iRace Report: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

April 5, 2020

 

LEEDS, Ala.--The second event of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Series, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst at Barber Motorsports Park, was broadcast on NBC Sports Network today and featured a bit more action than last week’s inaugural event at Watkins Glen International.

 

Scott McLaughlin, a two-time Australia Supercars champion and a 10-year veteran of iRacing, grabbed the win from his home in Brisbane, Australia, after a strategy call by his North Carolina-based engineering team paid off. He fended off his fast-closing teammate Will Power, also an iRacing veteran, to claim his first INDYCAR checkered, albeit a virtual one. Third through fifth were Scott Speed (subbing for Marco Andretti), Alex Palou and Simon Pagenaud.

 

For the A.J. Foyt Racing team, INDYCAR rookie Dalton Kellett once again emerged the top finisher with his second straight 11th place finish in the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet. Starting 20th, Kellett had been in the top-10 but a skirmish with Oliver Askew with two laps remaining saw him drop to 11th once he got back on track. 

Dalton Kellett was looking at a top-10 finish with two laps to go.

 

“It was a fun race,” Kellett said afterwards. “Was slowly chipping away at it and staying out of trouble -- for the most part. Had a spin coming out of the pits on cold tires—I’m still getting used to how the car feels with different levels of grip. Then I got into the back of Askew right near the end, but I only lost one spot there...I know we’re all staying safe in quarantine but this is a good way for us to have fun in the meantime.”

 

Sebastien Bourdais was able to improve his performance in the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet this week by finishing 13th after starting 28th. 

Sebastien Bourdais brought the No. 4 Tresiba car home in 13th place.  

 

“Tough race but we finished on the lead lap in 13th place with the Tresiba car,” Bourdais summed up. “Really kind of happy to have finished it. The result is not great but I’m still really trying to learn and experiment with this. It’s very new for me and we’ll keep working on it. It was a very interesting race. Decided to start at the back but it didn’t quite work out—we still got tangled up in stuff. But we made it to the finish and I’m looking forward to the first oval track next week.”

 

Tony Kanaan’s weekend did not start out well as his sim setup broke yesterday evening and he scrambled to find another sim setup to use. His friends at PitFit came through and Kanaan did the race from that simulator. 

 

However, for the second straight week, Tony Kanaan and his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet were victims of a system error. Kanaan had been running in the top half of the field of 29 eCars. First he sustained a netcode when Graham Rahal got too close behind Kanaan and Kanaan spun and got tagged by Marcus Ericcson. Kanaan pitted for a Fast Repair (backup car) but then was unable to exit the pits. The engineers at iRacing were not able to figure out the problem before the race ended so Kanaan was stuck in the pits for the balance of the race. He placed 26th.

Tony Kanaan at the start of the race began moving his way through the field.

 

“Very frustrating!” Kanaan said. “I spent a lot of time this week preparing for this race. I came into the pits and got told that ‘we don’t know what happened but the car couldn’t leave the pits.’ So whatever the problem is, they’re (engineers at iRacing) are going to give me an answer at some point. That’s the beauty of technology, right? Very frustrated but happy that we entertained the fans and hopefully they had some fun. I had fun until nobody could explain why I couldn’t leave the pits but, on to the next one.”

 

The next race in the virtual INDYCAR series will be at the virtual Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, April 11. It is still to be determined whether it will be broadcast on TV or streamed live on Indycar.com.

 

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