Scott McLaughlin has taken victory in the second race of the iRacing IndyCar Challenge at the virtual Barber Motorsports Park. McLaughlin utilized an alternative two-stop strategy to move up to the front in the closing stages of the race, ultimately holding off his Team Penske stablemate, Will Power, to take the win.
The second round of the iRacing IndyCar Challenge saw additions to both the driver line-up and the race format. After being unable to race last weekend, Scott Dixon, Robert Wickens, James Hinchcliffe, Jack Harvey and Ed Carpenter joined the grid. In terms of the race format, a competition caution was added to the proceedings, which would take place on lap fifteen of the forty-lap race distance.
One thing that did not change, however, was the pole-sitter for the race. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing‘s Sage Karam would take pole position in qualifying just prior to the race start for the second week in a row. He would be joined by Will Power on the front row of the grid, with Felix Rosenqvist starting in third. All three finished on the podium at Watkins Glen and were hoping to do so again.
The top three would settle into their positions at the start of the race, with Sage Karam going on to build up a lead of over two seconds ahead of Power and Rosenqvist. The three would maintain their positions by the time the competition caution came out, but would now have their lead over the rest of the field trimmed right back down.
The expected strategy for the drivers had been to pit shortly after lap twenty to ensure that all could make it to the finish with just one-stop. However, a handful of drivers bucked the trend and elected to pit before the competition caution, allowing them to cycle back to the front when the leaders pitted later on.
The highest placed runner who took this gamble was Penske’s, Scott McLaughlin. The Virgin Australia Supercars champion had been running well inside the top ten when he pitted on lap thirteen and, surely enough, cycled through to the lead of the race once the one-stopping drivers came in for fuel at just after half-race distance.
Soon, however, it became evident that McLaughlin knew he could not make it to the end on fuel. Instead, the New Zealander gunned it in his #2 Penske Chevrolet, taking advantage of the clean track ahead of him to stretch out as big of a lead as he possibly could before pitting for a final time with fourteen laps to go.
During a chaotic phase of the race during the pit-stop cycles, the previous race leaders had a torrid time. Sage Karam had been held up by lapped traffic and subsequently emerged from his pit-stop battling with Felix Rosenqvist. The pair would then make contact with each other at the Museum corner, with both losing heaps of time in the process. Karam would then be awarded a pit-road speeding penalty before making more contact with Santino Ferrucci. Shortly thereafter, Karam would drop out of the race.
The difficulties for the former race leaders meant that, after his second and final stop, Scott McLaughlin would emerge in second place, with Scott Speed taking over the race lead but running slowly to try and save fuel. The final ten laps of the race would see McLaughlin hunting down Speed with a considerable pace advantage, but with team-mate, Will Power also pressuring him from behind in third-place.
Such was McLaughlin and Power’s pace advantage, Speed was unable to defend when the pair came up behind him with six laps to go. The pair would sail past on the inside of turns two and three, with McLaughlin now trying to hold onto the lead for the final few laps.
Power would edge closer and closer to the gearbox of McLaughlin as the final five laps ticked away. As the pair started the last lap, less than a second separated them. Despite a lock-up at the penultimate corner, Power would be unable to try a move on McLaughlin and would have to watch as the chequered flag went the way of his new team-mate.
Scott McLaughlin would take victory in the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at the virtual Barber Motorsports Park, with just four-tenths of a second separating him from runner-up, Power. After slowing to try and make it to the finish, Scott Speed would hold on to secure the final spot on the virtual podium, with almost fourteen seconds separating him from the race-winner.
After a mistake during the pit-stops last time out at Watkins Glen, Dale Coyne Racing‘s Alex Palou was able to bounce back with a superb fourth-place finish. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist would both finish within six-tenths of Palou in fifth and sixth respectively, with Colton Herta a further few seconds back in seventh place.
