This weekend’s IndyCar iRacing Challenge takes place at Barber Motorsports Park, the track that IndyCar drivers were originally set to run this weekend in person before the current situation unfolded.
Almost the entire current driver lineup will be present for the virtual race once again, with Ed Carpenter, Jack Harvey, and five-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon joining for their first iRacing race. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will also be in the lineup to further improve his skills in the new discipline.
Additionally, 2018 rookie of the year Robert Wickens will be joining the field with a Fanatec McLaren-based steering wheel allowing him to use hand controls for throttle and brake application. Wickens was severely injured in a crash at Pocono late in 2018 and has been rehabilitating ever since with the intent to go back racing as soon as he is able.
“It’s kind of a mental overload,” said Wickens talking about the practice he’s been putting in. “My brain was exploding from trying to figure out how to use the handbrakes, to learn the feeling of it and everything. A lot of work to do in a short amount of time. I was hoping I’d pick it up a lot quicker than I am.
“For example, with the steering angle you need for turn five in Barber, I can’t reach the throttle at the apex. I need some adapting to carry enough entry speed to not lose lap time. It’s all a compromise right now.”
Graham Rahal echoed the feelings of many of the other drivers in being glad to be able to race alongside Wickens again. “He’s a guy who is just from day one committed to getting back on his feet, to getting back in a racecar. It’s great to have him out here competing with us.
“Hopefully we can keep up with him a little better on the sim than real life.”
The impressive 29-car lineup of professional drivers will run for half of the normal race distance, with the 45-lap event expected to take place over the course of one hour.
New for this weekend will be a competition caution approximately two-thirds of the way through the race to help bring the field closer together. The caution will last for three laps and, after a full round of pit stops, will end with a single-file restart and a sprint to the finish.
This change came about because, while there was good racing throughout the field for last weekend’s inaugural iRacing Challenge, Sage Karam paced the field and was never really in danger of losing the lead as long as he stayed clear of any mishaps.
Karam is one of the drivers that races with a simulator at home extensively and it proved to be a massive advantage for him. However, there has now been an additional week for the rest of the field to practice with their own set-ups, and there is a real possibility he will have some more pressure at the front of the field.
The race from Barber is the second of a planned six iRacing IndyCar events and will be once again professionally commentated by the NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.
The event begins at 14:30 Eastern Time on Saturday and will be available to watch on NBCSN in the US. The event will also be streamed through IndyCar’s own website and their YouTube and Facebook pages as well.