Talented, diverse field of 104 drivers on the inaugural Open-Wheels 500 entry list

Talented, diverse field of 104 drivers on the inaugural Open-Wheels 500 entry list

Open-Wheels Staff
October 28, 2019 | 1:00 PM

When practice for the inaugural Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race presented by Mitchell Transmissions opens this Sunday, a remarkable 104 drivers will begin their quest for one of the 33 spots in the November 17 race.

As a result of tremendous support in the iRacing Indy car community, the field of drivers on this year’s entry list represent one of the deepest fields in the simulation’s history of 500-mile races at Indianapolis, featuring former winners and champions, real-life professionals, sim racing professionals, and one particular driver emerging from sim racing retirement in an attempt to further establish his hall of fame career.

“It is with great pleasure that we formally release the list of competitors that will take part in our inaugural Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race this fall,” said Tanner Watkins, the owner and editor of Open-Wheels.com and the president of the Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race presented by Mitchell Transmissions.

“I have been thoroughly overwhelmed by the support of the sim racing community for our 500 Mile Race, bringing together perhaps the most accomplished group of drivers to take part in an iRacing one-off event. With 104 drivers fighting for one of those coveted spots in the field of 33, the excitement level will remain at a fever pitch from Opening Day on through to race day.”

This year’s Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race field features 10 drivers with wins in the iRacing Indianapolis 500’s top split – for a total of 13 victories between them. This includes multi-race winners Christopher Demeritt, Tim Doyle, and Brandon Traino, who are additionally “Premier” race winners in the iRacing Indianapolis 500 – the traditional Saturday afternoon race broadcast live by RaceSpot TV.

A total of 45 drivers on the entry list have starting experience in the iRacing Indianapolis 500’s top split, with a cumulative 262 top split iRacing Indy 500 starts among them. Furthermore, 35 of those drivers have starts in the featured broadcast race, one of the premier events on iRacing annually.

Six of the ten “feature” race winners in the iRacing Indianapolis 500’s history are on this year’s entry list: Joshua Chin, Demeritt, Doyle, Matt Pawelski, Traino, and most surprisingly, Yang Ou.

Ou, perhaps the most accomplished sim racer in iRacing’s Indy car history, will participate in this year’s Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race after a five-year hiatus from the simulation. The Scandinavian Club racer won the iRacing Indianapolis 500 in 2012 and is a three-time overall polesitter for the event – capturing the quickest qualifying time in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Yang Ou
Yang Ou will return to iRacing competition for the first time since 2014. (iRacing)

All of Ou’s success in the iRacing Indy car ranks came as a driver in the elder Dallara IR-05 chassis – which is now two generations removed from the current Dallara IR-18 kit being used on the simulation. Ou’s attempt to make the 2019 Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race will be his first foray into competitive Indy car racing without the Dallara IR-05 as he will pilot an IR-18 for his traditional team, Snake Pit.

Just to list a few, here are some of Ou’s notable accomplishments:

  • 2011 iRacing IZOD IndyCar Premier Series champion
  • 2012 ISOWC Indianapolis 500 winner
  • 2013 iRacing Pocono 400 winner
  • Runner-up in the 2011 iRacing Indianapolis 500
  • Holds a winning percentage of over 58% in all iRacing official series starts
  • Single-lap qualifications record-holder at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a Dallara IR-05 chassis, posting a lap fo 230.332mph on iRacing’s version of the track.

The list of intriguing entries doesn’t end with Ou, though, as this year’s Open-Wheels 500 will also feature a pair of real-life racers coming off championships in their respective open-wheel disciplines.

2019 U.S. Formula 2000 champion (and Team USA Scholarship driver) Braden Eves will pilot a Dallara DW-12 entry for this year’s race, running independently. Additionally, Flinn Lazier will take part in the November festivities, driving a Dallara IR-18 for Last Lap Motorsports after winning the SCCA Formula Atlantic title recently.

Lazier, 20, is the son of 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier, and has been a regular competitor in the MYLAPS Indy Elite Series during their fall 2019 championship. The Colorado native picked up a runner-up result during the series’ trip to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca back in September.

Flinn Lazier (left) is the son of former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier (right).

Also of note, IndyCar Radio pit reporter Ryan Myrehn will take part in this year’s race, piloting the IndyCar Radio/Sportscar365.com/RyanMyrehn.com Dallara DW-12 in hopes of making the field of 33. Myrehn’s broadcasting career includes roles in the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, and the 24 Hours of Spa, while also hosting a podcast via Sportscar365.com.

For some more interesting stats on this year’s Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race field, check out this list below:

  • 93 drivers will attempt to qualify for the race in the Dallara IR-18 chassis, with nine drivers piloting the Dallara DW-12, and two entrants in the older Dallara IR-05 chassis.
  • 70 drivers on the entry list hail from the United States, while 34 drivers will compete at Indianapolis by way of various iRacing international clubs – including Brazil, Canada, Iberia, Europe, UK & Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, South America, and Germany.
  • Four of the seven all-time iRacing Indianapolis 500 overall pole winners are on the entry list: the previously-mentioned Ou and Traino, as well as Rick Music and Marco Aurelio Brasil.
  • Across the 30 drivers on the entry list who have led a lap in the iRacing Indianapolis 500’s top spit races, a total of 2,529 laps led are represented. That means drivers on the 2019 Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race entry list account for nearly 47% of all laps led in the top split history of the iRacing Indianapolis 500.
  • Dating back to the start of 2017, each iRacing IndyCar Series champion (road and oval combined discipline) is on the entry list for this year’s Open-Wheels 500: Henry Bennett, Adam Blocker, Michele Costantini, and Austin Espitee. The current series points leader, John Downing, is also on the entry list.
  • 59 rookies (drivers without top split iRacing Indianapolis 500 experience) are on the entry list, and 23 drivers will attempt to qualify for the race as “independent” drivers – competitors running without an announced team alliance.

The 2019 Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race will begin official on-track festivities this weekend with Opening Day on Sunday, November 3. Practice will begin at 3:00 PM Eastern, with the first airing of Today at the 500 presented by Thru Kaiser’s Visor going live at 8:00 PM Eastern.

Qualifications Weekend presented by AG Trucking will be held on Saturday, November 9 and Sunday, November 10, where the $100 Pit Lane Parley Pole Award will be awarded and the field of 33 will be determined. RaceSpot TV will feature final-hour coverage of each day of qualifications, starting at 5:00 PM Eastern.

Finally, the inaugural Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race will be held on Sunday, November 17. A special two-hour edition of Today at the 500 presented by Thru Kaiser’s Visor will set the pre-race scene from 9:00 to 11:00 AM Eastern before RaceSpot TV goes live with their worldwide broadcast at 11:15 AM Eastern. The green flag for the race is scheduled for 11:45 AM Eastern.

Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com throughout the event for continued coverage of all things Open-Wheels 500. It is sure to be an exciting month of November!

Header image by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.

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