The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will make its second consecutive trip to an oval Saturday with another wave of accomplished novices joining the largest field yet in the series.
The 113-lap race at virtual Twin Ring Motegi’s oval will feature 33 drivers, up two from Round 3 at Michigan International Speedway. There were 29 drivers in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park and 25 in the opener at Watkins Glen International.
Two-time NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch will make his debut, along with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato.
“I’ve had a lot of fun racing different cars I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to try in real life because of my schedule on the NASCAR side,” Busch said in a release. “I started practicing with the group on Thursday, and things have gone well so far. These guys are really good at what they do in real life and equally as good in the sim world. Just want to thank all the IndyCar drivers for welcoming me.”
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Said Castroneves: “I’m so happy to be back in IndyCar, even though it’s in a virtual race at Twin Ring Motegi. I feel like I have the edge for this weekend since I’m one of the few drivers in the field who actually raced there in real life and have been able to win there with Roger (Penske) back in the day.
Sato will be making his iRacing debut.
“I finally have my equipment this week and am thrilled about my debut in iRacing at Motegi,” he said in a release. “What amazing timing! The Japanese fans are already very excited and very happy that they can watch the current IndyCar Series race in Motegi virtually. I have been visiting Twin Ring Motegi every winter as Honda held fan appreciation days. … We missed racing in an IndyCar race in Japan for a long time, but who could imagine we are going back there for virtual racing?
“We are living in extraordinary times at the moment, but this is an amazing story to be able to race an Indy car at virtual Twin Ring Motegi.”
Here is the information on today’s virtual race:
START: The command to start engines will be given by auto racing legend Mario Andretti at 2:43 p.m. ET, followed by the green flag at 2:45 p.m.
TV: Coverage of the race will begin on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET and also via the NBCSN stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App. The IndyCar on NBC booth of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will have the call of the race with reporter Marty Snider.
The race also can be viewed through drivers’ individual Twitch channels.
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Performed by Big Machine Records country music star Carly Pearce at 2:39 p.m. ET.
TRACK: Virtual Twin Ring Motegi, an egg-shaped, 1.549-mile oval in Motegi, Japan. Turn banking: 10 degrees.
COMPETITION CAUTION: None.
DISTANCE: The Firestone 175 is 113 laps/175 miles/281.6 km (approximately 75 minutes).
SETUPS: Fixed; no changes allowed for drivers.
PIT STOPS: Two. Fuel window approximately 40 laps.
FAST REPAIRS: One (same as last week at Michigan; drivers were allowed two fast repairs, the equivalent of hitting a reset button, at the past two races on road courses).
REAL WORLD AT MOTEGI: There were 14 IndyCar races at Twin Ring Motegi from 1998-2011. Adrian Fernandez won the inaugural race March 28, 1998, while Scott Dixon won the most recent, on Sept. 18, 2011. Danica Patrick made history at the circuit April 20, 2008, becoming the only female driver to win an IndyCar race.
Ten drivers in the field Saturday also competed in the last IndyCar race at Twin Ring Motegi on Sept. 18, 2011: Scott Dixon (winner), Will Power (second), Marco Andretti (third), Sebastien Bourdais (sixth), Takuma Sato (10th), Graham Rahal (12th), James Hinchcliffe (15th), Tony Kanaan (17th), Helio Castroneves (22nd) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (24th).
Two drivers in the field each have two career real-life victories at Twin Ring Motegi: Helio Castroneves (2006, 2010) and Scott Dixon (2009, 2011).
UNOFFICIAL POINTS STANDINGS: There is no championship at play, but if points were being kept, Scott McLaughlin would be leading. Click here for the points standings after Michigan.
NEXT: The Firestone 175 at Twin Ring Motegi is the fourth of six events to be held each Saturday through May 2. Next week is at the Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and then a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2) is the finale.
ENTRY LIST: Click to view the entry list for the fourth round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.
SPOTTER’S GUIDE: Click here to view the paint schemes being used in today’s race at Twin Ring Motegi.