Photo gallery: The first IndyCar iRacing Challenge in striking images

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VIRTUAL WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — OK, let’s start with the full disclosure that this is assuredly not the real thing.

There was a field of 24 real-world drivers, but everything else about Saturday’s opener of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge was virtual. Sage Karam started on the pole position and stomped the field at Watkins Glen International (which had been chosen by fans in online polling).

The six-race virtual series will move to Barber Motorsports Park for an April 4 race that will take place the day before the real-world race had been scheduled — before novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic erupted and scuttled the 2020 schedule.

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: A roundup of the postrace reaction

RESULTS: Where everyone finished

But even though there was nothing real about the 45-lap online event conducted Saturday on the 11-turn, 3.37-mile road course, the images from the race evoked the feelings of a pleasant Saturday drive at the bucolic track in western New York (thanks to iRacing’s realistic details through laser-mapping tracks).

Here’s a collection of computer-generated images (courtesy of Chris Graythen at Getty Images) that were provided by IndyCar as part of its race recap:

Race winner Sage Karam leads the field into the first turn at virtual Watkins Glen International (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Karam’s No. 24 Wix Filters Dallara-Chevrolet takes the green flag in the American Red Cross Grand Prix at virtual Watkins Glen International (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Will Power finished third in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet for Team Penske in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge American Red Cross Grand Prix at virtual Watkins Glen International (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Oliver Askew races his No. 7 Arrow Electronics Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet through a turn at Watkins Glen International, which is known for its elevation changes (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Alexander Rossi’s No. 27 AutoNation Dallara-Honda looked pretty in pink alongside Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet  (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Indianapolis 500 defending winner Simon Pagenaud’s bright yellow No. 22 Menards Dallara-Chevrolet flashes past the grandstands during the IndyCar iRacing Challenge American Red Cross Grand Prix at virtual Watkins Glen International (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Defending series champion Josef Newgarden leads a group of cars in his No. 1 Hitachi Dallara-Chevrolet (sporting the new aeroscreen for the 2020 season) during the IndyCar iRacing Challenge American Red Cross Grand Prix at virtual Watkins Glen International (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

 

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished 16th in his IndyCar “debut” Saturday at virtual Watkins Glen International (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

As seen through a thicket of virtual trees, Graham Rahal races his No. 15 United Rentals Dallara-Honda during the IndyCar iRacing Challenge American Red Cross Grand Prix at virtual Watkins Glen International (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Simon Pagenaud’s engineer relives 2019 Indy 500 victory on Twitter

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The Team Penske engineer for last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner is reliving Simon Pagenaud’s day by tweeting about what he was doing each moment a year later.

Starting with an observation that he awoke in his Indianapolis hotel room at 4:30 a.m., Ben Bretzman (@benbretzman) sent nearly two dozen tweets by 11 a.m. ET about how the morning before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 unfolded.

Bretzman was through the infield tunnel and in Gasoline Alley by 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., he was wondering if his driver was awake yet, but he had heard for the first time from Pagenaud 45 minutes later.

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, NBC

FIERCE FRIENDSHIPPagenaud, Rossi recall epic battle of 2019 Indy 500

Among other highlights: The team’s last strategy meeting was at 8:30 a.m.; final check of the weather was at 9:30 a.m. and Bretzman gave the No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet a once-over at 10:35 a.m. before it was pushed to the grid.

Follow @BenBretzman to watch the day unfold from the pit box and tune into “Back Home Again at 2 p.m. ET on NBC as Pageanud and Alexander Rossi, who are good friends off the track, recap their epic duel with host Mike Tirico.

Simon Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman debrief at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).