Jeff Gordon wins 200th pole for Hendrick; Harvick qualifies 5th, leads Champ. 4

4 Comments

A fifth Sprint Cup championship may not be in the cards for Jeff Gordon this year, but he’s secured one more bit of history for his team.

Gordon captured the 200th Sprint Cup pole position in Hendrick Motorsports history tonight at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a final round lap of 180.747 mph. He and Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag on Sunday in the Ford Ecoboost 400.

Last week at Phoenix, Gordon was eliminated from the Chase following Ryan Newman’s last-lap shove of Kyle Larson for 11th place.

That move gave Newman the last spot in the Championship 4 by one point over Gordon, but the former Rainbow Warrior is now zeroing in on finishing the season strong.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been on the pole here, number one, and to get the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports is very cool,” Gordon told ESPN. “I think the way we’re looking at this weekend is we want to finish the season off the absolute best that we can. It’s been a tremendous season for us. This 24 team has been incredible this year.

“We’re disappointed we’re not in this thing for the championship, but that’s not gonna stop us from trying to go out and win the race.”

Meanwhile, the Championship 4 had mixed fortunes in qualifying. Kevin Harvick led the quartet by qualifying fifth, while former teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano will start eighth and ninth respectively. But the winless Newman will have to rally from 21st.

Harvick said that driveability was now the main focus for him leading into Sunday’s title decider.

“This is going to be a race where you go through some changing conditions,” he said. “Today was really just about trying to get a solid starting spot and we were able to do that with our Budweiser team.”

As for Hamlin, he said that his long-run speed helped him be able to make it to the final round.

“To have an extra cycle on our tires and still be that close is very encouraging,” he said. “It’s been a great day so far…The car’s feeling really good, so we’ll see what we got.”

Logano was able to make a big improvement from his mid-pack showing in today’s afternoon practice, something that he was grateful for.

“It’s a good recovery from where we were in practice,” he said. “We’ve just got to try and keep speed in the car a little longer in qualifying but we have all off-season to figure that part out. We’ll try to figure out the race now.”

Newman said that a tight condition going into the corner hampered him, but that he wasn’t worried about his qualifying result.

“A buddy of mine once said, ‘It’s not where you start, it’s where you stop,'” he said. “We’ve got half of ’em beat to start. We’ll keep digging with the Caterpillar Chevrolet.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami – Ford Ecoboost 400
Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship Race
Qualifying Results

1. 24-Jeff Gordon
2. 41-Kurt Busch
3. 20-Matt Kenseth
4. 2-Brad Keselowski
5. 4-Kevin Harvick
6. 15-Clint Bowyer
7. 18-Kyle Busch
8. 11-Denny Hamlin
9. 22-Joey Logano
10. 78-Martin Truex Jr.
11. 88-Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12. 48-Jimmie Johnson
13. 55-Brian Vickers
14. 51-Justin Allgaier
15. 99-Carl Edwards
16. 27-Paul Menard
17. 9-Marcos Ambrose
18. 43-Aric Almirola
19. 1-Jamie McMurray
20. 16-Greg Biffle
21. 31-Ryan Newman
22. 17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. 5-Kasey Kahne
24. 3-Austin Dillon
25. 47-A.J. Allmendinger
26. 21-Trevor Bayne
27. 42-Kyle Larson
28. 14-Tony Stewart
29. 13-Casey Mears
30. 33-Brian Scott
31. 34-David Ragan
32. 10-Danica Patrick
33. 40-Landon Cassill
34. 83-J.J. Yeley
35. 38-David Gilliland
36. 36-Reed Sorenson
37. 98-Josh Wise
38. 95-Michael McDowell
39. 7-Michael Annett
40. 32-Blake Koch
41. 23-Alex Bowman
42. 26-Cole Whitt
43. 66-Brett Moffitt

Inside IndyCar’s iRacing revolution: Oliver Askew, team take it seriously

SimMetric Labs
Leave a comment

No laps have been turned in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, yet rookie Oliver Askew incessantly is analyzing fresh lap data with his Arrow McLaren SP team.

For the past two weeks, Askew has turned hundreds of laps in iRacing at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park, and his support team meticulously has scoured the data in real time.

Race engineer Blair Perschbacher, assistant engineer Mike Reggio and strategist Billy Vincent are connected via all the software and timing systems that are on Askew’s real-world No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet. After every run, numbers instantly are crunched, and Askew debriefs with his crew on improving the handling of his car in search of every fraction of a second as he would in real life.

WATCH: IndyCar iRacing Challenge, 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, NBCSN or streaming here

The only difference is Askew is sitting inside a simulation rig housed by a 45-foot trailer in West Palm Beach, Fla., while each team member is in an Indianapolis area home.

“They basically set up their own timing stands in their living rooms,” Askew told NBCSports.com. “It’s awesome.”

