet): “Last week was so much fun. It was great to be back racing in INDYCAR – in the digital world. iRacing is such a cool thing for fans, in general, since they can experience what we can do first-hand. Not only can they watch the race broadcast, but a lot of us are streaming our individual races to YouTube, Twitch and other outlets. I had a huge following on my YouTube page. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my rig preparing my PPG Chevy for this Saturday’s race at Barber. It’s one of my favorite tracks in person, and it’s also pretty great through iRacing. I’m comfortable there, as my team has really helped me be successful there in the past, so I’m really looking forward to this event. I know all of us drivers are going to love it, and I can’t wait for even more fans to see us this weekend when it’s broadcast on NBC Sports Network. It’s going to be awesome.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge has been a lot of fun. Last week was a rush to get ready and get to a competitive level, for sure, with 15-hour days of work to find speed and acclimate myself to my new simulator and the virtual Indy car. This Saturday in Barber I feel much more in control, and my chances to be more competitive are much greater. I love a new challenge, and I am extremely pleased that we can still showcase our sport to our fans. We have an amazing fan base. It’s pretty cool to see the Menards Chevy and soon the DXC Technology car on our broadcast with NBCSN this Saturday at 2.30 p.m. ET. This is getting more and more competitive, as I can see drivers training days and night to get better; we are a competitive breed, after all. Good news is we are going racing this weekend! Enjoy!”

ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “Once again, I’m really excited for this weekend’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Last weekend’s first race was not what I had expected, but I was really quick, which was good. We had good pace during the race, but then I messed up a bit with the pit stop settings. I didn’t have a crew on the first stop, and the second one they didn’t change my tires, so I crashed with old tires. It was a learning experience! It was my first official iRacing race. I’ve done some races before but never at this level of competition; it was more for fun, playing video games. I’ve been preparing for Barber quite a lot, and I’ve upgraded my sim, so hopefully that helps, too. I’m hoping we can finish in the top five, as that would be a really good result. Of course, a podium would be even better, but we’ll have to see how Sage (Karam), Felix (Rosenqvist) and Will (Power) do. I think those three are always really quick and difficult to beat.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I really do just love iRacing. We had a lot of success last weekend at Watkins Glen, and I can’t wait to race this weekend at Barber. It’s such a technical track. It doesn’t matter if you’re racing in person or digitally; it’s a challenge, and I love that about it. It’s one of those tracks where that first turn is so important, so I’ve definitely been working on my plan for the Verizon Chevy. I know I’m excited for the race, and it’s so awesome that the race will be on NBCSN this Saturday. It’s going to be a great show for the fans.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 One Cure Honda): “Building some excitement for One Cure and doing this to raise more money for our Turns for Troops program with United Rentals is the main goal for us, and I think it’s great for the race to be on NBC Sports. It feels good to try to get closer to our goal of reaching $1 million raised this year even though we aren’t officially racing. Virtual Barber is a lot different than the real Barber. It’s hard to get the right sensations and right feel for what you’re doing and, frankly, just to understand the limits of the car and everything else. It’s not that it’s fake in a way that it’s completely off. You have to learn the limitations, and the limitations are very different than reality, and so that does make it quite challenging. I figure I have spent way too much time on iRacing lately but not as much as some of the others. I’ve been watching how much practice some guys are getting, and some are getting tons. In contrast to most, I still have a business to run with the performance shop, so I simply can’t spend all day, every day like a lot of guys are, but I’m giving it my best effort. It’s definitely addicting. We definitely want to be competitive and do well. How much better am I now than a week ago? I don’t know if I’m a lot better. I would say I’m similar, but I’m trying my best to be competitive and do the best I can and certainly trying to improve. My biggest surprise is just how important the steering wheel is. I’m finding that just getting your settings right is 99 percent of the battle. Once you get it right, you can find a lot of lap time fairly easily.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Looking forward to get back on it this weekend. I’ve not practiced so much yet, so I feel like I have some work to do in the next 24 hours! The field looks way tighter, looking at the lap charts so far. So, it will be a fun race, indeed. I finished in P2 last weekend, but I’m hoping to fight through to the top tomorrow in the NTT DATA Honda car!”


5 Things To Look For …’ heading into Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

INDIANAPOLIS (April 3, 2020) – The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues Saturday, April 4 with the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET at Barber Motorsports Park.

