Scott McLaughlin wins IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Barber

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VIRTUAL LEEDS, Ala. — Scott McLaughlin won the iRacing IndyCar Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park, holding off teammate Will Power in a 1-2 finish Saturday for Team Penske.

McLaughlin, who has back-to-back championships for Penske in the Virgin Atlantic SuperCar Series in Australia and was scheduled to make his IndyCar debut this season, passed Scott Speed for the lead with six laps remaining.

McLaughlin was playing in the early morning hours at his home in Brisbane, Australia.

I brought in my IndyCar engineer, Jonathan Diuguid, I’ve been working with in the States, so I give him credit,” McLaughlin told the IndyCar on NBC booth during a celebratory lap in the No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet. “He put me on an awesome strategy. It was a bit easier (to calculate fuel) this week.”

Speed finished third, followed by Alex Palou, Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Robert Wickens, who took eighth while competing in a race for the first time since his August 2018 crash at Pocono Raceway.

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“It was a ride,” Wickens told IndyCar on NBC. “I started last, so we made the bold strategy of trying to make it on one stop under yellow. I felt there was a better chance of me not spinning out by saving fuel. We just made it with 0.02 gallons left at the finish line.

Josef Newgarden and Santino Ferrucci rounded out the top 10 of a wild race.

“It was crazy,” McLaughlin said. “I was particularly nervous on (the Lap 15) restart (from a competition caution). The biggest thing was lapped traffic. Getting blocked. That enabled us to get that jump in the pits because I was in clear air a long time where others weren’t. So credit to Jonathan and his strategy. He put me out front, and I was able to just bang lap times out, which was awesome.”

Said Power, who was unhappy with lapped traffic throughout the race: “Definitely a few wankers out there but still a good day.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was 12th. Rookie Oliver Askew, who spent all week working with his Arrow McLaren SP engineers, finished 15th.

Sage Karam, who won the series’ opening race at Watkins Glen International last Saturday, seemed in command for his second consecutive victory before encountering trouble at the race’s midpoint.

On Lap 27 of 45, Karam collided with Felix Rosenqvist, who had gone off course and then attempted to make a corner that resulted in contact with Karam.

Two laps later, Karam punted Santino Ferrucci off the track.

Karam then retired from the race with 14 laps remaining.

“I think we had the speed again today, we were sitting pretty good after qualifying,” Karam told the IndyCar on NBC broadcast. “I was just cruising again and checking out. It’s just out unfortunate. I got blocked by (Sebastien) Bourdais, and that screwed me getting in and out of the pits.

“Then Rosenqvist overshot the corner. We’re both racing for a win. I like Felix; he’s a great driver, great kid. It is what it is. Having the cars out there is a lot of fun.”

The next race in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be April 11 at a “Driver’s Choice” track to be selected and announced this week.