It’s the new reality for IndyCar, which will play host to the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) at virtual Barber Motorsports Park.

Last Saturday, Askew started and finished fifth at Watkins Glen International, where he practiced with the advisement of his team for more than 15 hours in the SimMetric Driver Performance Labs simulator. Despite a relative sim racing newbie, Askew, 23, finished only two spots behind Will Power, who has more than 1,500 starts and 150 victories on iRacing road courses.

Askew already has practiced for more than 10 hours this week in his simulator for Barber, where he hopes to make the podium against a 29-driver field that will include many champions and winners.

“We’re taking this very seriously,” he said. “You can tell by the results at Watkins Glen. You know which drivers have built their sims properly. How much they’ve been practicing. Those are the guys who finish up front.

“I’m still trying to represent everyone. It’s cool we have the same paint scheme. We’re just trying to represent Arrow and our partners the best as possible. We know they’re all watching, and it seems the viewership is going up.”


The Jupiter, Florida, native has found an edge through his friendship with SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, which is based in nearby West Palm Beach, Florida. Askew and SimMetric CEO Greg De Giorgis met last year through mutual friends. Last year, Askew had done a few simulator sessions before winning the 2019 Indy Lights championship (and graduating to the ride with Arrow McLaren SP).

With an official simulator partnership in the Road to Indy program, SimMetric’s CXC Motion Pro II simulator travels in a trailer to racing events around the country, providing drivers with extra preparation time for the real world.

The full-motion simulator includes a motion system developed by drivers and engineers, hyrdaulic brakes and force-feedback steering system. Though at the high end for simulators available to the general public, it retails for much less than the seven-figure simulators used by auto manufacturers with race programs.

“While time in a driving simulator will never fully replace real seat time, sim seat time can go a very long way in supplementing the seat time a driver gets,” De Giorgis told NBCSports.com in an email. “With three added benefits you don’t get in the real car: Significantly lower cost per hour, no risk of bodily harm or damage to the car, and of course, no limitations on time.”

There are some limitations for how much Askew can practice, though. A schedule was set up last week so the team, Askew and De Giorgis (who helps run the simulator and maintain communications with the team) could work together while also maintaining self-isolation with their families.

RACING RETURN: Robert Wickens ‘just excited to drive’

‘BAD FOR MARRIAGE, GREAT FOR QUARANTINE:’ Graham Rahal on iRacing

The trailer with the simulator is parked indoors at the Riviera Beach, Florida, shop of Extreme Velocity Motorsports, which also has an unofficial affiliation with SimMetric.

“We’re practicing social distancing and making sure the trailer and everything is clean,” Askew said. “We’re taking that very seriously. It’s still a job for me, so I need to get what I can out of it.”

He’s gotten a lot from it despite a lack of experience. The team can compare simulation data from iRacing to real-world historical data from past races and test sessions.

Reggio handles fuel data, and Simpson monitors strategy and timing. While setups are fixed for the iRacing IndyCar Challenge, Perschbacher is able to work with brake bias. “He’s just trying to bend the rules as much as we can,” Askew said. “We’ve done a lot with brake bias. That’s pretty much all we can change.”

Fans also can watch Askew practicing via a YouTube channel provided by De Giorgis, who has chatted with viewers about the car’s laps in real time during the streams that are available by clicking here.

Fans will be able to find a live stream of Askew’s race Saturday by clicking here.


It’s all relatively new to Askew, who doesn’t even have a sim rig at his Indianapolis home. His previous sim experience mainly came on the Chevrolet simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina.

“Honesty, for me personally, I’m a little late to the party,” Askew said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. I’m young and they assumed I’ve been doing this. I’ve never even had my own iRacing account before. Guys like (McLaren driver) Lando Norris, (Watkins Glen winner) Sage (Karam), all these guys have been streaming live on Twitch and have been running iRacing for multiple years now.

“ It’s a great way to get fans engaged in the race weekend and get eSports get bigger and bigger every year. Very interesting moving forward. It’s cool that IndyCar has dipped their feet into these waters now. Even once the season starts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these races.”

If so, he and his team have learned to keep an eye on Power, a real-world ace on road courses. During some practice races Thursday, Askew thought he’d done well by qualifying third, but Power then put a half-second on the field by winning the pole position.

“Will is unbelievably quick and does the same things in real life as well,” said Askew, who did turn the fastest lap in the practice race. “He just pulls it out somehow. That’s where the engineers and our staff in Indy come into play because they’re able to watch his on-board in real time and replay his on board to figure out what he’s doing to get the most of out of his car in the video game.

“It gets the creative juices flowing again. It’s still very different from real life, but I think we’re going to be able to start the season a little more fresh than we would have without this.”

Chris Graythen / Getty Images