The event, which will last approximately 60 minutes, will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh DiffeyTownsend Bell and Paul Tracy will call the action. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by 2019 Miss Alabama Tiara Pennington singing the national anthem and NBA and Auburn University legend Charles Barkley giving the command to start engines.

Click: Entry List | Spotter Guide

The entry list of 29 drivers – up from 25 from the series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen International – includes series champions Scott DixonJosef NewgardenSimon PagenaudWill PowerSebastien BourdaisTony Kanaan, five Indianapolis 500 winners and collectively has registered 189 series victories.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson also is back this week after starting 19th and finishing 16th last Saturday at Watkins Glen in his first competition in an Indy car, albeit virtual.

The Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is the second of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. After this event, remaining races include a “Driver’s Choice” track (April 11), a “Random Draw” track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2).

Here are “5 Things To Look For…” heading into Saturday’s Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama:

‘New Faces’

The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge field grew to 29 drivers for the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama this Saturday with the addition of five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), 2018 series Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens (Arrow McLaren SP), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole winner Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing).

All drivers in this week’s field – including the four newcomers – will encounter a new strategic element, as a competition caution period will bunch the field on Lap 15. A single-file restart will follow the three-lap caution period.

‘Welcome Back, Robert’

2018 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens will return to competition this weekend as he makes his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge debut in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Wickens, from Guelph, Ontario, suffered serious injuries in an accident during an INDYCAR race in July 2018 at Pocono Raceway. He will compete Saturday in a SimCraft simulator with special hand controls because of restricted use of his legs and feet due to a spinal cord injury suffered in the crash.

Former INDYCAR driver and current INDYCAR race steward Max Papis is helping Wickens’ efforts to compete virtually. Papis’ steering wheel company, Max Papis Innovations, designed and produced a custom wheel with hand controls for Wickens. The unit arrived at Wickens’ home Thursday, April 2, but he didn’t have enough time to get acclimated with it before Saturday’s race, so he will use the MPI unit at future rounds of the virtual series.

While Wickens is excited to compete virtually, he sees the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge as another important step in his goal to return to real race cars. His journey also has included tireless hours of physical therapy and rehabilitation, which he has documented often and inspired millions with on social media.

“The biggest thing for me is although this is fun, I see this as the long-term project of getting me back into the race car,” Wickens said. “I always knew through simulation was going to be the best way to trial different handbrake or paddle configurations. This is step one of a hundred to get me back into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.”

‘Coach Karam’

Sage Karam , a veteran and successful iRacing competitor, so dominated the inaugural round of the series Saturday, March 28 that his rivals have sought his advice this week during preparation for the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Karam won the pole and led 43 of the 45 laps in his No. 24 WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet to beat Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing to the checkered flag by 3.6174 seconds at Watkins Glen International.

Now that he’s a marked man as the current king of INDYCAR iRacing, Karam is dispensing tips to his rivals – to a point.

“It’s fun to help them get up to speed in iRacing,” Karam said. “I just don’t want to give them too much information as I am still competing against them each week from my home. If I can help make the overall product more competitive, it will be great for the racing on the screen and the racing fans.”

‘Carpenter Back on the Road’

Ed Carpenter is known and respected as one of the best oval racers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. All three of his career series victories have come on circle tracks, and he also has won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 three times.

Road racing? Well, not so fast. Ed Carpenter Racing owner-driver Carpenter has driven only in oval events for the last six-plus years, with his last road-course start in the series coming Oct. 6, 2013 on the street course in Houston.

But the lure of competing against his friends and rivals in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge was too much for Carpenter to resist. So, he’s hitting the road and making his virtual series debut Sunday in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet. Carpenter is using the No. 21 of ECR teammate Rinus VeeKay because ECR teammate Conor Daly already is using Carpenter’s No. 20 virtual car, as Daly will compete in all real NTT INDYCAR SERIES road and street events this season in the No. 20.

“I am looking forward to finally getting some racing in on Saturday,” Carpenter said. “It has been a long time since I competed in a road race. Both the cars and iRacing have changed quite a lot. I am a week late to the party, but hopefully I will be up to speed enough to give the 21 car a good ride! 

