INDIANAPOLIS—“We kept the best for last I guess.”
So said Sebastien Bourdais who came from 14th with three laps to go to finish sixth in the final race of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge Series—the First Responders 175 presented by GMR at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday afternoon.
Bourdais started 29th, last among the A.J. Foyt Racing drivers, but managed to have a smooth race avoiding accidents and technical problems. He even led a couple laps during the pit stop cycle.
However, it was a strategy call by crew chief/spotter Chris Wheeler to pit with 11 laps to go that proved pivotal even though Bourdais went from seventh back to 16th. Several accidents among the leaders allowed Bourdais to advance through the field in the final 10 laps.
With three laps to go, leader (and last week’s winner) Lando Norris was taken out by Simon Pagenaud who was being lapped after an earlier accident with Graham Rahal (triggered by Norris) knocked Pagenaud out of the lead and into the wall. By then Bourdais had moved into ninth.
On the final lap, Marcus Ericsson took the lead only to have Pato O’Ward hit him and spin him out. O’Ward’s teammate Oliver Askew took command as O’Ward gathered it up. Coming down for the checkered, second place Santino Ferrucci veered left and took out Askew allowing Scott McLaughlin to slip by for the win. Conor Daly finished second as Ferrucci and Askew tumbled across the line in third and fourth with O’Ward taking fifth. Bourdais managed to avoid the wreckage to claim sixth, his best finish in the virtual series. It also beats his best finish of seventh in the actual Indy 500.
“And that’s a wrap for the iRacing NTT INDYCAR Series here at IMS and we kept the best for the last I guess in the ripKurrent Chevrolet A.J. Foyt Racing No. 4,” Bourdais said. “I couldn’t really be any happier with the result – finished sixth. Starting p 29, it was a bit of a survival race, but we’ll take whatever came our way. It was a very good ending to a pretty tough round for us. It was good to finish on a high and thanks to everybody for following, watching and supporting us and we’ll see you very soon hopefully at the real race tracks.”
Both Tony Kanaan and Dalton Kellett had technical issues early on.
Kellett, who had been the top finisher among the Foyt drivers in this series, experienced a technical problem with his VR headset which forced him to withdraw after several futile attempts to fix it during the race.
“That was a tough way to end the IndyCar iRacing Challenge,” Kellett said after placing 31st in the 33-car field. “Going to the grid, my VR headset went blank and I couldn’t see anything. We tried our best to diagnose the issue, but we couldn’t reset the goggles without exiting iRacing. After a few attempts, using the repeated screen on my monitor, I decided that the best course of action was to retire. With only half the field of view, pace and situational awareness were too compromised. I didn’t want to negatively affect anyone’s race, given that we were out of contention.
“However, the point of all this was to put on a good show and I know we succeeded at that! Thank you to all the fans who watched live on TV and our streams. Next time we turn laps with the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet, we will be at a real track.”
Kanaan sustained a netcode (software error) with Colton Herta which sent Kanaan into the wall thus requiring Kanaan to pit for a Fast Repair (total reset) of his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. He rejoined the race and after only a couple of laps, a car drifted high and knocked Kanaan in the left rear sending him flipping. With only one Fast Repair allowed, Kanaan was done after three laps in the 70-lap race.
“Really short day for me,” said the 2013 Indy 500 winner who finished last. “We got taken out right away. One was a netcode which is a computer glitch, and the other one was just people driving crazy so very disappointing. Short day so I’ll give you a short quote: I’m happy this is over and we’re going back to real racing.”
That race will be the Genesys 600 at Texas Motor Speedway which will kick off the actual NTT IndyCar Series season.