IndyCar iRacing Challenge Ends In Spectacular Fashion

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During this time for the month of May, the NTT IndyCar Series would head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the GMR Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. The series won’t be able to race at the historic venue until 4th of July weekend because of this pandemic. This year the racing had to take place in a virtual Indianapolis with a 175-mile event held in iRacing thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown. There was plenty of action, just not all of it good. The highlight, or low point, perhaps was when last year’s Indy 500 winner and 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud appeared to take out F1’s rising star, Lando Norris, three laps before the end of the race.

The 70-lap race was action-packed, even by IndyCar standards. The cars circulated in a much tighter pack than they would in real life even after IndyCar tweaked some iRacing environmental settings like wind speed to make things a bit more life-like. And when cars race together in a pack at speeds close to 220mph, crashes happen. In the real world, those can have awful consequences like the crash that took Dan Wheldon’s life at Las Vegas in 2011. Bruised feelings are the worst that can happen in iRacing, though. Pagenaud appeared to take out F1’s rising star, Lando Norris, three laps before the end of the race.

Norris ran into the back of the fluorescent yellow Team Penske car of Pagenaud, ending his race, too. It could perhaps have been a racing incident, with the Penske driver just lacking situational awareness, except for a comment Pagenaud made to his engineer over the team chat. “We take out Lando, let’s do it,” he said. Pagenaud later clarified that he only meant to hold up the visiting F1 driver, not intentionally wreck him, although Norris appeared not to believe that when discussing the incident with fellow F1 star Max Verstappen later that day on Twitch.

The drama didn’t end there. On the final lap, Marcus Ericsson took the lead from Norris’ teammate Pato O’Ward before they made contact going through turn four, sending Ericsson into the wall. The third Arrow McLaren driver, Oliver Askew, looked set for a maiden win when he was then intentionally wrecked by Santino Ferruci, a driver who was thrown out of the F2 series in 2018 for doing something similar in real life. In the end, the win went to another visiting driver, Australia’s Scott McLaughin, who normally races for Team Penske’s Supercar team Down Under.

All of that late race action was overshadowed by the Norris/Pagenaud incident, though. McLaren team boss Zak Brown decried Pagenaud’s behavior, and many F1 and IndyCar fans, including those in the media, took it as an excuse to get tribal and tell the other side why their particular flavor of open-wheel racing wasn’t any good. Many others jumped in to shout “IT’S JUST A GAME” at anyone they felt was taking it too seriously.

In my opinion, it’s frustrating how serious people are taking this and iRacing. I understand to treat it like a normal race since the drivers have their real sponsors and teams with you, but it’s just something to have fun with. We the fans are taking this finish too seriously. None of this affects anyone in any way or at least shouldn’t. This racing series and many other iRacing series’ are supposed to be fun. It’s something for the drivers to do during this weird time and for us fans to watch some racing even though it’s virtual. What this drama has caused during all of this on iRacing has literally ended a driver’s career in NASCAR. Thankfully racing is starting up again on May17th for the NASCAR Cup Series and on June 7th for the NTT IndyCar Series.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge doesn’t have a points championship. A rookie unofficially won the IndyCar iRacing Challenge “championship.” Here’s the top 10 what the final standings would look like if they ran for a championship:

  1. #2 Scott McLaughlin (R) – 213
  2. #12 Will Power – 195
  3. #22 Simon Pagenaud – 182
  4. #10 Felix Rosenqvist – 151
  5. #18 Santino Ferrucci – 138
  6. #24 Sage Karam – 120
  7. #15 Graham Rahal – 113
  8. #20 Conor Daly – 108
  9. #8 Marcus Ericsson – 107
  10. #5 Pato O’Ward (R) – 104
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