Sage Karam wins IndyCar iRacing inaugural event at Watkins Glen

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VIRTUAL WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Sage Karam won the opener of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, leading virtually start fo finish at Watkins Glen International.

Karam, who drives a partial schedule for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, started on the pole position and was hardly challenged over the 45-lap event. He yielded the lead (to Will Power) only twice on mandatory pit stops during the caution-free American Red Cross Grand Prix.

“It was nerve-wracking for sure at the end,” Karam, who missed a spin by Kyle Kaiser late in the race to keep the lead, told the IndyCar on NBC booth of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. “It was a lot of fun, and it’s just great we can give the fans something to watch.”

Karam led 43 of 45 laps en route to his 144th victory in 533 road-course starts on iRacing (and 165 win overall).

Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing was second, followed by Will Power and Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske. Oliver Askew was fifth.

Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Santino Ferrucci, Kyle Kirkwood and Conor Daly rounded out the top 10.

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: A roundup of the postrace reaction

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson started 19th and finished two laps down in 16th after a head-on crash with the Armco barrier on Lap 34 (drivers were allowed two resets for damage).

Click here for the full box score from the race at Watkins Glen International.

Some well-known IndyCar drivers had early problems, and some were beyond their control.

The race started one short of its 25-driver field, and James Hinchcliffe explained why via social media (where he spent much of the race chatting with fans on Instagram).

“It was akin to having a throttle stick in pit lane,” Hinchcliffe told the IndyCar on NBC crew. “That was pretty unfortunate.”

Alexander Rossi (17th) fell multiple laps down after a crash with Marcus Ericsson on the second lap. Three of the four Team Penske drivers — Pagenaud, McLaughlin and Newgarden — were involved in a crash with Askew on the sixth lap.

Colton Herta (22nd) and Tony Kanaan (24th) both retired within the first 10 laps after going off course.

The race lost another entrant before the green flag. After a last-ditch effort to prepare his simulation rig, Robert Wickens was foiled when a steering wheel didn’t arrive at his Indianapolis home in time.

During an in-race interview on the stream, Wickens told Diffey that he hopes to be racing next week when the series heads to Barber Motorsports Park.