Virtual IndyCar Rookie Scott McLaughlin Takes iRacing Challenge Victory at Barber
The lightning-quick Kiwi managed to finish narrowly ahead of his Team Penske compatriot Will Power.
The traveling virtual circus of IndyCar iRacing Challenge competitors visited a precisely scanned version of Barber Motorsport Park on Saturday, marking the sim racing series' second stop. Rather than a seasoned IndyCar pro nabbing the checkered flag, however, it was Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin—a two-time Australian V8 Supercars champion—who is yet to drive one of the open-wheeled racers in a real-life contest.
McLaughlin, who finished fourth at last weekend's Watkins Glen competition, was able to out-pace his teammate Will Power to take his inaugural victory in any type of IndyCar competition. It all came about thanks to a perfectly executed two-stopper, which allowed him a massive run toward the race's end. Conclusively, McLaughlin had the speed—and the tires—to track down Power, who would cross the line in P2.
“That was a great call by Jonathan [Diuguid],” said McLaughlin of his Team Penske race engineer. “Last week I was trying to figure out my own mileage and strategy; it was much easier this week with his help. Getting me out in clear air was the difference and I could really run hard.
Power seceded the lead with six laps to go and was unable to catch McLaughlin on the final lap, though the finish was respectably close between the two hotshoes from Australia and New Zealand, respectively.
McLaughlin took part in the mandatory pit stop on Lap 15 but held out while the majority of the field stopped for tires later on. He built a 17-second lead to second place before pulling into pit lane, quickly exiting behind then-leader Scott Speed of Andretti Autosport on Lap 27. This was enough to give McLaughlin's Chevrolet-powered digital Dallara the edge that he capitalized on for the win.
Speed, who was subbing for Mario Andretti, managed to hang onto third ahead of Alex Palou in fourth and last year's Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud in fifth.
“I started iRacing 10 years ago and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” added McLaughlin, who has never actually driven at Barber Motorsport Park, located far from home in Birmingham, Alabama. “It’s been an awesome tool for me, keeps me sharp between races, and I love it.”
Arrow McLaren Schmidt Peterson driver Robert Wickens surmounted a spectacular comeback after starting 29th due to a crash in qualifying. The Canadian utilized his specially built steering wheel, which helped him sim race despite his injuries from a treacherous 2018 Pocono crash, to finish in eighth place at day's end.
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