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.

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: A roundup of postrace social media reaction

RESULTS: Where everyone finished at virtual Barber Motorsports Park

“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.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.