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Sage Karam seeks another iRacing victory at Barber Motorsports Park

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INDYCAR’s iRacing Challenge continues this weekend as 29 cars and drivers will race at virtual Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET.

The career achievements of the drivers entered in this weekend’s race include 14 total IndyCar championships, five Indy 500 victories, and 189 IndyCar race victories.

Oh, and a few NASCAR and Supercars championships as well with both Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin racing again this weekend.

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing in round two

SPOTTER GUIDE: All 29 of this weekend’s paint schemes

Sage Karam will enter Saturday’s race as the most recent winner on the circuit, having won the inaugural race at virtual Watkins Glen last weekend.

An avid sim racer, Karam led 43 of 45 laps en route to his victory last Saturday. Karam is one of IndyCar’s most accomplished iRacing competitors, with 144 wins in 533 road course starts alone.

“As a part-time driver in the NTT IndyCar Series, I needed to be sharp with my reflexes and car control when I wasn’t on track,” Karam said. “I discovered iRacing quite a while back, and I truly believe it has helped me with my racing career. I was more nervous before the Glen race than at the Indy 500.”

Afterward, the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver said he was worn out after a “very mentally draining” race even despite his domination.

“In iRacing, we don’t have the fear factor of crashing or wrecking the car,” he said. “But you are racing on the edge with proper steering and pedal pressure as in an Indy car, and you are racing wheel-to-wheel in a competition. And all of the drivers are extremely competitive.

“The Barber track isn’t one of my favorites, but I’ll be ready on Saturday.”

Four new drivers will join Karam and company in this weekend’s event, including Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, and Ed Carpenter, who is making his first non-oval start since Houston in 2013.

“It has been a long time since I competed in a road race, both the cars and iRacing have changed quite a lot,” Carpenter said. “I am a week late to the party, but hopefully, I will be up to speed enough to give the 21 car a good ride! I know my friends and family are excited to watch me, so no pressure!”

But the driver many fans are most excited to see is Robert Wickens, who will drive a race car of any kind for the first time since suffering a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway on Aug 18. 2018.

Wickens missed last weekend’s race when his equipment did not arrive on time, but is now all set up and ready to race.

“I’m just excited to drive something,” Wickens told reporters Friday. “Last night was the first time I’ve driven any form of race car since the accident at Pocono. Even though it’s virtual, it still felt pretty good.”

Fans will also have another avenue to watch the race on Saturday, as it will be broadcast live on NBCSN.

Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, and Paul Tracy will call the action as usual, and fans will be in for a few extra treats as Miss Alabama 2019 Tiara Pennington will sing the national anthem and NBA and Auburn University legend Charles Barkley will give the command to fire engines.

The second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge will take place at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and streaming here.

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).