Today’s iRacing IndyCar race at virtual Watkins Glen: Start time, more

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The NTT IndyCar Series will return to Watkins Glen International to begin a new era this afternoon, kicking off the six-race IndyCar iRacing Challenge online racing series.

The 4 p.m. ET race will feature a lineup chock full of IndyCar stars such as Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud.

It also will feature seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who has talked openly about wanting to race real-world IndyCar once his full-time NASCAR career has ended.

RESULTS: Where everyone finished at Watkins Glen

WHAT THEY SAID: IndyCar drivers react to their iRacing Challenge debuts

Scott McLaughlin, the two-time Supercars champion in the race, has 497 victories in 1,189 iRacing starts (which leads the field) and 178 wins on road courses.

Power (156 wins in 1,145 road-course starts in iRacing) also is a driver to watch with Scott Speed (71 wins in 160 iRacing road-course starts) and Sage Karam (143 wins in 532 starts).

Here is the information on today’s virtual race:

GREEN FLAG: Shortly after 4 p.m. ET

HOW TO WATCH: Stream the race via http://www.IndyCar.com or via IndyCar’s Facebook and YouTube platforms. It also can be seen on iRacing’s Twitch and YouTube platforms. The IndyCar on NBC booth of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will have the call of the race, and Katie Hargitt will interview the race winner on IndyCar’s Instagram Live postrace.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Iconic singer Jim Cornelison, who has sung “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the past three Indianapolis 500s, will handle the honors.

DISTANCE: The American Red Cross Grand Prix is 45 laps (151.65 miles) around the virtual 11-turn, 3.37-mile road course.

PUSH TO PASS: There are 10 activations for a 10-second duration.

PIT STOPS: Two. Cars will be allowed two “Fast Repairs” during the race.

SETUPS: Fixed; no changes allowed for drivers

QUALIFYING: The starting lineup for the American Red Cross Grand Prix will be set through a 10-minute qualifying session prior to the event.

CHARITY: The opening event was named the American Red Cross Grand Prix to bring awareness to the organization and the efforts to encourage blood donations amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this period. Make an appointment to give blood by visiting https://sleevesup.redcrossblood.org/campaign/sleeves-up-with-indycar/ or visit www.redcross.org.

NEXT: The American Red Cross Grand Prix will be the first of six events to be held weekly each Saturday through May 2. The opening event will be followed by 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).

ENTRY LIST: Click here for the most recent entry list for the opener of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. There are currently 25 drivers in the race, but there could be a well-known 26th addition.

SPOTTERS GUIDE: Click here to view the paint schemes being used in today’s race at Watkins Glen.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”