100 Days Out: Excitement building for inaugural Open-Wheels 500 Mile Race

Tanner Watkins
August 9, 2019 | 9:00 AM

With the first running of the Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race slated to go green on Sunday, November 17, we currently sit at 100 days from race day. This is a momentous day in the build-up to our first running of the race, as it really sends us into the home stretch of planning and preparation.

For myself and those close to Open-Wheels.com, the planning is well underway. We have made more than a few announcements over the past few weeks, and more are in the pipeline as various individuals and companies continue to step up and support the inaugural “500.”

This week we confirmed RaceSpot TV as the official broadcast partner for the Open-Wheels.com 500 mile race, and the fabulous crew will provide not only race coverage, but bonus coverage of qualifications to a worldwide audience.

We have also had the good fortune to sign a dedicated title sponsor in Mitchell Transmissions – a respected auto shop in the Evansville, Indiana area who happens to be a family friend – in addition to adding partnerships with Derek Speare Designs, the MYLAPS Indy Elite Series, the Thru Kaiser’s Visor newsletter, Triptacular Memories, and a host of more individuals and companies to be announced through late summer.

I mean this when I say it: The event would not be possible if it wasn’t for the overwhelming support from all of our partners. Many of you are friends of mine and the site, and I thank you for wanting to not only be a part of this, but for exceeding my expectations!

With that being said, we continue to push forward to raise more funding for the drivers (all funds raised for the event go back to the drivers or expenses to pay for the race – Open-Wheels will not profit in any form) and there are still some great sponsorship packages available here. If you are not a company looking for sponsorship exposure, please consider sponsoring a lap or two for $3 apiece – every bit helps!

And for the teams and drivers, the preparation is already underway. I had the chance to speak with a couple of respected members of the iRacing IndyCar community this week to discuss their expectations and excitement surrounding the first Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race.

Christopher Demeritt is one of the most accomplished IndyCar drivers in the history of iRacing, with multiple iRacing Indy 500 top split victories to go with his world records and series championships on the service. The veteran driver, who joined iRacing in 2010, was excited to speak about the uniqueness of November’s upcoming Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race.

“This 500-mile race is different from the others I’ve run on iRacing because it has multiple chassis that can enter the event, and is only one of a very select handful Indy 500 races that has a proper qualifying format consisting of a Pole Day and Bump Day,” said Demeritt, alluding to the option of three different generations of Dallara Indy cars to pick from when trying to qualify for the race.

“The chassis selection and qualifying format make the entire event very exciting, especially to see the strengths and weaknesses of each chassis throughout qualifying and the race.”

Fellow sim racer Jeff Drake is similarly intrigued about the diversity in Indy car chassis options available for the Open-Wheels 500, speaking to the challenges it will bring to the best teams in the online motorsports industry.

“What has me most excited for this ‘500’ is the wild variation between the available chassis,” said Drake, a perennial contender in the iRacing Indianapolis 500.

“So often in previous years, teams would get together and say ‘Okay, how do we make this car faster?’ This time, the teams (looked) at each other and said, ‘Hold on, we don’t even know which car is the fastest, and how the same setup adjustments will affect the different cars.’

“Indy has always been a strenuous task in sim engineering, but this is a whole new level. It’s an exciting throwback to the pre-spec days of the ‘500.’”

Indy 500
Race fans should expect the same drama in Open-Wheels 500 Mile Race qualifications as we see in real life during the month of May. (Walter Kuhn/IndyCar)

Even for experienced veterans such as Demeritt and Drake, the two-day qualifications format will be a challenging endeavor with a razor-thin margin for error – which has caught the eye of both drivers. With only three attempts to spare for the two days of qualifications, the pressure will be on.

“Limited qualifying is something several iRacing drivers, including myself, have been clamoring for for years,” adds Drake. “It forces drivers to set the car up with more stability and downforce, knowing a simple scrape of the wall will result in 1/3 of your chance to qualify gone. Setups will change, and driving styles will change. It makes it much more realistic than what we’re used to.”

Adds Demeritt: “There’ll definitely be an added pressure for the Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race qualifying to get a quick run in early and not take too many risks off the bat.

“In comparison, the number of attempts allowed for the iRacing Indy 500 qualifying results in drivers taking basically as many attempts as they can until they can get as close to their testing personal best as possible, even if it takes 30 attempts. Additionally, the format of having a single car out adds to the pressure as all of the other qualifiers will be watching closely to see what time is needed to avoid getting bumped.”

As the month of November approaches, the pressure will surely build! Entries for the 2019 Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race will be accepted beginning on October 1, via an entry form that will be posted on Open-Wheels and in the iRacing forums. An open test for the event will be held on Wednesday, October 30, and the first day of official practice will be Sunday, November 3.

Qualifications Weekend will be held from November 9 to 10, featuring Pole Day (Saturday) and Bump Day (Sunday) as the field is trimmed to 33 deserving starters for the race itself.

The “Day Before the 500” on Saturday, November 16 will serve as a fun day for drivers to let loose before the big race on Sunday, featuring final practice for the Open-Wheels 500 as well as the Veterans 100 support race, the Pit Stop Competition presented by The Pit Window and the driver’s meeting.

Finally, we arrive at Sunday, November 17 and the 500-mile race itself. All drivers starting the event are slated for a cash payout, with more cash and prizes up for grabs through various awards associated with the race.

Participants will also enjoy a dedicated Discord server for the event, a nightly streaming show titled Today at the 500, presented by Thru Kaiser’s Visor that will air on practice nights and feature driver interviews, and up-to-the-minute coverage of the race via Open-Wheels.com.

We are incredibly excited to bring this event to the sim racing community and offer them the best experience possible. Thank you for your support of the event, and we look forward to counting down to November with all of you.

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