Event #2: The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst
‘5 Things To Look For …’ heading into Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, continues Saturday, April 4 with the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET at Barber Motorsports Park.
The event, which will last approximately 60 minutes, will be broadcast live on NBCSN. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will call the action. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by 2019 Miss Alabama Tiara Pennington singing the national anthem and NBA and Auburn University legend Charles Barkley giving the command to start engines.
The entry list of 29 drivers – up from 25 from the series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen International – includes series champions Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, five Indianapolis 500 winners and collectively has registered 189 series victories.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson also is back this week after starting 19th and finishing 16th last Saturday at Watkins Glen in his first competition in an Indy car, albeit virtual.
The Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is the second of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. After this event, remaining races include a "Driver's Choice" track (April 11), 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 Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama:
The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge field has grown to 29 drivers for the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama this Saturday with the addition of five-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), 2018 series Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens (Arrow McLaren SP), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge pole winner Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing).
All drivers in this week’s field – including the four newcomers – will encounter a new strategic element, as a competition caution period will bunch the field on Lap 15. A single-file restart will follow the three-lap caution period.
‘Welcome Back, Robert’
2018 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Robert Wickens will return to competition this weekend as he makes his INDYCAR iRacing Challenge debut in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Wickens, from Guelph, Ontario, suffered serious injuries in an accident during an INDYCAR race in July 2018 at Pocono Raceway. He will compete Saturday in a SimCraft simulator with special hand controls because of restricted use of his legs and feet due to a spinal cord injury suffered in the crash.
Former INDYCAR driver and current INDYCAR race steward Max Papis is helping Wickens’ efforts to compete virtually. Papis’ steering wheel company, Max Papis Innovations, designed and produced a custom wheel with hand controls for Wickens. The unit arrived at Wickens’ home Thursday, April 2, but he didn’t have enough time to get acclimated with it before Saturday’s race, so he will use the MPI unit at future rounds of the virtual series.
While Wickens is excited to compete virtually, he sees the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge as another important step in his goal to return to real race cars. His journey also has included tireless hours of physical therapy and rehabilitation, which he has documented often and inspired millions with on social media.
“The biggest thing for me is although this is fun, I see this as the long-term project of getting me back into the race car,” Wickens said. “I always knew through simulation was going to be the best way to trial different handbrake or paddle configurations. This is step one of a hundred to get me back into the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.”
Sage Karam, a veteran and successful iRacing competitor, so dominated the inaugural round of the series Saturday, March 28 that his rivals have sought his advice this week during preparation for the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Karam won the pole and led 43 of the 45 laps in his No. 24 WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet to beat Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing to the checkered flag by 3.6174 seconds at Watkins Glen International.
Now that he’s a marked man as the current king of INDYCAR iRacing, Karam is dispensing tips to his rivals – to a point.
“It’s fun to help them get up to speed in iRacing,” Karam said. “I just don’t want to give them too much information as I am still competing against them each week from my home. If I can help make the overall product more competitive, it will be great for the racing on the screen and the racing fans.”
‘Carpenter Back on the Road’
Ed Carpenter is known and respected as one of the best oval racers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. All three of his career series victories have come on circle tracks, and he also has won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 three times.
Road racing? Well, not so fast. Ed Carpenter Racing owner-driver Carpenter has driven only in oval events for the last six-plus years, with his last road-course start in the series coming Oct. 6, 2013 on the street course in Houston.
But the lure of competing against his friends and rivals in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge was too much for Carpenter to resist. So, he’s hitting the road and making his virtual series debut Sunday in the No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet. Carpenter is using the No. 21 of ECR teammate Rinus VeeKay because ECR teammate Conor Daly already is using Carpenter’s No. 20 virtual car, as Daly will compete in all real NTT INDYCAR SERIES road and street events this season in the No. 20.
“I am looking forward to finally getting some racing in on Saturday,” Carpenter said. “It has been a long time since I competed in a road race. Both the cars and iRacing have changed quite a lot. I am a week late to the party, but hopefully I will be up to speed enough to give the 21 car a good ride!
“I know my friends and family are excited to watch me, so no pressure! Hopefully everyone tunes into NBCSN and enjoys a little bit of relief from their quarantine.”
‘Turns for Troops’
United Rentals and NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran Graham Rahal are teaming up to continue the Turns for Troops program during the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. United Rentals has committed to donate $50 per lap that Rahal completes this season to the SoldierStrong program to help improve the lives of U.S. military veterans.
Through cutting-edge rehabilitation, recovery and scholarship programs, SoldierStrong transforms the lives of U.S. service members by empowering them to regain their mobility, freedom and overall sense of identity.
Fans can learn more about Turns for Troops and SoldierStrong by visiting turnsfortroops.ur.com.
