Penske engineers bring real-world IndyCar to iRacing in Barber win

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VIRTURAL LEEDS, Alabama – While some IndyCar drivers are struggling to adapt to the virtual racing world, Team Penske is using its real-world playbook to assure success.

The top two finishers in Saturday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama virtual race had their race engineers helping them throughout the 45-lap contest.

For New Zealand’s Scott McLaughlin, already a superstar in the Virgin Atlantic SuperCar Series, he had Jonathan Diuguid figuring out the race strategy. Diuguid was once Helio Castroneves’ IndyCar engineer and now is part of Acura Team Penske’s IMSA effort.

Diuguid helped McLaughlin win Saturday’s virtual race at Barber.

Because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, McLaughlin’s planned May 9 debut in the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has been put on hold. That race is scheduled for July 4, but McLaughlin may not be able to compete in the rescheduled event.

Team Penske, however, intends to run McLaughlin in a road course contest once racing resumes.

“For me, working with Jonathan was awesome,” McLaughlin said to a question posed by “I haven’t worked with him. The first time I really heard him on the radio was at COTA (the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where testing was held in early February). He’s not my main guy on the radio. I have another guy that helps me out, who will be calling the races, if I do one. But Jonathan is my engineer.

“To be able to communicate to him about the car, where I’m at, was really good. I think that’s probably the main benefit of the whole thing.

“It’s the first time this week I had my engineer, unlike last week where I was doing the fuel numbers in my head. Having Jonathan Diuguid from Team Penske helping me out, he helps me in IndyCar in real life, was really cool, a good way for us to get to know each other as well.

“We worked hard on the fuel, what we were going to do. To do the two stop I think worked out better for us. Thankfully we got lucky with some traffic and a few crashes behind us.”

Will Power (left), engineer David Faustino (right)

Second-place finisher Will Power had his longtime engineer, David Faustino, helping him Saturday at Barber. Faustino has worked with Power longer than anyone else in his impressive racing career in the real world.

That driver/engineer trust level was apparent in Saturday afternoon’s virtual race that was televised live on NBCSN.

“We actually learned something in this last race, how important the communication is to me,” Power said to a questioned asked by “When Dave said, ‘Keep pushing’ or ‘Focus on your lap time, we can still win this thing,’ I thought he meant focus. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, there’s still a pit sequence.’”

In the real racing world, drivers and engineers meet in the engineering room for what is called a “debrief.” After Saturday’s iRacing event, Power and Faustino had a “virtual debrief.”

“After the race, we talked about it,” Power said. “I told Dave, ‘You need to tell me there’s still sequence coming on.’ He would say, ‘Someone can be coming out in front of you, you actually need to push.’

“It’s actually some good learning stuff that we actually will use in real life.

“From a strategy standpoint, you’re talking to the guy that you’re going to be working with on the real stand. That’s a benefit. It would be a big benefit for Scott because everyone is new to him on the IndyCar side.”

Diuguid lives in North Carolina, near the Team Penske racing facility in Mooresville. McLaughlin was competing in the race in his home in Australia.

“I’m doing this racing purely to get to know how these guys race,” McLaughlin said. “I know it’s a little bit different out there. You get to race people and get to know them, all that sort of stuff. I’ve really enjoyed that part. That’s why I’m up at 2:30, 3 a.m. in the morning Down Under.

“It’s an iRace, but we take it seriously. The main objective for me in my life is to be successful in the real thing. If I ever get the opportunity. I’m doing this iRacing, I’m sure everyone else is as well, is purely to learn and get better and better and better. I really feel it helps me as a driver. That’s sort of why I’m doing this.

“Yeah, this win is up there. It’s a very cool achievement, but I want to do it in real life.”

Both Power and Faustino live on Lake Norman in North Carolina and remain in contact during the unexpected break to the season via video conference and telephone conversations.

Faustino’s guidance allowed Power to focus on what he needed to do to try to race for the win.

“It always depends on where you start,” Power said. “For us, because we started at the front, running at the front, we needed something pretty straightforward.

“This definitely makes it more interesting for the fans. I think what would have been really cool if they threw a yellow like 10 to go, then some people take tires, some don’t, it would definitely create a lot of action.”

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

In last Saturday’s virtual race at Watkins Glen International, the contest did not feature any full-course cautions. Saturday’s race at Barber Motorsports Park had a mandatory competition caution on Lap 15.

Power actually advocates for more cautions in upcoming contests.

“I think that they need to have yellows in these races to make them interesting, so it doesn’t string out,” Power said. “Then we would have a few different strategy options if you happen to end up at the back so you can come through and win. It will make it better for the fans.

“We just want to put on a good show. It’s obviously online racing. We do somewhat take it pretty seriously because our sponsors are watching, a lot of people are watching. It’s about keeping INDYCAR out there and making it interesting for people in this time where everyone is kind of stuck in their house.”

A key point in the race came when Scott Speed was driving the No. 98 Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda in front of the field. He was utilizing a fuel strategy, trying to stretch it to the end. Speed’s fuel-conversation pace wasn’t enough to fend off the charge from the two Penske drivers.

It was Faustino’s engineering that informed Power where he was in position to the rest of the field.

