Pagenaud gets it done at Michigan in Esports IndyCar race
Penske’s Simon Pagenaud put together the perfect blend of speed and strategy to win Saturday’s ‘Chevrolet 275’ at Michigan, the third round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.
The 2019 Indy 500 winner beat Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin to the checkered flag by 13.4 seconds while IndyCar sim rookie Dale Earnhardt Jr. clocked in an impressive third.
Pagenaud’s comfortable winning margin masked a thrilling battle that took place over the course of the 85-lap event held on Michigan’s super speedway where IndyCar last race in the real world in 2007.
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The event featured no less than nine leaders and 18 lead changes, with Chip Ganassi’s pole-sitter Marcus Ericsson heading the field at the start from Will Power and Felipe Nasr.
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There was carnage early on however on the front straightaway involving Marco Andretti, Felix Rosenqvist and Robert Wickens, but the crash was the event’s only caution period.
The restart saw Power take over from Ericsson while Sage Karam and Nasr holding on to third and fourth. Karam was the first front-runner to pit on lap 40, followed by Power a lap later. The two men resumed their battle up front, with Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter in pursuit.
Another round of pit stops just 15 laps from the end coupled with a few mishaps reshuffled the lead, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach, Pagenaud, Kyle Kaiser and Earnhardt forming the top five.
But fuel was scarce among the group, forcing most to ease off. But Pagenaud made it stick while McLaughlin passed Earnhardt for second. Power, Rahal and Jack Harvey rounded off the top six.
Earnhardt Jr. was delighted with his first competitive experience in the virtual world.
“It was a lot of fun,” said the NASCAR star. “We got a little damage in that wreck on the front straightaway at the start of the race. I had a real bad push in the car, so I couldn’t really run with the lead pack.
“A lot of those guys were pretty ticked off about how the strategy worked out for them with that wreck on the front straightaway at the start. It took a bunch of guys down pit road and put a bunch of us in fuel-mileage mode.
“The fastest cars didn’t win, the best sim racer today probably didn’t win, but this is the closest I’ll probably get to the real thing. That’s why I like it.”
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