After two unexpected winners to open the 2020 IndyCar IRacing Challenge, 31 drivers are expected to participate Saturday as the online exhibition circus heads to virtual Michigan International Speedway for the Chevrolet 275.
Unlike the opening two stanzas at the Watkins Glen and Barber Motorsports Park road course layouts, the two-mile, D-shaped oval should see a new set of challengers steal the headlines. How Sage Karam of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Team Penske's Scott McLaughiln deal with the new surroundings will be the primary focus. Prior to the selection of Watkins Glen as the opening venue, which was done via a fan vote, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania based Karambwas notable for not being keen about starting the series on an oval track. That feeling was shown in full force at the upstate New York venue where he won from the pole position and he seemed to be on the verge of happening again last Saturday in Alabama, until contact with Chip Ganassi Racing's Felix Rosenqvist halted his progress. With Karam out of the picture, it was McLaughlin, the multi-time Australian SuperCars title holder who took over the point, via a cleverly planned pit stop strategy. Although seemingly home free after wresting the lead from Andretti Autosport's Scott Speed, the relative newcomer to IndyCar competition still had to hold a determined teammate in Will Power to score the triumph. Like Karam, the New Zealander is limited in high-speed oval action, but he has shown to be a fast learner in other IRacing formats.
If questions linger about what Karam and McLaughlin could achieve at Michigan, the scenarios could be tailor-made for Power, who two years ago broke through to win the Indianapolis 500. Although in literally a similar trench in terms of high speed ovals early in his IndyCar tenure, the Aussie has been one of the best on the left-hander only result earners over the past three seasons. While the chauffeur of the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet is perhaps the leader of the old guard, he may not the lone veteran to fly the flag on Saturday. Arch-rival Scott Dixon made solid progress in his maiden IRacing voyage in Alabama last week and could be a step ahead of most, considering he is one of the few drivers to actually race an IndyCar at MIS in real-life. Two other hard chargers who also fit into this elite club are A.J. Foyt Racing's Tony Kanaan and owner-driver Ed Carpenter. The Brazilian is still learning the nuances of IRacing in general, but could be aided on a track type that he has excelled upon since joining SuperTex's organization in 2018. Carpenter, the native of Indianapolis, survived his trial by fire in online racing this past week, earning praise after a hotly contested test event at virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway, running in the top-five until being collected in a late-race accident in turn four. A more focused attitude toward the IRacing Challenge compared to some could allow the three-time Indy 500 pole winner to enjoy a breakout effort after 275 miles.
Several drivers new to the virtual IndyCar world this week are Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay, who takes the wheel of his own No. 28 DHL Honda, after the team's Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires prospect Kyle Kirkwood flew the colors in the opening two efforts. RHR's teammate Marco Andretti also will make his 2020 IRacing debut at Michigan Saturday, after getting his feet wet in the same virtual Indy test race that featured the aforementioned Ed Carpenter. The No. 98 entry joins round three with some momentum after Scott Speed's solid top-five showing last week in Alabama.
However, the majority of race fans tuning into NBCSN's coverage of the event will be greatly interested in the progress of former NASCAR Cup star Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who will try his luck in an open-wheel car for the first time on Saturday. The two-time Daytona 500 champion takes over the stock car representation from Jimmie Johnson, who entered his No. 48 Chevrolet in both events at Watkins Glen and Alabama to open the virtual exhibition league.
While high speed action will be expected on Saturday, the aggressive nature of IndyCar IRacing action on the ovals in recent trial events not associated with the actual exhibition league, seem to tip the hand that cautions could dominate the proceedings. The 250-mile test race at the Brickyard was filled with extended pace truck action, as was a 500-kilometer at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis held a day after the Watkins Glen opener. If a similar story line takes hold at Michigan, track position and pit strategy could ultimately determine the winner, along with simply surviving the drama.
As America continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed back the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500-mile race to August 23, the NTT Data IndyCar Series has taken a page from the other major circuits and will take its show into cyberspace. Like NASCAR, Formula One, IMSA, and the World of Outlaws who have each hosted their initial forays into online racing as a Plan B option over the past week, Saturday's IndyCar IRacing Challenge looks to break similar ground for the 50 States' top open-wheel division.
Although Saturday's event (track unknown at the time Speedway Digest went to press) will be absent of three former Indy 500 title holders (Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, and Ryan Hunter-Reay), the current 25 expected participants feature a good mix of both IndyCar's old guard and a glimpse into the future. All real-life IndyCar teams, except DragonSpeed, are expected to make an appearance on the YouTube-featured broadcast, with an equal car setup mandate likely to allow whoever comes to grips with the IRacing rules of the road the fastest the opportunity to enjoy the most success in the 90-minute main event.
Chief among the expected runners is the presence of reigning series champion Josef Newgarden, who will carry the No. 1 plate into Saturday's online battle at either the Michigan International Speedway oval or the Watkins Glen International road course. Regardless of the outcome of the fan vote that will lock the destination, the Tennessee-native has proven effective on both road courses and ovals respectively assuming the top step of the podium in each scenario. Included within the opposition are three members of the same Team Penske squad, which will feature the debut of two-time Australian Supercars titlist Scott McLaughlin, who enters the IRacing Challenge on the strength of positive outputs in on-track tests at both Sebring, Florida and Texas Motor Speedway. Former Indy 500 winners Will Power and Simon Pagenaud are both relatively new to the IRacing format, but could also challenge Newgarden for top honors.
