Pagenaud wins IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Michigan

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Simon Pagenaud eked his fuel load out to score his first IndyCar iRacing Challenge victory on the Michigan superspeedway.

The Penske driver scored the virtual victory over a 31-car field wearing his full race suit at the wheel of his simulator.

He was followed home by two drivers who have never raced in the real-world championship: Round two winner Scott McLaughlin and NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jnr.

The race got off to a false start when a spectacular multi-car crash was triggered as the drivers approached the starting line. That meant the field spent seven laps under caution before the 85-lap began. However to the surprise of many following a series of crashes in practice, the rest of the race stayed green.

Once it did, Sage Karam and Will Power exchanged the lead at the front of the field. Will Davison and Graham Rahal pursued them closely, then were overhauled by Felipe Nasr . But the Carlin driver, who is still awaiting his first real-world IndyCar start, came unstuck when the first pit stops were made.

Karam pitted from the lead on lap 40, indicating he would need a second stop before the end. Power followed him the next time around, joined by Davison, who spun as he peeled into the pit lane. Nasr also lost control of his car in the pits, where he was collected by Dalton Kellett.

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Once the field had pitted Karam’s Dreyer & Reinbold car regained the lead ahead of Power. But they and a string of pursuers had to make second pit stops, while those behind who saved fuel reaped the rewards.

Karam returned to the pits on lap 71, and ran out of time to chase down the leaders. A late crash left the round one winner 14th in the final classification.

Power’s pit stop left Alex Palou – another driver yet to start a real IndyCar race – at the head of the field. But he clipped the turn four barrier and was forced to pit.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Zach Veach also lost their chance to win when they pitted. That left Pagenaud holding the lead as the chequered flag fell, becoming the third different winner in as many weeks.

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    15 comments on “Pagenaud wins IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Michigan”

    1. One of the best Iraces this year. It’s great what Indycar has done to get a full field of drivers up and going. They need to talk Mario into running one! I won’t stop asking till I get my wish lol

      1. It really had everything you want in a race from lead changes to long runs and to having it come down to a strategy call and guys running out of fuel on the last lap. It was a great race to watch

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          11th April 2020, 21:19

          I’m impressed at how realistically everything played out.
          Power are Karam working together to break away from the pack… Newgarden fighting tooth and nail to get back on the lead lap… Guys taking a chance on making it on fuel before bailing out…
          It was the closest thing to the real McCoy we’ve seen yet and very enjoyable to watch. Might check out the IMSA races to see how they have fared

        2. Agree with that. The full field of IndyCar drivers utilizing their race engineers is very interesting! The racing and strategy is surprisingly realistic. Next best thing to real racing, but can’t wait for the real IndyCar season to begin.

    2. Bill Shorter
      11th April 2020, 21:04

      Best virtual GP yet. Was pulling for Earnhardt at the end. Someone needs to help Leigh Diffey get his mic right. Seems that NBC shipped everyone new headsets this week and it started out fine but after a couple minutes Leigh started clipping hard.

    3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      11th April 2020, 21:13

      Interesting and life-like how the early crash forcing a number of drivers to pit put them on the better strategy late in the race. Hats off to Pagenaud though who had ran that strategy from the start. Did he only pit once? Not sure.
      Another great result for McLaughlin and great to see Dale. Jr. on the podium in the guest entry.
      Shame for Karam who has been the outstanding performer in the challenge so far.

      1. I’m surprised since the teams were using their real engineers and strategist that so many got caught out on the last 3 laps running short on fuel. Really was a good race. I hope people know how much work teams are putting into these races. They have a whole team for each driver. Spotters and all. It’s amazing F1 couldn’t have done something better then they are

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          11th April 2020, 21:23

          Yeah F1 have regrettably boxed themselves into a corner with the official game but you can’t really blame them, and there is still fun to be had there. But yeah with spotters, strategists, engineers and the whole field of real drivers plus elite invitees, the Indy on iRacing is in another league at the moment. Really scratching that itch for good racing. I’d love to see Lando hop in an SPM McLaren but I can’t imagine F1 would be too happy

          1. I had a lot of fun with the Codemasters game. But that probably reflects how it’s aimed at gamers more than talented racing drivers, lol.

          2. It’s true they got boxed in but they could be more forceful with the drivers to be more involved even if it’s not a sim for the good of the sport. That’s what’s so disappointing is they act like they are above it all

    4. Kudos to the series for broadcasting the race on YouTube this time. It was great to watch it live. They said they’d offer more options and they did.

      And it was a great race

    5. I watched about 20 laps of it to give it a try. Around and around in circles… umm… no thanks.

      1. Um, if you don’t enjoy watching cars go round in circles how did you find your way here in the first place :P

      2. Andy, are you aware that only six of the twenty races on the IndyCar schedule were to be on ovals? I was really impressed with the graphics and the technical details; not real racing of course, but it was entertaining. For comparison I watched a real race and of course the reality was much more intense knowing those were real people in those machines going really fast. The iRacing is not a substitute for the real thing, but was still amusing to watch; I’ll definitely tune in for a road course race. Here’s hoping they do Road America which is a fantastic circuit. I attended a CART race there back in the day and it was amazing.

    6. I usually hate eSports, but I figured I’d give this one a go. I loved this race :)

      I played the original Nascar Heat back in the day. If nothing else, it gave me a great appreciation for just how technical oval driving can really be and how not all ovals are created equal.

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