iRacing IndyCar Challenge returned for its third weekend, this time racing at the first oval of the virtual season where Simon Pagenaud took the win.
Racing at the first oval of the virtual iRacing IndyCar Challenge season, new drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Marco Andretti lined up on the 31-strong grid at Michigan International Speedway.
In the race, Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing) started from pole, after qualifying, in which he broke Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Sage Karam’s first-place qualifying streak which he had since Watkin’s Glen two weeks ago when the iRacing IndyCar started.
Before the green flag even waved to start Round 3 of iRacing IndyCar Challenge, though, there was a yellow flag due to a massive accident caused by an overzealous Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren SP), and laggy cars near the front of the pack.
Drivers like Josef Newgarden (Team Penske), Alexander Rossi (Andretti), Felix Rosenqvist (Chip Ganassi Racing), and Robert Wickens (Arrow McLaren SP) were all involved in the incident. Once their cars were fixed and all was sorted, racing action resumed.
Once again, Ericsson led initially. However this time he had the opportunity to draft up to the Swede and battle him for a number of laps. Soon, other drivers were involved, and there was a four-way battle for the lead between Ericsson, Will Power, Karam, Graham Rahal and Felipe Nasr.
Karam found his way to the front, but it was relatively short-lived as he, Power, and Ericsson continued to constantly swap positions, leaving almost no moment without side-by-side fighting at the front.
Of the leaders, Karam was the first to pit, and he was followed by Power a lap later. Nasr then inherited the lead, but when he pitted a lap after Power and spun in the pitlane, he fell back. Another change that became evident after the first round of stops was the gap between Karam and Power, as the former benefited from the undercut strategy.
His lead grew to nearly two seconds, but it wasn’t long before Power was right on his gearbox once more, and their battle resumed. With 13 laps remaining, Karam had to pit, despite swapping the slipstream with Will Power, who – once again – pitted a lap after his Wix Filters-sponsored counterpart, along with RLL’s Rahal.
The trio came out behind the top ten, of which many – including Pagenaud and NASCAR’s Earnhardt Jr – did not have to make another pit stop. As a result of this, Karam, Rahal, and Power were unable to fight for the lead again, Pagenaud (Penske) took victory, leading Scott McLaughlin (Penske) and Earnhardt Jr (JR Motorsports).
Power (Penske) made it back to fourth position, with Rahal, and Andretti drivers Harvey, Rossi, and Hunter-reay behind. Ed Carpenter and Alex Palou rounded out the top ten, as Karam dropped back quite a bit, likely with an unidentified issue.
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Here’s Sage Karam on essential seat time in iRacing
Here’s Will Power and Graham Rahal on realism of iRacing
Here’s the revised schedule of 2020 IndyCar season
Here’s how the second round of iRacing IndyCar Challenge went