“I know my friends and family are excited to watch me, so no pressure! Hopefully everyone tunes into NBCSN and enjoys a little bit of relief from their quarantine.”

‘Turns for Troops’

United Rentals and NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Graham Rahal are teaming up to continue the Turns for Troops program during the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. United Rentals has committed to donate $50 per lap that Rahal completes this season to the SoldierStrong program to help improve the lives of U.S. military veterans.

Through cutting-edge rehabilitation, recovery and scholarship programs, SoldierStrong transforms the lives of U.S. service members by empowering them to regain their mobility, freedom and overall sense of identity.

Fans can learn more about Turns for Troops and SoldierStrong by visiting turnsfortroops.ur.com.

REVISED: Growing field eyes dominant Karam entering Round 2 of INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Saturday at Barber

SOURCE INDYCAR PR:

NBCSN to broadcast competition live

INDIANAPOLIS (April 2, 2020) – Who can stop Sage?

That’s the big question Saturday, April 4 as the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues at 2:30 p.m. (ET) with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Sage Karam won the pole and led 43 of 45 laps Saturday, March 28 in the No. 24 DRR Wix Filters Chevrolet to win the inaugural event of the virtual racing series, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Karam beat runner-up Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda) to the finish by 3.6174 seconds, with Will Power of Team Penske (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) placing third.

There will be an exciting new addition to the second round of the series Saturday: a live broadcast on NBCSN, including the NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Karam will lead a growing field of 29 drivers in the race Saturday, up from 25 drivers for the opener. New additions include 2018 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet), five-time series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole winner Ed Carpenter (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet) and Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda).

Click here: Entry List

The entry list represents 15 different teams or organizations competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and a field of drivers that has amassed 189 NTT INDYCAR SERIES victories and 14 series championships. Dixon will boost a lineup of series champions that includes Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden (No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet), Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet), along with Sebastien Bourdais (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet) and Tony Kanaan (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet) of AJ Foyt Racing.

Other NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners entered in the race Saturday include Graham Rahal (No. 15 One Cure Honda), Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda), James Hinchcliffe (No. 29 Genesys Honda) and Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Honda).

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Jimmie Johnson Racing Chevrolet) also will continue his exploration of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES by racing in Round 2. He placed 16th after starting 19th last Saturday in his virtual INDYCAR debut at Watkins Glen, running at the finish.

The field will race for 45 laps over a virtual version of the rolling, challenging 2.38-mile road course at Barber, located in Birmingham, Alabama. The circuit was scheduled to host the second event of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season Sunday, April 5, but the event weekend was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All drivers will work with an additional competitive element Saturday, a planned competition caution period that will bunch the field after the round of pit stops is completed, sometime between Laps 28 and 31, and will consist of three laps. A single-file restart will follow this caution period.

The event, which will last approximately 60 minutes, will be televised live on NBCSN. Additional viewing options are still to be confirmed.

The starting lineup will be set through a 10-minute qualifying session prior to the event. In the interest of fairness, iRacing will give all participants the same car setups.

Saturday’s race at a virtual version of Barber Motorsports Park, located in Birmingham, Alabama, is the second of six races to take place every Saturday through May 2. Future venues include a “Driver’s Choice” track April 11, a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2. The series opened March 28 at Watkins Glen International.

The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.

NBC Sports Presents INDYCAR iRacing Challenge from Virtual Barber Motorsports Park Saturday on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET

TSO NOTE: There are 2 INDYCAR press releases contained below – sorry for the delay

Inaugural Presentation of INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on NBCSN

NBC Sports INDYCAR Commentary Team of Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell Will Call Saturday’s Event

Event to Stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App

NBC Sports presents the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a live, virtual racing event featuring a field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, this Saturday with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the virtual Barber Motorsports Park live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The event will mark the inaugural INDYCAR iRacing event to appear on NBCSN.

More than two dozen INDYCAR drivers are expected to compete in this weekend’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, two-time and reigning series champion Josef Newgarden, and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. Last Saturday, 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam won the inaugural INDYCAR iRacing Challenge American Red Cross Grand Prix at the virtual Watkins Glen International.

NBC Sports’ lead INDYCAR broadcast team of Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Paul Tracy (analyst), and Townsend Bell (analyst) will call the action.

