Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin in the No.2 Shell V Power Chevrolet was delighted with maiden NTT IndyCar Series win albeit in the virtual world as he took victory in Saturday’s NTT IndyCar Series iRacing Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park, the 45 lap Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst.
The 26 year old New Zealander who has ten years of sim racing experience started the race from eighth place and with the help of his IndyCar Series race engineer Jonathan Diuguid used a two stop strategy perfectly to take victory.
Speaking following the race, McLaughlin said:
I’m really happy. “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.
McLaughlin ended the race just ahead of his team mate Will Power in the No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who had started the race from second place just ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Scott Speed in the No.98 Surgere Curb Marco Andretti Honda.
Speaking following the race Will Power said:
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.
McLaughlin’s engineer Jonathan Diuguid pitted him on lap 14 just prior to the competition caution which came out for three laps on lap 15. The Penske driver restarted the race from 9th place and he went to say:
“It was crazy. “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.”
McLaughlin felt that it was difficult to get past lapped traffic and discussing that he said:
“The biggest thing was lapped traffic, getting blocked by lap traffic. “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.”
Dreyer and Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam in the No.24 Wix Filters Chevrolet who took his second pole in a week and made a great start however he was involved in a collision with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist in the No.10 NTT DATA Honda and later in the race he made contact with a lapped car retiring from the race.
Speaking following the race, Karam who was classified 27th said:
We were looking pretty good after qualifying with another pole. “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.
Arrow McLaren SP’s Robert Wickens returned to action in the No.6 Lucas Oil Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and finished the race in eighth place and speaking following the race he said:
It was a riot. “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.
The next race takes place next weekend at Michigan International Speedway, the first oval of the six race NTT IndyCar Series iRacing Challenge.