By: Spencer Neff
May 2, 2020 | 3:10 PM
For the sixth and final round of the NTT IndyCar Series’ iRacing IndyCar Challenge, the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host.
In a race filled with unpredictability and excitement, IndyCar’s esports counterpart did not disappoint.
Virtual “month of May” brings surprise, action
Following the postponement of both the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix and the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Saturday’s First Responders 175 served as a substitute “month of May” for the NTT IndyCar Series.
The trio of Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, Arrow McLaren SP’s Lando Norris and Andretti Autosport’s Scott Speed locked out the top 3 positions in qualifying. Even more intriguing, the trio has yet to make an IndyCar start in their careers.
After winning at Barber Motorsports Park and Circuit of the Americas, McLaughlin and Norris led the way early on in the 70-lap race. Despite a number of chaotic moments in the lead-up to the main event, the early portion of the race was run without incident. By Lap 4, that began to change.
On the front straightaway, Alex Palou brushed the inside wall. After slowing in Turn 1, the Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh driver brought out the first yellow flag of the afternoon. Further back, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan would be the first driver to drop out of the race after sustaining damage.
While he found his way up to the front before the first caution, Speed made his way to the front in his Andretti Autosport entry.
On Lap 34, 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power and Norris pitted from the lead. After taking over the top spot, Watkins Glen iRacing winner Sage Karam made contact with the pit lane wall.
Although he continued on, the incident put a severe damper on his chances. During his pit stop, 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud ran out of fuel.
During the long green flag run, pit strategy became the most prevalent factor in the race’s outcome.
With 18 to go, Speed made contact with James Davison of BYRD Racing and Stefan Wilson of Juncos Racing. For the latter two, the crash would effectively end their day.
Davison nursed his car to a finish in 19th despite being a lap leader and top-five contender all day. On Lap 54, many of the front-runners pitted.
Meanwhile, leader Graham Rahal stayed out front. Following the Lap 57 restart, the rash of cautions continued. In Turn 3, Josef Newgarden and Sage Karam collided as both drivers tumbled and collected several cars.
In Turn 3, Rahal took the lead. A lap later, Pagenaud crashed in Turn 2 due to netcode between himself and Rahal when they went three wide with Norris for the lead.
With Rahal and Pagenaud’s issues, Norris took back the lead. Behind him, Arrow McLaren SP of teammates Oliver Askew and Patricio O’Ward joined the fray.
With 4 laps to go, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson made it a four-car fight. A lap later, Norris and Pagenaud crashed exiting Turn 4 in an interesting accident between the leader and a lap car.
In Turn 4 on the last lap, O’Ward and Ericsson crashed. On the front straightaway, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Santino Ferrucci collided with Askew coming to the line when Ferrucci hooked the rookie ASPM driver.
As the carnage ensued, McLaughlin and Carlin Racing’s Conor Daly were able to sneak past to finish 1-2. Askew, Ferrucci and O’Ward rounded out the top five – some sliding by on their aeroscreens instead of four wheels.
Following a prolonged offseason due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the next NTT IndyCar Series race will be the 2020 opener – whenever that happens.
Currently, the 2020 season is scheduled to begin at Texas Motor Speedway with the Genesys 600 on June 6. Stay with Open-Wheels and our various platforms for all the latest from IndyCar.
Header by Tanner Watkins/iRacing.