This marks the latest collaboration between NBC Sports and iRacing, which began in 2019 when NBC Sports telecast the first-ever eNASCAR live event on television. NBC Sports and iRacing teamed up to present the 2019 eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Championship in a two-hour event live on NBCSN last October.


Growing field eyes dominant Karam entering Round 2 of INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Saturday at Barber

NBCSN to broadcast competition live

INDIANAPOLIS (April 2, 2020) – Who can stop Sage?

That’s the big question Saturday, April 4 as the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues at 2:30 p.m. (ET) with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Sage Karam won the pole and led 43 of 45 laps Saturday, March 28 in the No. 24 DRR Wix Filters Chevrolet to win the inaugural event of the virtual racing series, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Karam beat runner-up Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda) to the finish by 3.6174 seconds, with Will Power of Team Penske (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) placing third.

There will be an exciting new addition to the second round of the series Saturday: a live broadcast on NBCSN, including the NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Karam will lead a growing field of 29 drivers in the race Saturday, up from 25 drivers for the opener. New additions include 2018 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet), five-time series champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole winner Ed Carpenter (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet) and Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda).

Click here: Entry List

The entry list represents 15 different teams or organizations competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and a field of drivers that has amassed 189 NTT INDYCAR SERIES victories and 14 series championships. Dixon will boost a lineup of series champions that includes Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden (No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet), Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) and Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet), along with Sebastien Bourdais (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet) and Tony Kanaan (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet) of AJ Foyt Racing.

Other NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners entered in the race Saturday include Graham Rahal (No. 15 One Cure Honda), Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda), James Hinchcliffe (No. 29 Genesys Honda) and Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Honda).

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Jimmie Johnson Racing Chevrolet) also will continue his exploration of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES by racing in Round 2. He placed 16th after starting 19th last Saturday in his virtual INDYCAR debut at Watkins Glen, running at the finish.

The field will race for 45 laps over a virtual version of the rolling, challenging 2.38-mile road course at Barber, located in Birmingham, Alabama. The circuit was scheduled to host the second event of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season Sunday, April 5, but the event weekend was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All drivers will work with an additional competitive element Saturday, a planned competition caution period that will bunch the field after the round of pit stops is completed, sometime between Laps 28 and 31, and will consist of three laps. A single-file restart will follow this caution period.

The event, which will last approximately 60 minutes, will be televised live on NBCSN and will be streamed through INDYCAR.com for fans to enjoy the virtual action. The event also will be available on INDYCAR’s YouTube and Facebook as well as iRacing’s Twitch.

The starting lineup will be set through a 10-minute qualifying session prior to the event. In the interest of fairness, iRacing will give all participants the same car setups.

Saturday’s race at a virtual version of Barber Motorsports Park, located in Birmingham, Alabama, is the second of six races to take place every Saturday through May 2. Future venues include a “Driver’s Choice” track April 11, a “Random Draw” track April 18, Circuit of the Americas on April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track May 2. The series opened March 28 at Watkins Glen International.

The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where INDYCAR will make a donation to one of its partner charities.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Sage Karam wins American Red Cross Grand Prix

SOURCE: INDYCAR PR

INDIANAPOLIS (March 28, 2020) – Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Sage Karam (No. 24 DRR Wix Filters Chevrolet) got the virtual INDYCAR iRacing Challenge rolling Saturday with a win from the pole in the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International.

Karam led 43 of the 45 laps and beat Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda) by 3.6174 seconds in the debut event of the six-race INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Team Penske’s Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet) finished third.

While this may have been his first virtual win against a full field of fellow NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, he is no stranger to Victory Lane in iRacing. It was his 144th iRacing road-course win in 533 starts and 165th iRacing victory overall. For the win, he will have a donation to American Red Cross made in his name by INDYCAR and earn a virtual winner’s trophy and ring from Jostens.

Click: Results / Transcript / 

Karam, the 2013 Indy Lights champion, has made 19 actual NTT INDYCAR SERIES starts over six seasons, scoring a career-best third at Iowa Speedway in 2015.

“It was nerve-wracking there at the end, for sure,” he said in reference to a late-race, near-miss with Indy Pro 2000 champion Kyle Kirkwood, who was subbing for Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 DHL Honda. “That was a little too close for comfort (in Turn 10), a (scary) moment. I didn’t know which way he was going to go when he started to spin, so I had to quick rely on some instincts and picked ‘left’ and thankfully it was the right choice.”