Andretti Autosport will enter four of its real-world regulars in the special event Saturday, led by 2016 Indy 500 king Alexander Rossi. Third-year IndyCar veteran Zach Veach and impressive sophomore Colton Herta should also factor in the outcome among the top half of the order, but a greater chunk of the attention for most will be centered upon the return of James Hinchcliffe to the Andretti squad for the first time since 2014. The remaining two seats Saturday are filled by intriguing replacements. Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires regular Kyle Kirkwood moves up to drive the No. 28 entry normally wheeled by Ryan Hunter Reay, while Marco Andretti's No. 98 machine will be handled by former Formula One and NASCAR Cup entrant Scott Speed.
Despite the absence of the five-time Astor Cup winner Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing should still make an impact with second-year wheelmen Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson. AJ Foyt Racing meanwhile, will feature a three-car assault, led by Tony Kanaan who begins his "Last Lap" tour in the online race, alongside teammates Sebastien Bourdais and newcomer Dalton Kellett.
However, the biggest dark horse candidates for the win on Saturday may come from the IRacing aces, who could have a leg up on the first time players. Among them is Ed Carpenter Racing's lone representative this weekend in Conor Daly. The Indiana-native is a regular on the online racing scene and even has his own channel on the Twitch website, a showplace for the world's best video game players. Also no stranger to online action is Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Sage Karam, as well as defending IndyCar Rookie of the Year Santino Ferrucci who represents Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan.
Saturday's schedule will open at 4 p.m. eastern time, with a 10-minute open qualifying session that will set the starting order for the main event. Unlike normal IndyCar rounds, which feature a preset lap distance, Saturday's main course will feature a 90-minute clock that will begin at the drop of the green flag, a protocol similar to the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. The IndyCar IRacing Challenge is the first of six planned events that will through May 2. While there will not be a recognized overall champion, INDYCAR will donate proceeds to a charity of its choice.
Speedway Indiana- May 24, 2019
In celebration of his 50 years... IMS announces start of the “Robin Miller Award” for those dedicated to the service of racing. R is the first recipient.
He was an Indy Car pit crew member and drove in the USAC series in the 1970s.
Miller is best known for being a writer at The Indianapolis Star from 1968–2001. He has also written for Autoweek, Car and Driver, ESPN and Speed He currently is a correspondent and senior writer for Racer magazine and website, while also reporting on IndyCar broadcasts for the NBC sports Network
Speedway Indiana- Friday May 24,2019
Next to the Indy 500 Carb Day is the biggest event at IMS in the month of May!
Carb Day: The final practice session before the race, currently held on the Friday before race day, is called "Carburetion Day" (shortened to "Carb Day" since 2000). ... In 1969–1972, Carb Day was held the Wednesday before the race. From 1973 to 2004, Carb Day was held the Thursday before the race,
The name originally came from the fact that it was the final session where teams could tune their carburetors in conditions similar to those that might be encountered on race day. The name has remained despite the fact that no qualified car has used a carburetor since 1963.
However it is now known as the party before the race!
Racing and rock and roll are partners in the perfect party during the Miller Lite Carb Day on Friday, May 24 at IMS! Nothing turbo-charges the start of the greatest weekend in racing like the final practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the Freedom 100, the Indy 500 Pit Stop Competition and the Miller Lite Carb Day Concert featuring one of the most legendary rock bands of all time, Foreigner, all for one great price.
Speedway Indiana- 5/20/2019
Sad news to report from Indy!
Two-time Indy 500 Champion Al Unser Jr was arrested in the suburb of Indianapolis of Avon, Indiana!
According to Fox 59 in Indianapolis..
Avon police arrested two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, Jr. on an OWI charge.
Unser was booked into the Hendricks County Jail at 3:21 a.m. on Monday.
Unser faced similar legal problems in the past. He made headlines in 2002 when he was arrested after an alcohol-fueled fight with his girlfriend. He also has previous drunk driving arrests in 2007 and 2011.
Unser has been very vocal about his struggles with alcohol. In fact, just a few weeks ago he spoke with Hope Academy students to share his story of addiction as a recovering alcoholic. He said drinking was a demon he faced, and he hopes others will learn from his mistakes.
That years-long challenge has gotten him into trouble with the law before. In 2002, he was arrested for domestic battery against his girlfriend at the time. She blamed his drinking for the incident when she reported it to police. He first denied knowing her, but later said she hit him first. The charges were later dropped the woman stopped cooperating with investigators, but Unser still decided he needed help.
"Nearly every poor choice I've made in my life occurred under the influence of alcohol," he read in a statement at the time
Bobby Unser after the arrest that he'd talked to his nephew about his drinking problem. "It’s been addressed, for sure. He knows about it, but not doing anything is the problem. In other words, knowing is one thing, doing something about it is another thing and he really needs to do something about it."
Al Jr., now 57 years old, won 34 races including two Indianapolis 500s during his time as a driver, and continues working in the racing industry.