The iRacing Challenge- Some Thoughts

The Indycar iRacing Challenge overall was a fun diversion. It kept Indycar in the public eye, allowed sponsors some publicity, and gave fans something to look forward to during the lockdown. I appreciate the time the drivers put in to making this work.

The first five races were fun, but the disappointing ending to Saturday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway left me with a sour taste. The last lap wrecks, at least one of which was unnecessary, showed that iRacing is, after all, just a computer game.

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The end of Saturday’s race reenacted the movie Turbo.

I did like several aspects of the six week series. I enjoyed the all star fields with drivers from different series joining every week. I thought it was nice to see some names who might not get much notice when the season actually begins have time at the front of the pack. the cars were realistic although I thought some of the tracks were not quite as I remember them.

The time slot probably wasn’t the most ideal for getting a large audience. I doubt if the series created any new fans because of this. In fact i know many diehard Indycar fans who didn’t watch any of the series.

There is not much from the results of these races we can transfer to the real thing. Some drivers who will not contend for the title are better sim racers than some title contenders. Alexander Rossi did not seem to enjoy this at all.  Simon Pagenaud and Will Power performed about the same as in real life, but they were about the only ones that did.

There has been talk of a winter iRacing Series after the season is complete. I don’t know that I would watch it again.  This was pretty much enough for me. I would prefer replays of actual races. The delayed start to the season is the perfect argument to bring back the equivalent of Speed channel.

The Month of May

It’s still may and I plan to continue Bump Tales on Thursdays. I will also look back at some Official Programs of the past on Tuesdays. In addition, i will repost some of my essays from the past. If you have a particular year you would like for me to talk about, let me know. Thanks for continuing to read during these strange times.

 

Quick Thoughts- First Responder 175

This race turned out to be more video game like than the others in the series. The finish was crazy, but the last 15 laps seemed like the drivers all lost focus at once.

So much for calculated pit strategy. Will Power made the best move pitting again just 12 laps after his first stop. The late yellows hurt him though. They hurt everyone. It was fun with all the different pit strategies going on, but the ending ruined all of it.

Is it possible to be jealous of virtual fans? They got to spend a May afternoon at IMS.

If only passing were that easy in real life at Indianapolis.

The one touch of reality was the length of the next to last yellow.

A 200 mile race may have been better, but I’m not sure it would have produced a cleaner ending.

An all Arrow McLaren SP podium would have been fun to see.

When museums are allowed to open on June 13, will Conor Daly be giving tours of the Daly Technology Center?

Simon Pagenaud is the only Indycar regular to win any of these iRaces. As in real life, Penske drivers won four of the six races.

How much bad feeling between drivers has this iRacing challenge created. Will we see a carryover to actual tracks?

The sim events have been a nice filler, but it’s time to figure how to get back to real racing. We are still 35 days away from the scheduled first Indycar race.

Back tomorrow with more detailed thoughts on the iRacing Challenge as a whole.

 

 

First Responder 175 Entry List Provides Taste of May

The entry list for Saturday’s First Responder 175 Presented by GMR will be the only action we see from Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May. No events are scheduled at the track until July 4th weekend, and at this point we don’t know if fans will be allowed to attend. So enjoy Saturday’s virtual action.

A 15 minute qualifying session tomorrow will set the field. Yesterday, a qualifying session was held to whittle the field to 33. Stefan Wilson, James Davison, R C Enerson, and Scott Speed advanced to the final entry list. Helio Castroneves earned a spot by virtue of being a former 500 winner.  Scott McLaughlin and Lando Norris earned guaranteed entries by winning races in the iRacing Series.

The entry list:

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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:

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From earlier: Homecoming- A Trip to IMS

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Silent Stands

Editor’s Note: Sad to hear about the death of Bob Lazier, 1981 Indianapolis 500 starter and the father of 1996 500 winner Buddy Lazier and Indycar driver Jacques Lazier, from complications of COVID-19. Condolences to the Lazier family.

It’s great to be back in Indiana. The reality of the COVID-19 situation hit me the last two days as we drove on mostly empty roadways and breezed through normally traffic congested cities. The Downtown areas of Louisville and Indianapolis were stark in their emptiness.

As May begins next week we still don’t know when the Indycar season will actually start. I would not be surprised to see the first scheduled race, June 6 at Texas, postponed or cancelled. I’m not sure the next event at road America or the Following weekend at Richmond will happen either.

It’s all a matter of social distancing. Can a track afford the risk of having fans attend and potentially fall ill? I’m not sure I want to go to a race until after I have had a vaccination. NASCAR and Formula1 have discussed racing with no fans present. Conducting a race takes a lot of people. Track staff, series officials, media, and team personnel needed can comprise a small town alone. Is it worth the risk of exposure for those people just to to fulfill a schedule?

Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, is discussing the possibility of a NASCAR/Indycar doubleheader without fans. I like the double header idea but there would be twice the amount of people at the track to run races from two different series.

Roger Penske has said he would not run the Indianapolis 500 without fans. I’m glad to hear that. I don’t think the 500 should be run just for the sake of running it. I would rather wait until it is safe for fans to be present. I’m not sure this August is the time for 300,000 people to gather in one spot. . The race has been cancelled in the past due to major world events. This may be the third time in its history that we need to wait another year. I would hate for that to happen, but it may be in everyone’s best interests.

The Indycar iRacing Challenge series has given us a taste of what watching a race without fans in the stands might be like. It is a bit eerie, but I enjoy the only type of racing available right now. Will there be more events after this six week challenge ends May 2?

We are all anxious to get back to the track. We must be patient and think safety and health first. If this entire year is wiped out, it will be tough to take, but I’d rather go to to a track with a feeling of comfort and safety.

Everyone stay safe and wash your hands.

I’ll be back later to begin coverage of his week’s iRacing event from COTA.

 

Pagenaud Strategy Leads to Motegi Win; Two Straight for 500 Winner

Some quick thoughts about today’s race:

Simon Pagenaud has the oval pit stop strategy figured out.

It’s too bad the NTT Indycar Series doesn’t still race at Motegi. I had forgotten what a great track that is.

That was a great race. There were passes for the lead, pit strategy, and on track drama which had a hand in the outcome.

Even though it was a sim race, I loved seeing Robert Wickens on pole and leading a lap or two. Even on this platform he has Will Power’s number in qualifying.

Oliver Askew has at least two fewer friends in the paddock this afternoon.

Two more podium spots for Team Penske gives them I believe seven of the twelve podium places through the four races.

Scott Dixon is not a regular on sim racing, but he seems to have figured it out rather quickly. He had a great drive today. I also liked his homage to former teammate Dario Franchitti’s flying finish at Kentucky in 2007.

Kyle Busch had a decent Indycar debut with a 13th place finish after starting in the back.

Dixon may have won with a better final pit stop.

Power did a great job hanging on for third without a right front end plate. I’m not sure how that would work out in a real race.

Jack Harvey had a decent day. He qualified well and led some laps.

I will post the final standings when they are available.

I hope to have a post up tomorrow. On Monday I begin the move to Summer Headquarters and I hope to be up and running again by next Thursday. This means there will be lots of big Indycar news Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

New Names on Michigan iRace Entry List

Four drivers make their first appearance in the Indycar iRacing Challenge Series at Saturday’s race at Michigan International Speedway. Series regulars Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, part timer James Davison, and former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. join the 31 car field for the third race in the six race series. The race will be on NBCSN at 2:30 pm ET tomorrow.

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