Karam, one of the most experienced iRacing drivers in this field, applauded his competitors for investing the necessary practice time this week to make the inaugural online show entertaining for the fans.

“It was a lot of fun, and it was great that we could give the fans something to watch,” he said. “It’s the only sport that (the world) can really do right now. I’m happy that I got the win for Wix Filters and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. The car looked pretty good out front so hopefully when we get to real racing, we can replicate that.”

The virtual event featured most of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers expecting to be in the midst of the actual season had the coronavirus pandemic not occurred. The upside of being able to stage such an event was that it allowed seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and two-time Virgin Australia Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin to participate against them.

Team Penske’s McLaughlin (No. 2 Shell V-Power Chevrolet) was strong, finishing fourth ahead of NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Oliver Askew (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP).

Johnson, who has eyes on INDYCAR road racing in the future, started ninth and ran well in his INDYCAR virtual debut despite having a couple of incidents. He was collected in the first-lap accident that included Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 AutoNation/NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda), among others. Then on Lap 34, Johnson’s car drifted wide exiting the track’s famed “bus stop” section and hit the outside wall. He finished 16th.

The race featured the virtual debut of INDYCAR’s new Aeroscreen, a revolutionary cockpit-protecting device. The visuals provided by iRacing, the world’s premier motorsports racing simulation, gave INDYCAR fans a glimpse of the actual racing to come.

The action might have been online, but it wasn’t without significant effort on the part of the participants. Rosenqvist, an avid virtual racer, sounded tired afterward in his post-race interview.

“A long and sweaty race,” he said. “Good fun.

“It was hard to catch Sage. I think that was a very deserved win for him. I tried to take advantage of some lapping from the cars behind, but he always seemed to get through the traffic even better. He seemed to have (the lead) under control.”

The second of six events will be held Saturday, April 4, on the Barber Motorsports Park permanent road course. The event will be held at 4 p.m. ET and streamed through INDYCAR.com while INDYCAR’s YouTube and Facebook platforms as well as iRacing’s Twitch will serve as additional outlets for viewing.

Future events will be held weekly each Saturday through May 2 at the following sites: a “Driver’s Choice” track (April 11), “Random Draw” track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2).

ABOUT INDYCAR:

INDYCAR is the Indianapolis-based governing body for North America’s premier open-wheel auto racing series known as the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The series features an international field of the world’s most versatile drivers – including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, reigning series champion Josef Newgarden and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud – who compete on superspeedways, short ovals, street circuits and permanent road courses. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IMS Productions are owned by Penske Corporation, a global transportation, automotive and motorsports leader. For more information on INDYCAR and the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, please visit www.indycar.com.

ABOUT iRacing.com:

The world leader in the online racing simulation and gaming market, iRacing was founded in 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and John Henry. Kaemmer was co-founder of Papyrus Design Group, developers of award-winning racing simulations including “Grand Prix Legends” and NASCAR 2003.” Henry is principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, as well as co-owner of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing. iRacing.com has developed dozens of formal partnerships in the motorsport industry to help create the most authentic racing simulation in the world including with NASCAR, IndyCar, International Speedway Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, IMSA, World of Outlaws, Mazda Motorsports, McLaren Racing, Williams F1, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen, the Skip Barber Racing School and General Motors.

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      Everybody was excited, but I take a lot of personal interest in IndyCar. I always have. I kind of grew up in IndyCar, so I was glad that we were able to get them back. The fans themselves, for only having a little bit less than 90 days to sell the race last year, we […]
    • Rick Mears – still the ultimate pro at 65
      Over the past 20-something years writing about racing, I’ve encountered three people from whom I learn something about the art of racecar driving every time we speak for longer than five minutes. One of that trio is Rick Ravon Mears, born this day 65 years ago in Wichita, Kansas, and brought up in Bakersfield, Calif. […]
    • Memoir helps widow cope after IndyCar driver's death
      Tonya Bergeson-Dana talks with her son, Conor, about his father when he brings it up, which is often. If he’s asking the questions, she reasons, he’s ready to hear the answers. Paul Conor Dana, at age 9, knows that his father was Paul Dana, a journalist and IndyCar driver who died in March 2006 during […]