IndyCar iRacing Challenge
(Photo: IndyCar iRacing)

IndyCar iRacing Challenge: What We Learned From Twin Ring Motegi

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge is two-thirds of the way complete after Saturday’s venture to Twin Ring Motegi, and Simon Pagenaud has his second win in just as many iRacing events. But surprisingly, his back-to-back victories were not the biggest story of this virtual return to Japan.

What can we learn from IndyCar’s outing on the Motegi oval? How should we evaluate the IndyCar iRacing Challenge as a whole now that four of six races are in the books? Here are our takeaways from Round 4 of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.

1. Does the universe hate Will Power?

How frustrated must Will Power be right now after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the Firestone 175 at Motegi? Power could have won this race if Oliver Askew hadn’t wedged himself into the battle between Power and his Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, causing McLaughlin to spin out and irreparable damage to Power’s car. Despite having no front wing, Power hung on to nab a third-place finish.

But the Australian can’t catch a break right now. He’s constantly running up front—and then constantly getting smacked down, whether it’s by strategy calls or someone else’s questionable driving. It’s one thing to lose, but it’s another when you lose because of something that’s out of your control. Power is doing everything in his, well, power to win, so he should be able to nab a checkered flag eventually. Hopefully he does, because if he drives this well and never sees it pay off, that would be deserving of a full-blown meltdown.

2. Scott Dixon’s interesting day at the office

Scott Dixon has two victories at Twin Ring Motegi on his resume, and he almost had a virtual win on Saturday. But even though he finished as runner-up, it was refreshing to see Dixon run so well in the Firestone 175.  The five-time IndyCar champion is one of the newcomers to iRacing, and his performance was proof that this six-race event isn’t going to be dominated by the drivers with gaming experience. The veterans can contend, too.

Dixon, Power and McLaughlin gave audiences some incredible racing for the lead on Saturday. The amount of tension was comparable to any real IndyCar race, and it was an absolute pleasure to watch the three champions battle it out. The only flaw was when the three of them pitted together from the lead and NBCSN told fans to watch who won the race off pit road…only to not show their pit stops or pit exits at all.

Speaking of NBCSN, it was kind of amusing to hear the commentary team joke that Dixon “rage quit” when he crashed into the rear of Pagenaud after the checkered flag. It looked more like Pagenaud stopped earlier than Dixon was expecting him to. Whatever the reason, “The Iceman” certainly had an interesting end to his race!

3. Another hitch for Hinchcliffe

This was the second time in four races that James Hinchcliffe was missing in action because of technical errors on iRacing’s part. The Andretti Autosport driver was booted out just before the Firestone 175 began, and wasn’t able to rejoin the session. Not only that, but Hinch attempted to sign in as a spotter and was banned from that as well since he had previously been logged in under “a different role.”

We mentioned this in our assessment of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge opener, but again, this is a huge blunder by iRacing and race control. If one of the drivers who’s supposed to be racing is not on the starting grid, then someone should make sure they get there. There’s no excuse for leaving someone willing and able to participate on the bench.

And why did fans watching Conor Daly‘s Twitch broadcast hear about what had happened to Hinchcliffe well before the TV viewers did? Hinch stated clearly on Daly’s Twitch that he wasn’t going to be able to race, and it took some 10 minutes before NBCSN’s Townsend Bell mentioned that he “might” not be joining the field. There needs to be more communication on all sides in the final two events.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge continues April 25 at Circuit of the Americas. If you missed Saturday’s race, you can stream it here.

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Brittany Frederick is celebrating 20 years as a professional journalist. She is also a proud member of IndyCar's 200 MPH Club. Email her at bfrederick@brittany-frederick.com.

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One comment

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    It would have been rich had Danica returned for this particular one. Kinda like returning to the scene of the crime. Who knows, she might even have thrown a roundhouse at Askew…