Saturday marked the end of IndyCar's iRacing Challenge series at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an event which was conclusively won by Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin. However, the closing laps were filled with catastrophes that displaced a handful of potential winners, knocking them out of contention and into the catch fence. Looking back, the most dramatic of those incidents came when Simon Pagenaud went to intentionally slow then-leader Lando Norris, though he ended up crashing the McLaren Formula 1 driver and preventing him from winning his second consecutive iRacing Challenge race.
Pagenaud, who won the most recent Indianapolis 500 in real life, was stuck as a backmarker late in the race. He exited the pits with around five laps to go in the 175-mile contest and could be heard on his Twitch stream saying, "We take Lando out. Let's do it!" The Frenchman also mentioned Lando's name moments later, though the broadcast cut out and it's all but impossible to tell exactly what he said.
Fast forward a few laps and Pagenaud was working to slow Norris' No. 04 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet around the 2.5-mile speedway. Apparently, he wanted Norris' teammate Oliver Askew to win the event and hoped to narrow the gap between those two drivers. That all backfired when Norris rammed into the slow-going Pagenaud, sending his Papaya Orange racer into the air with only two laps until the finish.
Norris was understandably miffed by this and gave his two cents on the incident following the checkered flag, explaining that Pagenaud had actually called to make amends.
"He apologized," Norris his Twitch followers. "He said he wanted to come into the pits and he wanted to slow me up, and he wanted Askew to win, he didn't want me to win."
"So he tried slowing me up a little bit and was going to come into the pits. Had no intention of taking me out. Just wanted to slow me down...by letting off in the middle of the corner and braking right in front of me. So yeah."
"Do you know how many hours, how much time I put into the left [turn]? How many hours I've spent driving in a straight line and then just doing this," Norris continued. "I must have spent a day in total, I reckon I've spent 24 hours flicking driving in a straight line and turning left, trying to perfect it. With the most delicate touch, I've tried doing it one-handed, with my knee...24 hours!"
"And then because that guy gets a bit salty that a non-IndyCar driver is about to win an Indy race. It just ruins it. So, yeah, that's that."
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown wasn't impressed, either, as he criticized Pagenaud on Twitter for the move.
Separately from this incident, the aforementioned Askew and Santino Ferrucci were battling for P1 around the final corner of the 70-lap race. Askew was ahead by a nose and Ferrucci dove into his opponent's car, forcing him to flip wildly into the air. As a result, McLaughlin inherited the win while Conor Daly commandeered second. Ferrucci placed third and Askew, in fourth.
Ferrucci was criticized for his harsh move—as he has been in the past—but shrugged it off initially. Here's his initial reaction when being confronted by Askew:
Later, though, he admitted fault given the last-lap context of the crash.
"I watched everybody get slowed up there coming out of the last corner," Ferrucci said later. "I was catching Askew, and I've been running a lot of different series lately, and I was trying to get on his door because of the NASCAR style.
"I got a little too close, and I think I turned just a touch too aggressive, and that's my fault. That's definitely my mistake there.
"I did not mean to come across the line through the air to a virtual finish, but also at the end of the day, we're racing on a video game, and I am second, he is first, and I was doing everything I could to put our car in first place in Victory Lane."
Got a tip? Send us a note: email@example.com