Auto Nation Challenge- Spinning a Victory Tale

Photo: Lando Norris leads Will Power early in the race. Photo courtesy iRacing and Indycar

Some quick thoughts on today’s iRace:

If only real racing could be that good. That was a fun race to watch with lots of drama.

I think Lando Norris has the hang of this iRacing thing. That was an incredible performance. His first stint was impressive, but coming back to win after spinning at the halfway point was even more impressive. I think Norris would do well in an actual Indycar

Pato O’Ward does well at COTA in real life and simulation. He had a great battle with Norris at the end.

It was nice to see a 1-2 finish for Arrow McLaren SP. Might we see that in real life in the next couple of years?

This was the first iRacing podium with no Team Penske driver. Will Power wasn’t able to recover after his spin  like Norris did.

Alex Palou will be in the conversation many weekends when actual racing gets started.

Today’s podium has a total of less than two full seasons of actual Indycar experience. There is a difference between sim and real life.

Those keeping points have Simon Pagenaud and Power tied heading into the final race at 176. Pagenaud holds the tie breaker on wins. Is next week a double points race?

The final race of this series will at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I have mixed feelings about this. It may be the only IMS action we see this year, so I’ll take it. I thought the final track was supposed to be a non Indycar track. I do see why they put it at IMS. Next Saturday will be May 2. This is a way to keep the relevance of May alive.

Next Saturday I might have to have breakfast at virtual Charlie Brown’s.

Official results:




From earlier: Homecoming- A Trip to IMS



AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge Fast Facts

From Indycar

When: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 25

Track: Circuit of the Americas, a 20-turn, 3.41-mile natural road course in Austin, Texas. Turn width: Varies from 39 to 52 feet. Course direction: Counterclockwise.

Race distance: 32 laps/109.1 miles/175.6 km (approximately 70 minutes)

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

Expected pit stops: One. Fuel window will be approximately 15-16 laps. Cars will be allowed two “Fast Repairs” during the race.

Competition caution: A planned competition caution period will bunch the field on Lap 12. It will consist of three laps, followed by a single-file restart.

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

TV/Online: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN,, 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 singer-songwriter Cory Morrow and his wife, Sherry Morrow, singing the national anthem and Texas-born country music artist Jack Ingram 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:

• The AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge, Round 5 of 6 in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, is the third road race in the virtual series. The first two rounds took place on natural-terrain road courses, at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park. The final venue is a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track for the race Saturday, May 2.

Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) won Round 4 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, April 18, the Firestone 175 at Twin Ring Motegi. He beat Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) by .3429 of a second in the closest finish so far in the series. Pagenaud has won both oval races so far, also taking the checkered flag April 11 at Michigan International Speedway.

• Three newcomers to the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will be in the 33-car field Saturday. Englishman Lando Norris will drive the No. 04 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara. Norris finished 11th in the Formula One World Championship standings last season for McLaren and is returning for a second season with the iconic F1 team. Australian Chaz Mostert will drive the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Dallara for Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian. 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner Mostert has 13 career victories in Virgin Australia Supercars and drives in that series for Walkinshaw Andretti United. 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion Spencer Pigot will drive the No. 45 Mi-Jack/EMBRACE Pittsburgh RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport Honda.

• Team Penske continues to flex its muscles in the virtual world, much like it does in the actual NTT INDYCAR SERIES. 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, Simon Pagenaud won Round 3 at Michigan with McLaughlin second, and Pagenaud won Round 4 at Motegi with Power third.

Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) has dominated the two previous road races in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Veteran sim racer Karam won the opening round of the series March 28 at Watkins Glen in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet and has led 67 of the 90 laps so far on road courses.

• Two competitors in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will race at virtual Circuit of the Americas (COTA) during the pre-sunrise hours of the morning in Australia, two-time and reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) and Virgin Australia Supercars race winner Chaz Mostert (Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian).

• One NTT INDYCAR SERIES race has been conducted at COTA, on March 24, 2019. Colton Herta made history by becoming the youngest-ever INDYCAR race winner, at age 18. Herta, now 20, will race Saturday for Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport. Will Power (Team Penske) won the pole last year at COTA.

• NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren SP) swept both Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races last March at COTA.

• Formula One standout Lando Norris and Australian V8 Supercars race winner Chaz Mostert (Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian) may be new to the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, but they have real race experience at COTA. Norris finished seventh for McLaren last November in the United States Grand Prix Formula One race. Mostert raced in all four rounds of the Virgin Australia Supercars series May 18-19, 2013 at COTA, with a best finish of 13th. Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) also raced in the four Supercars rounds that year at COTA, with a best finish of seventh. The Supercars competed on a 2.3-mile version of the COTA circuit. INDYCAR and F1 both race on the full 3.41-mile circuit.


SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet): “COTA is a tough track, with lots of hard braking zones, and with my limited skills on iRacing, I am struggling pretty good. I will do my best for the #4 AJ Foyt Racing Tresiba/Chevy crew and keep turning laps to up my game.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 50 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “I am excited and nervous for this week. I have never actually driven anything at COTA before, so it makes it even more of a challenge getting up to speed. I will put in the time to be ready. It is very easy to make mistakes here compared to Barber, so I think it could be a little bit of an unpredictable race.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I love racing at COTA, so I’m very excited to see what we can do with the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet in the iRacing world. COTA is one of those tracks that really suits me, and I feel like I have a good handle on the track, so hopefully we can bring home a good result for the Carlin team this weekend. We just need to qualify well, stay out of trouble and work our way to the front.”

CONOR DALY (No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “I think COTA will be quite the challenge with my current simulator setup, probably the most challenging race so far. This one will be mostly about survival, but we’ll still try to have a lot of fun. But realistically, I just want to get back to sim oval racing! We’ll go out and turn the laps this weekend and do the best we can with my simulator experience and extremely high-tech setup.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Looking forward to go iRacing again. COTA is a track I know pretty well from being there a few times, both in Formula One and INDYCAR. It’s a track I really like, as well, and I’ve had some good success there over the years. I have always enjoyed it in real life, so it’ll be fun to try it in the virtual world, as well. Also, after three races and the last two being on ovals for the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, it’s going to be interesting to see how it is going back to a road course, how everyone gets on. Everyone is getting more used to iRacing, including myself. I’m learning all the time, but I feel like it’s getting better and better. I want to build on that performance in Motegi. I’m looking forward to a good race in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda car.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “I am looking forward to competing in Round 5 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge at COTA. We were quick there last year in the race, so I am excited to see what we can do virtually. The SealMaster Honda is doing well in the championship, and I am ready to go racing this Saturday and earned some more championship points.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “We will be in Texas, so the boss (A.J. Foyt) will be watching (laughs). Not really. One more round. I’m excited to be back there. I was actually there this year spectating when we had the spring training, so it will be nice to drive around the track. Let’s see what happens if we get a little better luck this time.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “I am ready to get back on the road circuits again. Obviously, we were strong in the first two races at Watkins Glen and Barber. We didn’t have much luck at Barber after leading a bunch of laps, but I think we’ll have a strong effort at COTA. It’s a great road course and should be another exciting race for the fans. We were fast at Michigan, but we got caught up in some traffic. I made a mistake in qualifying at Motegi, and I had to start 31st. But the car improved in the race and we moved up 24 spots to seventh. We also had the fastest race lap. Now, we need to get back to racing up front at COTA. My iRacing experience goes back to 2007 when I went from karting to open-wheelers. Because I have not been a regular on the INDYCAR circuit in recent years, I’m able to stay active through sim racing, and I believe it has helped me. I think some of the current INDYCAR drivers can see improvement, too, in the INDYCAR Challenge racing as we all stay inside due to the coronavirus. I’m like everyone else who wants to go real racing as soon as we can. But this is the next best thing.”

DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet): “When we were at COTA for spring training, we had rain and freezing temperatures. Thankfully, we can set the weather in iRacing, and the conditions look great! It is a challenging track, almost more so without being able to feel the car under you. The combination of high and low speed sections is a great mix. With the long straights and a few hard brake zones, there are good passing opportunities. It should be an exciting race. This weekend would have been my INDYCAR debut, so it is somewhat bittersweet, but I am thankful that my family and friends are all healthy and safe in these trying times. Looking forward to another fast and consistent run in the #41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.”