“I wasn’t aware that Scott was on that strategy,” Power admitted. “I actually thought Sage Karam was still leading. My engineer said, ‘Just focus on your laps, we can still win this thing.’ I thought he was just being, ‘C’mon, don’t worry about anything else.’

“What he was saying was, ‘You need to push out some laps.’

“I think we could have made that a little bit more tight, but I’m still really happy with second. My aim was to be mistake free. I didn’t really make any mistakes, executed the whole race.”

Power takes competition seriously, whether it is on the real race track or the virtual track. That is why he needed Faustino’s calm engineering expertise to plot out the strategy because Power was too wound up with the nerves that come from competition.

“I won a (virtual) race last night at Indianapolis, and I felt like I won a race,” Power admitted. “I was really happy to win that race. It’s like really, really enjoyed it.

“Man, like I was actually a little nervous before this race today because I always thought it was the danger that you got the nerves for but it’s actually the competition. Got butterflies going in to compete.

“Before the Indy 500 you’re almost sickly nervous, but it’s not like because you could have a big (indiscernible) at these speeds, it’s because you’re competing for one of the biggest prizes in motorsports. That was interesting to understand that mental side of it.”

Racers are racers and are always looking for the competitive edge. At Team Penske, that comes from a depth of talent, especially in the engineering department.

The same ingredients that make Team Penske a success on the race track were also the keys to victory in virtual reality.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Vicki Golden and 805 Beer tell a unique story from an Inverted Perspective


Vicki Golden has earned a career worthy of a thousand stories and 805 Beer tells at least one of them, as “Inverted Perspective” premiered March 30 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Golden did more to break the glass ceiling in SuperMotocross than she ever thought possible. She knows this because riders have never felt the need to explain any of her accomplishments with the disclaimer, “for a girl”. 

At this point in Golden’s career, she’s been the first woman to finish top 10 in AMA Arenacross Lites, the first woman to qualify in the Fast 40 in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the first woman to compete in freestyle Moto X competition, earning a bronze medal by doing so.

Her love for moto came from childhood while she watched her dad and brother ride. By seven she was on her bike and making waves throughout Southern California. 

Golden, 30, is still madly in love with the sport and has no plans on moving away but her career is already one to talk about. 805 Beer’s film series wanted to do exactly that.

“I’m taken aback by it all,” Golden told NBC Sports about the documentary. “It’s just crazy to see your story, it’s one thing to live your life and battle everything that comes about but it’s another to just sit there and talk about it.”

805 approached Golden about the feature by asking, “Do you even realize that what you do, and your story is special?”

Golden took the question as a blank canvas to map out the highs and lows of her career and life. 

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The title “Inverted Perspective” came from a brainstorming session with Dominick Russo and it highlights Golden’s outlook on the sport of SuperMotocross and her life in general. 

“My whole life, my whole career was thinking differently and looking at things that shouldn’t be done and aren’t there, while being able to make a place for myself, where no one thought there should be a place,” Golden said.  “It’s inspiring someone to think in different ways. It sums up my life.”

Vicki Golden is not “fast for a girl”; she’s just fast. – 805 Beer

While Golden is no stranger to the spotlight, this was the first time she’s been fully involved with the storytelling and creation of a feature about herself. 

“It’s not like a full new experience,” Golden said. “Obviously, you get your standard questions about your upbringing and accomplishments, but I’ve never really put into perspective things that happened in my past with my dad and putting that to light. Also, certain other things that maybe got overlooked in previous interviews or films. I wanted to touch on these and Dom wanted to create a story. It’s just cool to see it come to light, it’s a nearly impossible thing to tell somebody’s life story in 40 minutes.”

Golden’s father was left paralyzed after an ATV accident, robbing him the opportunity to ride again. This happened a few months before the father-daughter duo was set to compete in the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals when Vicki was 12. While she might have been unable to grasp the severity at the time, it’s something she carries with her. Golden continues to ride in his honor.

Years later, an accident in 2018 nearly sidelined the then 25-year-old Vicki when a freestyle accident almost resulted in the amputation of her lower leg. 

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Golden 805 Beer
Vicki Golden has ridden a variety of disciplines in SuperMotocross, which gives her a unique perspective. – 805 Beer

“Inverted Perspective” highlights her father’s diligence in helping Vicki continue with her career and the kindness and strength he carried while fighting his own battle. 

“My dad was the entire reason that I started riding in the first place,” Golden said. “So, to honor his memory and to honor what we went through and how hard he pushed to keep our dream alive and keep everything going – in that sense then, it was really special to be able to honor him and talk about him.”

The 40-minute feature was filmed entirely in black and white, a stark contrast from the oversaturated world of motocross where the brighter the suit the easier it is for fans to find their rider and follow him in the race. By filming in monochrome Russo and Golden had the chance to focus on the race and track from a different perspective. 

“It was cool to be able to film it differently,” Golden said. “It created a challenge in the sense of what was going to be more visually impactful for the film.

“I couldn’t be here without the companies that back me but at the same time, it’s not like the logos or colors disappeared, it’s just different lights shed on different spots. It’s just a cool way to do it and to take color away and still be impactful. When you think of black and white, you think of old school, the OG way of doing things.”