Team Penske eSports INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Race Report
Track: Virtual Twin Ring Motegi
Race: Firestone 175
Date: April 18, 2020
No. 1 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden
Laps Completed: 113/113
Josef Newgarden held the lead late in Saturday’s Firestone 175 at virtual Twin Ring Motegi, but he needed to stop for fuel in order to make it to the checkered flag. A late-race pit stop resulted in a 15th-place finish for the reigning INDYCAR champion.
Newgarden was one of several drivers to pit under the lap 4 caution period, placing him on a different pit cycle than the race leaders. He cycled to the front of the field on two occasions while the leaders made their pit stops.
With 14 laps remaining, Newgarden held the top spot with a 19-second lead over second place, but he would have been several laps short on fuel, so he was forced to surrender the lead and make a quick trip to pit lane.
“We didn’t quite have the speed in the Hitachi Chevrolet today that my teammates had, so we tried a different fuel strategy and it almost worked. Unfortunately, there were just a few too many laps left to nurse it home. It was great fun today at Twin Ring Motegi and I’m excited to see where we race next. Congrats to Simon on the win. He is on fire.”
No. 2 Shell V-Power Dallara/Chevrolet – Scott McLaughlin
Laps Completed: 112/113
Scott McLaughlin was close to scoring another INDYCAR iRacing Challenge win, this time at virtual Twin Ring Motegi, before a late-race incident while racing for the lead dropped him to the 24th position at the checkered flag.
The New Zealander has been a force in iRacing over the past month, scoring wins in INDYCAR and Supercars competition. After qualifying in the fifth position, McLaughlin made the most of solid pit strategy and good speed on track to stay at the front of the field throughout Saturday’s race.
Unfortunately, while battling teammate Will Power for the lead in the waning laps at Twin Ring Motegi, McLaughlin and his teammate got together after contact from a lapped car. McLaughlin had to visit pit lane for repairs to the Shell V-Power Chevy and he was relegated to a 24th-place finish.
"Definitely a frustrating end to today’s race. You want to be able to battle it out cleanly, especially with your teammate, without having a lap car playing a role in how the race ends. I think Will (Power) and I were going to have an epic run to the checkered, but that will have to wait until the next race. The Shell V-Power Chevy was obviously very competitive, and I think we had a great shot.”
No. 3 Pennzoil Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Laps Completed: 111/113
Helio Castroneves, a two-time INDYCAR winner at Twin Ring Motegi, was involved in an early incident in Saturday’s INDYCAR iRacing Challenge event that put him behind early and resulted in a 29th-place finish.
Making his first INDYCAR iRacing Challenge start of the season, Castroneves qualified the Pennzoil Chevrolet in the 21st position. However, on the fourth lap of the race, Castroneves got loose on corner exit and was collected by multiple cars.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner brought the Pennzoil Chevy in for repairs but he was not able to make up the lost track position over the course of the race. At the checkered flag, Castroneves was running two laps down and his car made contact with second-place finisher Scott Dixon.
“Wow, I was hoping my real-life experience at Twin Ring Motegi would be an advantage for me today like it was for (Scott) Dixon. I didn’t qualify all that well in the Pennzoil machine and our day was over pretty quickly. These online racers are tough, but I’ll go back to work on my simulator and be ready for the next one!”
No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Laps Completed: 113/113
Will Power looked to be headed for his first win in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Saturday in the Firestone 175 at virtual Twin Ring Motegi before late-race contact resulted in a third-place finish.
An experienced iRacing winner throughout his career, Power started from the second position at Twin Ring Motegi and captured the lead for the first time on lap 13. He maintained his position at the front of the field for the entirety of the event.
Power battled for the lead with Scott Dixon several times during the race and following the final pit stops of the day, it appeared that Power and his teammate, Scott McLaughlin, would battle it out for the win. Unfortunately, a lapped car made contact with Power which forced the Verizon Chevy into McLaughlin’s car. Power did a masterful job in his damaged machine over the final few laps to secure the podium finish, his fourth consecutive top-four result in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.
“Man, I was really hoping Scott (McLaughlin), Simon (Pagenaud) and I were going to have a great fight for the win. It’s frustrating that a lapped car kept us from doing that. It really hurt Scott but I’m happy that Simon was able to get the win for Team Penske eSports. The Verizon Chevy was great out front and it was nice to lead a lot of laps, but we didn’t lead the one that matters.”
No. 22 DXC Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Laps Completed: 113/113
Simon Pagenaud became the first driver to win back-to-back INDYCAR iRacing Challenge events by capturing the checkered flag in a thrilling race at virtual Twin Ring Motegi on Saturday afternoon.
After starting from the ninth position, Pagenaud methodically moved through the field and found himself in the third position following the final round of pit stops.
After Team Penske teammates Will Power and Scott McLaughlin were involved in the incident with a lapped car late in the race, Pagenaud took command of the lead and held off Scott Dixon over the final laps to earn the win.
It marked his second straight oval victory after he won at virtual Michigan International Speedway last week.
“Wow, that was a crazy race. It was a hectic battle with Will (Power) and then Scott (Dixon) there at the end. I’ve worked hard all week to continue to be competitive, and (race engineer) Ben Bretzman and I have worked on strategy. I’m having a lot of fun in these iRacing events, but it can be stressful as I continue to learn this style of racing. I hope all the fans enjoyed it because I had a blast!”