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (No. 2 Shell V-PowerTeam Penske Dallara): “I’m really looking forward to going back to COTA. It was great to be part of the preseason test with the rest of the series. I learned a lot there running alongside other drivers in the series since this was the first time I was in a car with the rest of them. I’ve been having a lot of fun competing in iRacing in INDYCAR and SuperCars. It’s all experience and it’s all seat time, even if it’s virtual. The Shell V-Power car looks to be strong this weekend since my team has put a lot of work into our plan.”

FELIPE NASR (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to racing at COTA this weekend in the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet for the fifth round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Last week’s race at Motegi was really disappointing. We had a strong start, and we were moving up the field, but there were some connectivity issues and I was forced to retire early from the race. We haven’t had the best of luck in this iRacing series, but I’m really hoping that’ll turn around this weekend at COTA. I had a great test with Carlin at COTA at the INDYCAR Open Test in February, so hopefully some of that speed will show up this weekend.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet): “I really enjoy racing in COTA, so I’m looking forward to racing the virtual one. iRacing has been a huge adjustment for me, but I have learned so much with the PPG Chevy team, and we’re all excited to apply our learnings to real life racing whenever we can go back. COTA can be a challenging track, but we tried some things out at the preseason test that we think will work great for this virtual version of the race. Just ready to go out and give it our all with hopes to just keep improving.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Snap-on Team Penske Chevrolet): “iRacing has really been fun for the past few weeks, and I’m looking forward to racing at COTA. Winning two consecutive races gave us a boost of confidence. One of the last times the whole INDYCAR SERIES was all on track was during our spring training at the real-life track. We learned a lot at that test that I have been applying to iRacing events. It’s a really great track that has great challenges and quite technical sections. We as a series are getting stronger and stronger, not just as drivers in iRacing events, and there’s a lot of carryover we can eventually apply to races in real life. I am thankful for NBCSN for showing our race and am excited to have Snap-on’s livery on my Chevrolet this weekend. We’ve had a lot of success the past couple of weeks, so we’re going to be looking to keep having a similar approach.”

ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “I’m really looking forward to the COTA iRacing event this weekend because it’s the only track that I’ve actually been to in an Indy car before. Maybe that will help, even if it’s a virtual race. It’s also a road course, which is the type of track I have more experience racing at, not like ovals that I messed up on last weekend. We’ll see how the practices go, but I think we can be in the top five like at the other road courses that we’ve done in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, and hopefully we can have our first podium this weekend.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 45 Mi-Jack/EMBRACE Pittsburgh RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport Honda): “I’m really looking forward to joining everyone for the last few races of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I’ve been watching all the races on NBCSN, and it looks like a lot of fun. I haven’t been on iRacing for quite a few years, so I will definitely have some catching up to do. With the GMR Grand Prix being postponed until July, this will be a welcomed change to help pass the time. It will give me a chance to start working with a few members of Citrone/Buhl Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and get back into the groove of a race event. I can’t wait to race again, and this is the perfect way to start that process.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’ve been having a blast with iRacing. It’s something I have enjoyed for a long time, so it’s been great to keep racing against the rest of the drivers in the INDYCAR SERIES. COTA can be a really challenging track, but I love the challenge. It’s been great to have the whole Verizon Chevy team behind me week after week in the virtual world. We think it will make us stronger as a team when we can go back to racing in real life. I’m just looking forward to being part of another great show for the fans.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 One Cure Honda): “We are all missing being at the actual race at Circuit of the Americas, but at least we can race there virtually. It’s going to be an interesting race and a full field with 33 cars. It will be key to stay out of trouble.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s going to be interesting to get back to a road course again after quite a few ovals. It’ll be interesting to see who is going to be quick this week. A lot of people have been spending time on the sim the last couple of weeks. So, probably and hopefully it’ll be a lot tighter than when this whole thing started. It’s good to be back at COTA this weekend. Hopefully we can bring the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda car up to the front.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic/ABeam Honda): “It’s been a great experience so far. There is a lot to learn, and I enjoy driving and racing online. It’s pretty much what I expected, as we all have experience on our manufacturer’s simulators. However, doing it at home and the sim rig you have at home does not have motion, so you feel only steering feedback and through the monitor it is incredibly hard to “feel” what’s happening in the car. It’s fun when you just drive, but racing seriously with competitive sim-experienced drivers online is a very tough one! Fans love it. Obviously, they are looking forward to seeing the real racing, but in the situation now, this is best thing for them to have excitement for what usually feels like a great INDYCAR season. Also, particularly for my home country, the race in Twin Ring Motegi was a great moment. We never expected to be back there this way, but fans really enjoyed watching INDYCAR back at Motegi. I think iRacing is going to be very tough on a road course. COTA has a lot of high curbing to prevent cutting corners short that you just simply cannot touch because the car bounces too much and you lose control. And the track limit is very strict on iRacing, so it’s easy to get a penalty. But that is the same for everyone, so I expect it will make for an exciting race.” (About teamwork involved in iRacing): “I believe it is a benefit to work with the team on this and also provide it for the fans. We are all connected with engineers and going through a lot of things as similar as real world, so it’s definitely a good way to keep our communications and relationship well for preparation for the race.”

RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I’m very excited to drive COTA virtually. It’s a cool track with a lot of passing possibilities, so we should be able to put on a show for the fans.”

Quick Thoughts- Day 2 at COTA

Photo: Colton Herta led part of the afternoon before finishing fifth. Photo by Kyle McInnes

First, I am excited to announce my partnership with Race Fan Heaven for 2020. My stories will also appear on their website, You can also find them on Twitter @RaceFanHeaven. I will be posting when they have new podcasts up, generally Friday evenings, and when they post videos. Give them a follow. They have a lot of fun doing their podcasts and have a great passion for racing.

For a brief moment the top five were four drivers with less than three years experience and Sebastien Bourdais. I thought that was great to see.

Nice that the weather improved today and that the cars got some real testing done.

It hit me watching the live stream what I find odd about the aeroscreen. From the front, the screen looks too round. I know it’s not but that is the illusion I noticed. It’s a round piece on a rectangular base. I understand that there is not much that can be done about it since it is a retro fit. I hope this problem can be addressed in the next generation car.

The newer drivers had fun in the top 10 early, but in the end the veterans led the day. Still, four drivers in the top 10 have less than a full Indycar season of experience. Pato O’Ward was the only one of them who has driven in a race.

Scott McLaughlin is an amazing talent. His last open wheel experience was in a Formula Ford several years ago. To drive a car so different from what he usually races and finish P3 is quite an accomplishment. I hope he can get more than one race this season.

I was also impressed with Alex Palou and Oliver Askew. I realize testing times don’t mean much, but to be in the top 10 today is a good beginning.

I’m looking for a lot of great pole battles this year between Will Power and Colton Herta. We saw a great fight for the top spot in two qualifying rounds at Portland between them. Today Power and Herta traded the top spot for a while.

Speeds were quicker than I thought, within just a few tenths of 2019 times.

There is just one more test day at Sebring before the St. Pete season opener. The track build begins next week.

Back tomorrow with more.




COTA Test Day 2 Looks for Better Conditions

Schedule for today:

Session 1- 10-1 EDT

Session 2- 1:30-6

The latest forecast calls for rain to taper off and be gone by noon. Temperatures should ride above 50 degrees. This with be a busy afternoon.

COTA has opened the track to the public today. It was originally going to be a closed session. Thanks to COTA for thinking of the fans.

I’m flying home this morning and will cover remotely. I have some photos to post later from my good friend Kyle McInnes.

Testing Halted for Weather

Photo: Robert Wickens talks to rookie Oliver Askew

Cold and rain have stopped the first practice session. Seven cars took one lap each and other cars just did installation laps. Josef Newgarden and Max Chilton were the only drivers under three minutes on a wet track. The cars ran under a yellow flag before the red came out at 10:45. There is one hour remaining in the morning test round, which likely won’t restart.

Here are some photos from the session.





