Scott McLaughlin wins! Kiwi claims Honda Indy Grand Prix iRacing victory
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Scott McLaughlin's claimed his first win in an IndyCar, albeit virtually. The New Zealander has won race two of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge against the best names in the open-wheel category at Alabama's Barber Motorsport Park.
McLaughlin used an alternate strategy to get to the front, and then battled in the final laps with Penske Racing teammate Will Power for the win. Despite a locked brake on the penultimate corner, the Supercars ace was able to hold on to claim the victory with less than a second in hand; Power and Scott Speed completing the podium.
After a lap one brawl with Speed, McLaughlin was relegated to seventh in the early laps to battle at the tail of a three-car pack with Josef Newgarden and Alex Palou. He then made a pit stop prior to the race's lap 15 competition caution on lap 14, in a unique strategy.
At the front, race one winner Sage Karam led over Power and Felix Rosenqvist. Scott Dixon, on debut in the online series, held 10th place early until a quiet spin dropped him down the order.
With a selection of cars pitting under yellow, McLaughlin was shuffled up from 14th to 12th as most cars decided to stay out without pitting. For those drivers, it would be a race of fuel and tyre saving until the end. McLaughlin on the other hand was able to push.
It was a wild lap-20 race restart. Zach Veach spun, and in the melee McLaughlin was able to move up two positions to ninth place. By lap 27, McLaughlin had cycled into the race lead as his rivals pitted.
Things went from good to great for McLaughlin, following an incident out of the pits between former leaders Karam and Rosenqvist. Battling to be the leading driver out of those to have made a late pit stop, the two clashed at the turn eight and nine chicane. Running side by side, Rosenqvist braked late and ran wide over the grass; his car briefly leaping into the air, before the two again made contact at turn nine.
Both of them subsequentlfiy spun, losing plenty of time and positions as a result. In their absence, McLaughlin's lead was hovering near 20 seconds over Speed, Robert Wickens (making his return to the sport after his life-changing 2019 crash, and using hand controls for throttle and braking), and Power. The Australian was now the new leader among the late stoppers and original leaders.
With 15 laps to go, McLaughlin decided to make another pit-stop. He rejoined in third, which then became second when Wickens stopped. Speed held a seven-second gap, and McLaughlin was less than two seconds ahead of Power.
Both Penske drivers were carving huge chunks of time out of Speed, and with seven laps to go McLaughlin had caught him. But, contrary to any hopes of a scintilating battle between Speed and McLaughlin, the former Formula 1 driver just let both Penske drivers go by at turn two without issue.
It left McLaughlin fending off Power for the last five laps. The gap had shrunken to under a second from the brief battle with Speed, gifting Power the ability to draft. The gap ebbed and flowed, but even with McLaughlin making a nail-biting brake lock at the penultimate corner on the final lap, Power wasn't able to get close enough to try and steal the win.
McLaughlin led Power home by four tenths, with Speed holding on to finish third some 13 seconds away. Palou, Simon Pagenaud, and a recovering Rosenqvist rounded out the top six. Colton Herta, Wickens, Newgarden, and Santino Ferucci completed the top 10. Dixon, after a problematic race, finshed 16th.
The series will now head to Michigan International Speedway for next weekend's showdown; the first oval race of the season.
Results: Honda Indy iRacing Grand Prix
1. Scott McLaughlin
2. Will Power
3. Scott Speed
4. Alex Palou
5. Simon Pagenaud
6. Felix Rosenqvist
7. Colton Herta
8. Robert Wickens
9. Josef Newgarden
10. Santino Ferrucci
11. Dalton Kellett
12. Jimmie Johnson
13. Sebastien Bourdais
14. Graham Rahal
15. Oliver Askew
16. Scott Dixon
17. James Hinchcliffe
18. Ed Carpenter
19. Zach Veach
20. Kyle Kirkwood
21. Kyle Kaiser
22. Alexander Rossi
23. Conor Daly
24. Pato O'Ward
25. Marcus Ericsson
DNF. Tony Kanaan
DNF. Sage Karam
DNF. Jack Harvey
DNF. Felipe Nasr