Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud won the iRacing IndyCar Challenge race at Twin Ring Motegi, his second of the ESports championship.
In the fourth round of the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, the grid was enlarged once again, this time to a field large enough to complete the Indy500 grid, with 33 drivers, including Penske’s Helio Castroneves, Kyle Busch, ECR’s Rinus Veekay and RLL’s Takuma Sato.
Of the 33, Robert Wickens (Arrow McLaren SP) qualified in first place, as he led Penske’s Will Power by just a few thousandths of a second. The Canadian iRacing rookie maintained his lead into the first turn. However, the same couldn’t be said for Power’s lead over Jack Harvey, as the Penske driver was overtaken by the Meyer Shank racer.
Harvey took the lead from Wickens then, but as Power tried to pass him, the two of them made contact, and the Canadian – who got off worse than the Kiwi – dropped back through the iRacing IndyCar Challenge field at Motegi significantly.
At a similar time, Castroneves, Sato, and Sebastien Bourdais (Dale Coyne Racing) had an accident, with the three-time Indy500 winner starting a chain reaction. The incident brought out the yellow flag, and racing only resumed on the eighth lap, with Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren SP) – who overtook Harvey – leading at the restart.
However, Askew’s lead was short-lived, as he was quickly overtaken by Harvey, Power, and Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing). And, much like Power and D&R’s Sage Karam at Michigan, Power, Dixon, and Harvey were battling for a few laps post the restart.
However, Power overtook Harvey and began to slowly pull away from Harvey and Dixon behind. After many laps of no overtakes at the front, the Kiwi broke the silence by passing the Brit for third. Harvey then dropped further, being passed by Scott McLaughlin ( Penske) after a back-and-forth battle.
At around the 40th lap, the pit stop window opened and in the laps that followed more and more drivers pulled in. The first of the leaders to pit, though, was McLaughlin. He was followed by Power one lap later, as Dixon opted to stay out a lap longer than Power.
McLaughlin’s undercut proved to be the smart move, as he came out ahead of both Power and Dixon. However, he was shortly overtaken by the Kiwi, who benefited from the slipstream. Dixon, too, used the draft to catch the Supercars driver.
But he was unable to make any form of a move stick, until the 66th lap, when he not only passed McLaughlin, but also caught up substantially to Power. Using the slipstream he had just gained, Dixon passed Power, and this move kick-started a battle between the two.
The fighting allowed Penske’ Pagenaud – who had run a quiet race just behind the top three – to catch up to the fight for the lead. Before he could truly catch up, though, the Frenchman pitted in a bid to pull off an undercut.
A lap later, all three leaders pitted simultaneously. This decision was a wise one, as it resulted in Pagenaud overtaking Dixon and McLaughlin but the latter re-took second. Power ended up in third, behind Askew and Newgarden, both of whom had yet to pit.
Askew pitted, but hopeful that he could finish without pitting again, Newgarden slowed down to save fuel. It was no use for the defending champion, though, as he had to pit regardless. Power inherited the lead, as he was ahead of McLaughlin and Pagenaud.
As McLaughlin attempted to take the lead, though, he crashed and damaged the car of his teammate Power. The Supercars racer pitted, and while the Kiwi stayed out, he lost his position to both Dixon and Pagenaud.
The battle soon became one between Dixon and Pagenaud, but the Frenchman beat out his rival, defending the inside with his life. The podium was completed by Power with Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing) in fourth.
Pole-sitter Wickens was fifth, with Harvey sixth, beating out Karam and Rahal (RLL). NASCAR driver Busch ended up 13th, while Newgarden was 15th. Tony Kanaan, Felipe Nasr, and Max Chilton retired, as Hinchcliffe failed to start the 175-mile race.
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