IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud doubles down in IndyCar iRacing Challenge


Team Penske IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud is the first to win two races in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. The 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner, doubled down on his effort with back-to-back wins.

Pagenaud won the April 11 Chevrolet 275 at virtual Michigan International Speedway. He backed up that oval win with Saturday’s triumph in the Firestone 175 at virtual Twin Ring Motegi.

He credited Team Penske race engineer Ben Bretzman for his impressive performance in the sim racing series that has kept IndyCar in public view during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown.

“I’m working with Ben my racing engineer on the strategy,” Pagenaud said after his virtual Motegi triumph. “We get to talk on the radio like we would on a race weekend. I think it’s just keeping the communication alive. It feels like we’ve raced a few times this year already. I think when racing gets going, we’re not going to be rusty. That’s important.

“iRacing has been a great support for us. That has been important for everybody at Team Penske, as well. We represent our sponsors. They need some love right now. DXC Technology, Chevy, Menards.”

Many NTT IndyCar drivers are going to great lengths for success in the virtual racing series. The competition is increasing the amount of time in the sim rig.

“I put in a lot of hours to be at the level of people like Will Power, for example,” Pagenaud said. “They are very fast on iRacing, very competitive.

“But today was a lot about tire saving, the right strategy once again. At the end, it got a bit crazy.”

As the IndyCar iRacing Challenge has progressed, experienced gamers still have an advantage, but drivers with real world racing success are showing tremendous improvement.

Saturday’s podium included the elite of IndyCar including Pagenaud, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon. Finishing third was Team Penske teammate Will Power, a 2014 IndyCar Series champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner.

“That’s fun to me,” Pagenaud said. “It’s actually that you’re racing the exact same guys as usual, exact same moves as you would in real life. You keep turning your wheels in your head.

“Right now, we’re not racing, so we’re racing on the weekend. That gives me a lot of joy. The adrenaline was definitely at the maximum level at the end of the race.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Pagenaud is the full package when it comes to IndyCar. He is fast on the track, both real and virtual. The driver from France has an engaging personality yet isn’t afraid to say what is on his mind. And, he understands the importance of his sponsors.

“Well, I’m racing with my race suit to give some love to DXC Technology and Chevy,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a good day when you’re beating Scott Dixon and Will Power. It’s an awesome day. I enjoy it so much. Will is going to be upset all week long, that’s so much better, makes me even happier.

“I feel great right now, super happy.

“It’s pretty cool that we have the whole team behind us. I’m getting more messages than usual for a race win, so it’s pretty amazing to see the whole team following the races and being able to represent them so well. It’s awesome for the guys. It gives them a lot of hope for the season to start.”

Pagenaud’s passion for racing, real or virtual, is quite obvious. His fiercest competitors recognize that trait.

“Simon did a hell of a job,” Dixon said after finishing second. “That’s what it takes at the end to win, is you got to take risks. Kudos to them. It was fun to be a part of it and fun to watch.”

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IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”