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Scott McLaughlin wins in wild finish to IndyCar iRacing Challenge finale

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VIRTUAL INDIANAPOLIS — Scott McLaughlin won the IndyCar iRacing Challenge finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, taking advantage of a wild last lap in the First Responders 175.

Over the final 2.5 miles at the Brickyard, contenders Pato O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci and Oliver Askew all wrecked while racing around the lead.

McLaughlin, who started on the pole position, scooted through to capture his second victory in the series. He later said he just “drove through the smoke” to give Team Penske a clean sweep on ovals in the series (Simon Pagenaud won at Michigan and Twin Ring Motegi).

“I was hoping there was going to be one wreck, and there was two,” McLaughlin, who has yet to make his real-world IndyCar debut, told the IndyCar on NBC booth after taking the traditional swig of milk for a Brickyard winner. “I thought we were going to get third. We were in the right place at the right time.”

Conor Daly finished second despite being involved in three wrecks and called it “an electric factory of a race.”

Ferrucci finished third, followed by Askew and O’Ward.

After Ericsson and O’Ward made heavy contact while racing for the lead earlier on the last lap, the victory seemed to be between Askew and Ferrucci off the last corner.

As they approached the finish line, Ferrucci shot down the track and into Askew, taking out both of their cars. The Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan driver took the blame.

Ferrucci later said he’d been doing a lot of series on iRacing lately and got too close because he was tied to get on Askew’s door as he might in a NASCAR race.

“Just coming to the finish line, and I was trying to get closer to him, and I went through him,” Ferrucci told the IndyCar on NBC booth. “I don’t know why. I mean, trying to steer a little closer to him because I knew the drag race would be tight. I just didn’t expect the cars to go sideways. I wanted to get a little closer there but did not expect to do that.

“That’s my bad. I apologize for doing that to Oliver. That was definitely his race to win. But at the end of the day, it’s a video game, and we had fun. It’s not anything you’d ever do in real life, but it’s a tight race.”

The chaotic ending was triggered by a restart with nine laps remaining after the yellow flew for a multicar crash that started with a spin by Josef Newgarden.

Before two late yellows, it seemed as if the race might boil down to a battle between Formula One McLaren driver Lando Norris and Will Power. But Power got shuffled back, and Norris crashed with two laps remaining while running near the front.

Before that, it seemed as if McLaren was headed toward a 1-2-3 finish with some combination of O’Ward, Norris and Askew.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.