NBC Sports Presents INDYCAR iRacing Challenge from Virtual Barber Motorsports Park
Saturday on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET
Inaugural Presentation of INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on NBCSN
NBC Sports INDYCAR Commentary Team of Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell Will Call Saturday's Event
Event to Stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App
NBC Sports presents the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a live, virtual racing event featuring a field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, this Saturday with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the virtual Barber Motorsports Park live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The event will mark the inaugural INDYCAR iRacing event to appear on NBCSN.
More than two dozen INDYCAR drivers are expected to compete in this weekend's INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, two-time and reigning series champion Josef Newgarden, and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. Last Saturday, 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam won the inaugural INDYCAR iRacing Challenge American Red Cross Grand Prix at the virtual Watkins Glen International.
NBC Sports' lead INDYCAR broadcast team of Leigh Diffey (play-by-play), Paul Tracy (analyst), and Townsend Bell (analyst) will call the action.
This marks the latest collaboration between NBC Sports and iRacing, which began in 2019 when NBC Sports telecast the first-ever eNASCAR live event on television. NBC Sports and iRacing teamed up to present the 2019 eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze iRacing Championship in a two-hour event live on NBCSN last October.
Event #1: The American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International
INDIANAPOLIS (March 27, 2020) - The INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, a virtual racing event featuring a full field of NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, begins this weekend with Saturday's American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International beginning at 4 p.m. ET.
The event, which will last approximately 90 minutes, will be streamed through INDYCAR.com while INDYCAR's YouTube and Facebook platforms as well as iRacing's Twitch will serve as additional outlets for viewing. The NBC broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be calling the action. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by iconic national anthem singer Jim Cornelison adding his voice as he has for the past three Indianapolis 500s.
The entry list of 25 drivers includes series champions Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Tony Kanaan, four Indianapolis 500 winners and collectively has registered 140 series victories. The Team Penske trio of Newgarden, Pagenaud and Power, along with the A.J. Foyt Racing duo of Bourdais and Kanaan, have combined for nine series championships led by Bourdais' four and two by Newgarden.
If that wasn't enough talent, a driver with a record-tying seven NASCAR Cup Series crowns - Jimmie Johnson - will join the virtual race as a "special guest" entrant.
The American Red Cross Grand Prix is the first of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. The opening event will be followed by others at Barber Motorsports Park (April 4), a "Driver's Choice" track (April 11), a "Random Draw" track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR "Dream" track (May 2).
Fan Vote: Live Bracket
Thursday, March 26: Final Round
After six days of voting, we've now reached the pinnacle of the Fan Vote for the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. On one side, representing the road courses, is the full course of Watkins Glen International. On the other, representing the ovals tracks, is Michigan International Speedway. Two will enter, one will reign supreme. It's time for the fans to decide ... which of these two prestigious tracks will our drivers take on this Saturday, March 28th at 4 p.m. ET?
Wednesday, March 25: Semifinal 2
Our second INDYCAR iRacing Challenge semifinal brought the speed with two of the fastest ovals on the planet. It's Michigan International Speedway paired up against its twin sister track, Auto Club Speedway. In the end, the Irish eyes were smiling in the Irish Hills region of Michigan, as MIS swept all three polls and moves onto the final round!
Tuesday, March 24: Semifinal 1
Our first INDYCAR iRacing Challenge semifinal took it on the road, as the full course at Watkins Glen International matched up against Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. While the famed island circuit in Quebec and current home of Forumula 1's Canadian Grand Prix took down Sebring earlier in the week, Watkins Glen gave Montreal "the boot" in convincing fashion across all three voting platforms. Watkins Glen moves onto the final fan vote starting Thursday morning!
Monday, March 23: Round 1
Our final Round 1 matchup put the Far East against the Far West, as Japan's Twin Ring Motegi went toe-to-toe against Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. INDYCAR.com had it for Auto Club by 41 votes. Twitter had it for Motegi by 92 votes. As for Instagram ..... Auto Club wins by 489 votes! Not quite what we'd call a landslide, but the voice of the fan is clear ... Auto Club Speedway moves onto the semifinals!
Sunday, March 22: Round 1
The our third track matchup featured two completely different style road courses from two different countries. In the US vs. Canada showdown, Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve gets the fan vote over Sebring Raceway, moving the picturesque track onto the semifinals!
Saturday, March 21: Round 1
The second track matchup put two beloved Midwestern ovals head-to-head. While the Milwaukee Mile narrowly won the general election on INDYCAR.com and on Twitter, it was Michigan that dominated the Instagram vote by over 700, turning the tight battle close battle into victory. Michigan International Speedway moves onto the semifinals!
Friday, March 20: Round 1
In a battle of two world-class road courses going head-to-head in an East vs. West matchup, Watkins Glen International emerges victorious over Sonoma Raceway and moves on to the semifinals.