The regular rotation between oval tracks and road courses continues tomorrow, May 27, for the TireRack.com Road to Indy iRacing eSeries Presented by Cooper Tires with a visit to a virtual copy of Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. Watkins Glen is an iconic natural terrain course situated among the woodlands and rolling hills overlooking Seneca Lake. It includes 11 turns, plenty of elevation change over its 3.37 miles, and will provide an exhilarating challenge for the full field of drivers representing all three levels of the acclaimed open-wheel racing development ladder – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
The action will begin tomorrow at 6:45 pm EDT with an intense qualifying session to determine which 28 of 38 at-home drivers will be fast enough to contest the pair of 20-minute simulated races. Race One will start at 7:00 pm. The finishing order will determine the starting grid for Race Two, albeit with the top 10 positions inverted.
The 10-race series is nearing its conclusion with a pair of 21-year-old American Indy Pro 2000 racers, Phillippe Denes and Braden Eves, separated by just six points – 140-134 – at the top of the table after six events. Denes, from Carmel, Calif., represents Italian-based RP Motorsport USA, while Eves, from New Albany, Ohio, by virtue of winning last year’s USF2000 championship, carries the striking blue-and-white Road to Indy Scholarship colors for Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport.
Max Kaeser (Miller Vinatieri Motorsports) and Andre Castro (Legacy Autosport) lie third and fourth in the points table after securing breakthrough victories last week at the Lucas Oil Raceway oval.
Both USF2000 racers have been a factor throughout the sim racing season. After finishing on the podium in the oval openers at World Wide Technology Raceway, Kaeser, 17, from Keystone, Colo., bounced back from a disappointing day at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca road course to score a dominant Race Two win last week at LOR.
Andre Castro, from New York, N.Y., who is balancing his time with studying economics at the University of Chicago, finally banished a sequence of misfortunes to the rear-view mirror when he took the checkered flag in the LOR opener.
“It was really good to get that first win last week,” said Castro. “I knew I would have a good chance on the oval – since it was less about the draft, I knew I could control my own destiny. I’m really looking forward to this week’s race as well, especially since the track is so big that lapped traffic shouldn’t be an issue. I have more sim laps at Watkins Glen than any other track. I’ve been playing racing video games since I was 7 years old, like the NASCAR game, and Watkins Glen was one of the two road courses, so I played it a lot.
“It’s my favorite track. It’s so beautiful, and I hope to race there in real life someday. I’ve done iRacing at Watkins Glen in so many cars, from stock cars to sports cars to Indy cars. It’s really easy for me to pick it up and be near the pace. That said, it’s not easy to compete with Phil and Braden so I’m definitely going to have to put in some practice time this week.”
Fellow New Yorker Yuven Sundaramoorthy also has high expectations after breaking through at Lucas Oil Raceway with a brace of top-six finishes for Pabst Racing. Sundaramoorthy, from Guilderland, N.Y., is one of only a few Road to Indy drivers who have relevant experience at Watkins Glen, having earned his first F1600 Championship Series victory there in 2018.
“Watkins Glen has a few elements that are different from other road courses – like the banking in the heel and the toe of the Boot,” said Sundaramoorthy. “Those are definitely difficult to get into, because if you miss it by just a bit, you push out into the wall. That was a big challenge to get used to in F1600 because it was very ‘slidey’ as well. The Inner Loop ‘bus stop’ is difficult to judge as well: I sometimes come in too fast and it would push me out so I couldn’t make the second half.
“I’ve had trouble with consistency at Watkins Glen, but that’s one of the things I’ve been working on in iRacing. I’m working on holding my position during races, being a bit more aggressive and on improving in qualifying.”
Thirty points are up for grabs in each of the two 20-minute races, plus additional bonus markers for the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs Pole Award, leading most laps and the TSOLadder.com Fastest Race Lap.
All competitors once again will be racing for a cause as all registration fees to enter will be donated into a fund to support COVID-19 relief efforts.
Fans can follow the weekly action on a series of outlets including the Cooper Tire Facebook page, the TireRack.com website (TireRack.com/roadtoindy), the Road to Indy TV website and App, ApexRacingTV’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the iRacing eSports Network and the series’ respective Facebook platforms. In addition, live coverage will be carried by MAVTV Canada, which will be airing all Indy Lights races live in 2020 when the series returns to action as well as Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship highlight shows.