The driver of the day accolade undoubtedly would go the way of Robert Wickens. Despite only getting his Sim Racing setup up and running on Friday and despite starting in stone-cold last after spinning in qualifying, Wickens would charge through the field to take a superb eighth-place. Driving with hand controls, Wickens ran as high as second-place on the alternate pit-strategy implemented by race-winner McLaughlin. However, a late but brief excursion through the gravel would see him drop back to eighth. Nevertheless, it was great to see Wickens back competing and he will undoubtedly be one to watch in the coming weeks.
Reigning IndyCar champion, Josef Newgarden, would take ninth-place in the fourth and final Penske Chevrolet. Dale Coyne’s Santino Ferrucci would complete the top ten.
Canada’s Dalton Kellett would finish just behind Ferrucci in eleventh place, with Jimmie Johnson taking his #48 Ally Racing car to an impressive twelfth place as he continues to find his feet in Sim Racing. He will be back in action tomorrow racing in the NASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Further back, Scott Dixon would take sixteenth place and would finish one lap down on his debut to the virtual series. Fellow debutant, Ed Carpenter, finished just behind in eighteenth.
Meanwhile, Kyle Kirkwood – substituting for Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #28 Andretti Autosport Honda – would finish down in twentieth place after spinning out of the final corner as the field came to start the race. He finished just behind his Andretti team-mate, Zach Veach and on the lap ahead of his other team-mate, Alexander Rossi, with both drivers also being involved in incidents during the race.
Six drivers would be classified as non-finishers at the end of the race. Patricio O’Ward had an incident with his McLaren team-mate, Oliver Askew late in the race and would retire soon after in twenty-fourth. Askew would survive and finish in fifteenth.
Marcus Ericsson suffered damage early on and would go on to retire in twenty-fifth. Tony Kanaan was classified in twenty-sixth place as a non-finisher, just ahead of the aforementioned retiree, Sage Karam, in twenty-seventh. The final two retirements would be Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey in twenty-eighth and Carlin’s Felipe Nasr in twenty-ninth.
The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will return for its third race next Saturday, April 11. The drivers have been allowed to pick the track that they will run at and have subsequently chosen Michigan International Speedway. It will certainly be interesting to see how the drivers cope with what will be the first oval race of the series.
2020 IndyCar iRacing Challenge – Barber Motorsports Park – Race results:
|1||2||Scott McLaughlin||NZL||Team Penske||Leader|
|2||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||+0.418|
|3||98||Scott Speed||USA||Andretti Herta||+13.931|
|4||55||Alex Palou||ESP||Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh||+14.364|
|5||22||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Team Penske||+14.626|
|6||10||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||+14.691|
|7||88||Colton Herta||USA||Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport||+23.745|
|8||6||Robert Wickens||CAN||Arrow McLaren SP||+45.832|
|9||1||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||+48.468|
|10||18||Santino Ferrucci||USA||Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan||+55.004|
|11||41||Dalton Kellett||CAN||A.J. Foyt Racing||+55.780|
|12||48||Jimmie Johnson||USA||IndyCar Provisional||+1:00.484|
|13||4||Sebastien Bourdais||BRA||A.J. Foyt Racing||+1:02.122|
|14||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+1:02.294|
|15||7||Oliver Askew||USA||Arrow McLaren SP||+1:05.928|
|16||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||+1 Lap|
|17||29||James Hinchcliffe||CAN||Andretti Autosport||+1 Lap|
|18||21||Ed Carpenter||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+1 Lap|
|19||26||Zach Veach||USA||Andretti Autosport||+1 Lap|
|20||28||Kyle Kirkwood||USA||Andretti Autosport||+1 Lap|
|21||11||Kyle Kaiser||USA||Juncos Racing||+1 Lap|
|22||27||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||+2 Laps|
|23||20||Conor Daly||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+2 Laps|
|RET||5||Patricio O’Ward||MEX||Arrow Mclaren SP||Crash|
|RET||8||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||Crash|
|RET||14||Tony Kanaan||BRA||A.J. Foyt Racing||Crash|
|RET||24||Sage Karam||USA||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||Crash|
|RET||60||Jack harvey||GBR||Meyer Shank Racing||Crash|