IndyCar iRacing Challenge entry list released for Circuit of The Americas

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The entry list for the fifth round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge is out, and a Formula One driver will be making his debut.

Englishman Lando Norris, who drives for McLaren in F1, will be behind the wheel of the No. 04 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara at virtual Circuit of The Americas. Norris, 20, is an avid sim racer.

IndyCar announced Thursday there wil be 33 drivers competing at the road course in Austin, Texas, matching the series high set the previous week at Twin Ring Motegi.

The field also will feature a Supercars driver from Australia. In a deal to become virtual teammates with Alexander Rossi, Chaz Mostert will make his IndyCar iRacing Challenge debut in the No. 98 normally piloted by Marco Andretti.

ENTRY LIST: Click here to see who’s racing at Circuit of The Americas

PODCAST: Can Twitch technology be transferred from sim to real-world racing?

Rossi will drive April 29 in Round 4 of the Supercars All-Stars Eseries, which will be held at the Watkins Glen and Toronto circuits.

COTA will mark the fifth of six races in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. The series will conclude May 2 at a “Dream Track” (outside of the IndyCar schedule) to be announced.

Simon Pagenaud has won the past two races at virtual Michigan International Speedway and Twin Ring Motegi. The Team Penske driver leads the unofficial points standings.

Here’s the entry list release from IndyCar:

INDIANAPOLIS (April 23, 2020) – With just two rounds remaining, it’s time to find out who is the true king of the virtual IndyCar road.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge returns to a natural road course after two consecutive oval races with the AutoNation IndyCar Challenge at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 25 at virtual Circuit of the Americas (COTA). The 32-lap race on the 20-turn, 3.427-mile circuit at COTA, located in Austin, Texas, will be televised live on NBCSN.

A 33-driver field will take the green flag in Round 5 of the six-round series featuring NTT IndyCar Series stars and special guest drivers. COTA was scheduled to host an NTT IndyCar Series round Sunday, April 26, an event canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two new faces from outside the NTT IndyCar Series will be among the bumper crop of talented drivers in the field Saturday.

Englishman Lando Norris will drive the No. 04 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara. Norris finished 11th in the Formula One World Championship standings last season for McLaren and is returning for a second season with the iconic F1 team. Rising star Norris, 20, is an avid sim racer and one of the most popular and engaging F1 drivers on social media.

Australian Chaz Mostert will drive the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Dallara for Andretti Herta with Marco Andretti & Curb-Agajanian, racing from his home in Australia in darkness during the early hours of morning. 2014 Bathurst 1000 winner Mostert, 28, has 13 career victories in Virgin Australia Supercars and drives in that series for Walkinshaw Andretti United.

Norris and Mostert will try to solve the same puzzle as nearly every other driver in the series: How to stop Simon Pagenaud?

2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion Pagenaud won the last two rounds, on ovals at Michigan International Speedway on April 11 and at Twin Ring Motegi on April 18. He isn’t too shabby on road courses, either, finishing sixth in the series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen and fifth April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Pagenaud again will be one of the favorites to win Saturday in the No. 22 Snap-on Team Penske Chevrolet.

Mostert also could become the latest native of Australia or New Zealand to make headlines in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.

2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power has been a steady presence on or near the podium for all four rounds. Australian Power has finished third, second, fourth and third, respectively, in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

2018 Indianapolis 500 winner and veteran sim racer Power appeared to be headed for his first victory in the series last Saturday at Motegi before he was entangled in a late-race collision. Could this be the week he finally stands atop the podium? He won the pole for the inaugural NTT IndyCar Series race at COTA in March 2019, and his sim racing speed has proven to be just as quick as in the real world.

Two-time reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin has been the revelation of this series. New Zealand native McLaughlin was impressive during actual preseason testing for Team Penske and was scheduled to make his NTT IndyCar Series debut May 9 in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before that event was postponed to July 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

McLaughlin has been an ace on road courses in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, finishing fourth at Watkins Glen and winning at Barber. Like Mostert, McLaughlin once again will race in the middle of the night from his home in Australia in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Team Penske Dallara.

Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon is another driver emerging as a standout in this series. New Zealander Dixon finished a strong second to Pagenaud last Saturday on the Motegi oval after finishing 16th and 30th in his first two starts in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Unlike many of his rivals, 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Dixon had little to no sim racing experience before joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge for Round 2 at Barber. But he has shown the same quick adaptation skills and speed in the virtual world that he has for nearly 20 years in IndyCar competition.

Among drivers from other parts of the world, American Sage Karam also should be a contender for victory. Veteran sim racer Karam won the opening round of the series at Watkins Glen in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet and has led 67 of the 90 laps so far on road courses.

A glance at the past also could pinpoint two contenders for victory Saturday.

Colton Herta made global motorsports headlines in March 2019 by winning the inaugural INDYCAR race at COTA, becoming the youngest winner in series history, at age 18. Herta, now 20, will drive the No. 88 Capstone Honda on Saturday.

Oliver Askew swept both Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires rounds last February at COTA en route to the series title. Askew will race his rookie season this year in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for Arrow McLaren SP and will line up on the virtual grid at COTA in the team’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

Another Indy Lights champion, 2015 title winner Spencer Pigot, will make his series debut in the No. 45 Mi-Jack/EMBRACE Pittsburgh RLL with Citrone/Buhl Autosport Honda.

The fuel window for this 32-lap race is approximately 15 to 16 laps. But it should be a one-stop race due to a competition caution period on Lap 12, a feature carried over from Round 2 on the road course at Barber that bunched the field and increased and intensified the wheel-to-wheel action.

A 10-minute qualifying session will set the starting lineup prior to the event.

One race remains in the six-round series after Saturday, a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2. The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will not crown an overall champion but will add a special element where IndyCar will make a donation to one of its partner charities.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”