The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues Saturday, April 11 with the Chevrolet 275 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET at Michigan International Speedway.
The event, which will last approximately 75 minutes, will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, Paul Tracy and Marty Snider will call the action. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by NBC’s “The Voice” contestant Beth Griffith-Manley singing the national anthem and NBC Sports host Mike Tirico giving the command to start engines.
The entry list of 31 drivers – up from 29 last week at Barber Motorsports Park and 25 from the series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen International – includes series champions Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, six Indianapolis 500 winners and collectively has registered 209 series victories.
Two-time Daytona 500 winner and NBC Sports motorsports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. is making his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge this week.
The Chevrolet 275 is the third of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. After this event, remaining races include a "Random Draw" track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR "Dream" track (May 2).
Here are "5 Things To Look For..." heading into Saturday's Chevrolet 275:
‘Round and Round’
The Chevrolet 275 is the first oval race in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge after events at two natural terrain road courses, Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park. All competitors will use fixed setups from iRacing, which will create big packs of cars slipstreaming for position.
The fuel window for this 85-lap race is approximately 37 laps, slightly less than half of the race distance. So, depending on the number of caution periods, drivers and their team strategists could decide on two stops for service or try to stretch fuel to finish the race on one stop, creating even more strategic elements. There will be no competition caution to bunch the field Saturday, unlike Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park.
There will be 31 drivers in this race, the largest field yet in the virtual racing series.
‘Andretti Fleet Grows’
Andretti Autosport is the largest team in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and that’s also the case in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge with the addition of two more team drivers to the Chevrolet 275 field.
2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay is making his series debut in the No. 28 DHL Honda, while 2006 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Marco Andretti also joins the virtual sim racing world in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda.
Their addition increases the Andretti fleet to six drivers in the 31-car field at Michigan International Speedway, joining teammates Colton Herta, James Hinchcliffe, Alexander Rossi and Zach Veach.
‘Hello, Dale Jr.’
NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. visited the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge for the first time last May in his role as a motorsports analyst for NBC Sports. Now Earnhardt is diving into competition in INDYCAR – in the virtual world – by racing Saturday in the Chevrolet 275.
While this is Earnhardt’s debut in the series, he is an avid virtual racer and has competed in iRacing since the racing simulation launched in 2008. Earnhardt will drive a Chevrolet sponsored by longtime backer Nationwide, carrying the No. 3 made famous by his late father, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt.
Earnhardt has been an enthusiastic participant in pre-race practice sessions this week, chatting with INDYCAR drivers for tips about how the aerodynamics and handling of Indy cars differ from stock cars.
This race will cap an eventful week for Earnhardt, who was named Wednesday as a nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021.
‘McLaughlin Ruling Sim World’
Scott McLaughlin has won the last two Virgin Australia Supercars championships for DJR Team Penske, and he’s enjoying similar success in virtual racing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand native McLaughlin will aim for his fourth sim race victory in eight days in the Chevrolet 275 on Saturday, driving the No. 2 Snap-on Tools Dallara for Team Penske. He started his hot streak in the virtual world by winning Round 2 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Saturday, April 4.
Veteran sim racer McLaughlin then followed with wins in two of the three Supercars All Stars eSeries on Wednesday night, April 8, taking the checkered flag at virtual Phillip Island in Australia and virtual Monza in Italy.
‘Road to Indy Virtual Race’
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge provides an uncanny resemblance to actual INDYCAR races, including an invocation, performance of the national anthem and a command to start engines during pre-race before on-track action that looks a lot like the real thing.
That customary cadence of an INDYCAR weekend will reach a new dimension this weekend, as 36 drivers from the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder series will compete in Round 3 of the Ricmotech RTI Racing eSeries at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, just 90 minutes before the start of the Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway.
Round 3 of the Road to Indy virtual series will take place on the road course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and will be streamed live on Road to Indy website and app, ApexRacingTV’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the iRacing eSports Network and the series’ respective Facebook platforms.
Indy Pro 2000 Championship regular Phillippe Denes leads the eSeries by 18 points after two victories. USF2000 Championship driver Eduardo Barrichello, son of Formula One and Indianapolis 500 veteran Rubens Barrichello, is second in the standings.