Indycar Spring Training Tests Aeroscreen, Rookies

Weather update:  High of 48, steady rain beginning around 10 pm CDT
Today’s Schedule: (All Times Eastern)

11:00-1:00  Indycar Series Open Testing

2:30-6:30 Indycar Series Open Testing

Weather forecast from Indycar Weatherman at 8:19 Austin time Monday night:


The rain should be intermittent, but the temperatures may prevent the cars getting on track. That call may come from Firestone. I don’t know if there is a temperature delta for the rain tires.

While the test is for the teams to prepare for the upcoming season, it will also be the first full field test for the aeroscreen.  Most drivers didn’t think it will affect the racing. Some were concerned about vision after a few laps in less than optimal conditions. Today is also a good day to test the heating/cooling system of aeroscreen.

Updated entry list:


Seven rookies will participate today. Three of them, Oliver Askew, Dalton Kellett, and Rinus VeeKay, drove in Indy Lights last year. The Road to Indy continues to do a great job training drivers for the NTT Indycar Series.

I will have up dates throughout the day. 

Indycar Classic at COTA- Quick Thoughts

That was an entertaining and dramatic race. Good battles throughout and quite a twist of fate at the end for Will Power.

Congratulations to Colton Herta and the Harding Steinbrenner team. They have had this track figured out since the February test.  The win was a great team rebound from a rough Friday.

George Michael Steinbrenner IV looked stunned in the post race interview.

The rookies at fun to watch. What a great move O’Ward put on Rahal.

Great job for Jack Harvey with a second straight top 10. Meyer Shank Racing is doing a steady solid job this year.

Having the blend line right at the entrance to turn 1 made for some interesting moments.

Weird to see Ganassi struggle as a team like they did today. Yet somehow Dixon is third in points. He will be a factor by the halfway mark of the season.

Rahal had his best race in quite a while. This is the most comfortable I’ve seen him in the car since the UAK was introduced last year.

The no track limits call helped the racing and made for some great action. This rule can be COTA’s unique feature.

The caution period seemed to last longer than necessary.

O’Ward and Carlin need to practice pit stops. He lost at least two spots with his slow releases.

Power and Rossi got burned sticking to their strategy. This is not the first time Team Penske has been burned by a caution by not pitting early.  Rossi got caught out by this situation at Portland last year as well.

NBC Coverage

Great camera work on a very photogenic facility.

Does every pit stop by every driver need to be shown? A great pass was missed because NBC was showing a backmarker’s stop.

There were too many and too long replays of the start of the race and too many in race recaps. This isn’t F1 where there is nothing happening on track.

I like the side pylon where the whole field is shown at once. I like that the board shows the tire choices and the push to pass time remaining.  It’s way better than nothing than the intervals  all the time.


Look for my full race report tomorrow on Wildfire Sports. Back here next week with some Indycar news and another  Indianapolis 500 program feature.




COTA Qualifying-Quick Thoughts


Will Power is trying to pass Mario Andretti’s pole record this season.

Another first round red flag cost Sebastien Bourdais a chance to advance. Has to be frustrating for him, especially since his teammate, Santino Ferrucci, advanced. The red flag to end group 2 may have cost Marco Andretti. Unlike St. Pete, the reds came with less than a minute left in each session, so no one can complain about not having a shot.

I’m not so sure now that the race will be caution free. Turn 19 could be an action packed spot tomorrow.

This rookie class is good. Four of the six advanced to the second round. Felix Rosenqvist was the only to get through to the Fast Six for the second race in a row. He has out-qualified Scott Dixon twice. Rosenqvist had the fastest qualifying lap, 1:45.5 in round 2.

It’s great to see the rookies contending for starting spots at the front every week.

Look for the Power-Rossi front row a lot this season, though not always in this order.

Cars are sliding a lot, which will make for some exciting racing.

Round 2 was one of the best qualifying rounds I’ve seen.

Thank goodness there are no track limits in turn 19. The series might want to move some Porta Potties around, however.

The cars of Pato O’ Ward and Kyle Kaiser look very similar. Doesn’t help that they are numbers 31 and 32.

The race could be 2 hours long at these speeds.

A full qualifying report will be on Wildfire Sports later this evening.