iRace Report: Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The Chevrolet 275 iRace in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge got off to a rough start as a car either missed a shift or sustained an internet glitch which triggered a multi-car crash as the cars came down for the green at virtual Michigan International Speedway.
For the veterans of the sport, the accident was reminiscent of the start of the first U.S. 500 at Michigan in 1996. Unlike that race, however, most of the virtual Indy cars were able to restart quickly after a few “quick repairs” in the pits.
Caught up in the early trouble was Tony Kanaan who started 25th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet; Kanaan was threading his way through the wreck until he was struck from behind which catapulted him in the air. He pitted for a quick repair.
Missing the wreckage was Dalton Kellett in the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet as Kellett was able to restart seventh after his initial grid position of 21st.
Sebastien Bourdais was ordered to the pits before the restart, and inexplicably, was held for 40 seconds which put him almost a lap down before the 275km race around the two-mile oval got underway for good.
In the early laps, Kellett was working his way into sixth but trying to pass on the inside groove saw him lose the draft and he slipped back through the field. By lap 20 he was 14th. But by the time he was pitting on lap 42, he had moved back up to the top 10. Contact in pit lane necessitated a quick repair and he dropped back to 17th.
By lap 60 of the 85-lap race, the running order was Kellett in 15th, Kanaan in 19th and Bourdais up to 20th. When the second green flag pit cycle started with about 10 laps to go, Kellett was sixth, Bourdais was 10th and Kanaan was 11th.
However, not everyone had to dash in for a splash of fuel. When the cars cycled out, Kellett was 16th which is where he finished.
“We knew this race was going to be wild but I honestly didn’t expect it to start before the green flag!” Kellett exclaimed. “I am happy that I was able to weave the K-Line Insulators USA #41 Chevrolet through that chaos. In the end, running a 2-stop strategy hurt us, we needed a splash with six laps to go and came out 16th. Thanks to everyone who tuned in on the broadcast and live streams.”
Kanaan finished 18th. It was the first time he was able to finish an iRace this ‘season’ since he didn’t have any technical problems in the pits.
“Big crash on the first lap and that put us behind right away,” Kanaan explained. “We couldn’t save fuel, I ran on my own the entire time. We finished this time and I’m glad we got to do the whole race. Good day for us. Despite the results, I think we entertained the fans a lot.”
Bourdais was held in the pits on his final stop for a quick repair after Felipe Nasr ran into the back of him and damaged the rear wing of the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet.
“We were a casualty of the software,” Bourdais said. "We were told to pit just before the green flag, we did, got serviced and the pits were open but we got held for 40 seconds. So we were almost a lap down as the race was starting which we never really recovered from because there was never a yellow flag. Pretty disappointed for the whole team but we were running strong after that. Got another penalty for 15 seconds on the last fuel stop and not quite sure about why that happened. [Later the team was told about the contact which Bourdais was unaware of at the time of his quote] Tried to play the fuel game but never got that lucky yellow so we’ll keep trying.”
Several cars on a different fuel strategy managed to make it to the end without pitting, giving Simon Pagenaud the win. His teammate, and last week's winner, Scott McLaughlin finished second with another 'save fuel strategy' race. Also benefitting from saving fuel was NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. who finished third in his first start in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Series.
The next race is set for Saturday, April 18 at a track that will be a ‘random draw’ which has not been announced yet.