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Dale Jr., Sage Karam preview IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Michigan

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IndyCar’s iRacing Challenge continues this Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with its most star-studded field yet.

The third race of the challenge is highlighted by the addition of two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., this weekend’s race at virtual Michigan International Speedway will feature 31 cars and drivers.

Joining Earnhardt as newcomers are IndyCar regulars Marco Andretti (who takes the wheel of his No. 98 Honda back from Scott Speed, who was third at Watkins Glen), Ryan Hunter-Reay (who returns to his No. 28 DHL Honda after yielding to Kyle Kirkwood the past two races) and Max Chilton. Five-time Indianapolis 500 starter James Davison will also make his iRacing Challenge debut this weekend.

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing in round three

Two-time SuperCars champion Scott McLaughlin is the most recent winner on the circuit, having won last weekend’s race at virtual Barber Motorsports Park. Sage Karam won the first race at Watkins Glen.

While he is considered by many of his peers as IndyCar’s unofficial iRacing expert, Karam is too young to have raced at Michigan in real life (Indy cars last competed on the 2-mile oval since 2007). However, he did race at the nearly identical Auto Club Speedway in 2015.

Karam said that he expects that this weekend’s race should produce similar racing.

“I think it’s going to be a pack race kind of feel, kind of like how Fontana was in 2015,” Karam said during an IndyCar teleconference Friday. “But it’s going to be exciting, that’s for sure. I just think we need to stay off of each other, and we should be all right.

“I think once it comes to race time, it’ll be a bit better. I think the guys will then know that the race is on the line and stuff like that. It’s just kind of the same thing that’s happened the last couple of events. When we’re doing these practice runs and stuff, we just have a little bit more fun, and then when
the race comes we turn it down 5 percent or whatever.”

Like Karam, the majority of drivers in this weekend’s race have never competed at Michigan before. Only two drivers entered this weekend have won a race at the facility – Tony Kanaan (2007) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has two victories apiece in NASCAR’s Cup (2008 and 2012) and Xfinity Series (1999 and 2006) at the facility.

While he’s never driven an Indy car before, Earnhardt looks forward to competing in this weekend’s race despite his lack of open-wheel experience.

“I’ve been on iRacing for a couple decades, but I haven’t put much time on the Indy car and obviously have no real-world experience, so there’s a lot of learning and trying to understand why the car reacts the way it does and what creates those issues,” Earnhardt said. “Just trying to understand how to stay out of trouble. Keep yourself out of trouble was what yesterday’s practice was about, and I’m looking forward to today, practicing some more with these guys.”

Earnhardt also said that he has a lot of respect for the IndyCar drivers that he will be competing against this weekend.

“It’s kind of fun for me to get to know their personalities a little bit and how they interact with each other was really fun yesterday during practice,” Earnhardt said. “I was just kind of sitting there listening to everybody go back and forth with each other, and it’s kind of funny. I kind of understand that camaraderie and the back and forth that they have is really similar to what we have in the Cup Series.”

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

IMSA results, points, stats package after Sunday at Road America

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Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor delivered Team Penske’s first victory this season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning at Road America from the pole position Sunday and moving up to sixth in points after finishing no better than seventh in the first three races this season.

The Team Penske No. 7 Acura DPi led a race-high 48  of 63 laps, including the final four after Castroneves seized a restart to take first from Renger van der Zande, who finished second with Ryan Briscoe in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi.

Other class winners at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course were the No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07 of Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley in LMP2, the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor in GTLM and the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 of Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo in GTD.

RAIN-SOAKED RELIEF: Castroneves delivers Penske’s first win with late pass

Here are the race stats, points and results from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America:


RESULTS: Click here for the overall finishing order and here for the class breakdown.

POINTS: In the DPi standings, the No. 10 Cadillac of Briscoe and van der Zande leads by six points (124-118) over the No. 5 Cadillac of Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais.

The No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor leads the GTLM standings with 130 points, 10 more than the No. 912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.

In GTD, the No. 12 Lexus of Bell and Montecalvo moved into the lead by four points (121-117) over AIM Vasser Sullivan teammates Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz in the No. 14 Lexus.

The No. 38 of Performance Tech Motorsport leads in LMP2.

Click here for the points standings for drivers and teams after Road America.

STATS PACKAGE FOR ROAD AMERICA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Leader sequence

Lap chart

Race analysis by lap

NEXT: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT classes will race Aug. 21-22 at Virginia International Raceway.