IndyCar newsflash: Karam and McLaughlin win virtual season opening rounds

IndyCar newsflash: Karam and McLaughlin win virtual season opening rounds
Chris Graythen (Getty Images)

Sage Karam and Scott McLaughlin win virtual races in Watkins Glen and Barber – Robert Wickens returns in virtual IndyCar – Indy 500 postponed to end of August and planned super event in July

The IndyCar Series started on March 28 and April 4 with its virtual iRacing challenge consisting of six scheduled races. Almost the entire driver line-up of the IndyCar Series as well as seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, among others, took part.

The American Sage Karam dominated the first race on the virtual track in Watkins Glen with pole position and a subsequent start-finish victory. The Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver with the number 24 beat Felix Rosenqvist and Will Power to places two and three.

Scott McLaughlin and Oliver Askew came fourth and fifth. Virtual IndyCar debutant Jimmie Johnson had a competitive start and qualified ninth, but only finished 16th in the race after a few incidents.

At the second stop of the IndyCar iRacing challenge at the virtual Barber Motorsports Park, two-time Australian Supercar Champion Scott McLaughlin excelled and secured victory. Starting from eighth place, the New Zealander drove a brilliant race and made perfect use of a two-stop strategy.

Penske team mate Will Power put McLaughlin under enormous pressure in the final laps, but in the end narrowly had to settle for second place. Scott Speed finished on the last place of the podium, while IndyCar rookie Alex Palou and reigning Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud finished fourth and fifth.

Robert Wickens makes a remarkable comeback

Credits: Dana Garrett

Canadian Robert Wickens was also on the grid for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing challenge. The driver, who had a severe accident in Pocono in 2018, was the driver of the day for many, after the 31-year-old made a sensational recovery drive in the race.

Due to a crash in qualifying, Wickens had to tackle the race from 29th and last. However, the Arrow McLaren SP driver did not let that setback discourage him and eventually crossed the finish line in a fantastic eighth place.

Wickens, who is still in rehab after his terrible accident and who requires a special steering wheel that features throttle and brake pedals, should actually have been on the grid at the first virtual race in Watkins Glen already. However, delays in the delivery of his equipment ultimately prevented his start in the opening race.

Indy 500 with new date in August and planned super event in July

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, further changes have been made to the IndyCar Series’ calendar. As a result, the Indy 500 was moved from May 24 to August 23. The start of the season will also be delayed further, as the Indy GP was rescheduled from May 9 to July 4. Since the double header in Detroit at the end of May has been suspended in the meantime as well, the new season will not start before June 6 at the Texas Motor Speedway oval.

Should the date of the Indy GP on July 4 remain intact, a historic super event would take place on American Independence Day weekend. Beside the Indy GP, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the NASCAR Cup Series’ Brickyard 400 and the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Pennzoil 150 at the same time. It would be the first time in the long tradition of IndyCar and NASCAR that a joint race weekend would take place.

Chris Liemann