Week One of the 2015 Season 1 iRacing.com IndyCar Oval sent the series to Pocono Raceway. A grand total of 129 sim-racers had the courage to tackle the “Tricky Triangle” throughout the week. Cautions, handling, lap traffic, pit strategy, tire wear and single-file restarts were just some of the storylines that played out throughout the week.
Vick Caudill (Michigan) started on pole with Miguel Angel Martinez (Iberia) on his outside. Thomas Sturm (DE-AT-CH) started third with Georg Naujoks (DE-AT-CH) fourth, and Toni Helminen (Finland) rounding out the top five starting positions.
Caudill had a good start as he easily led the field into Turn One. Sturm had an even better start, passing Martinez entering Turn One and using his momentum to pass Caudill and take the lead on the “Long Pond Straightaway.” As the front three pulled away, Helminen moved past Naujoks, who tagged the wall off of Turn One. At the same time, Hermann Pfander (DE-AT-CH) attempted to pass Christopher Demeritt (New Jersey). Pfander nicked the curb and pushed up the track sending Demeritt hard into the wall. Demeritt did his best to keep his mangled Dallara DW12 against the outside wall but it eventually spun to the inside. Gary Borkenhagen (Midwest) dove into the grass to avoid Demeritt, while Seth Eggert (Carolina) narrowly avoided the wayward Dallara as it spun across the track. Amazingly, Demeritt’s crash did not bring out the caution.
Meanwhile, Ryan Norton (Florida) worked his way up through the field after starting in the fifteenth positions due to the lack of a qualifying effort. After only five laps, Norton had climbed into the seventh position. Helminen continued to move up through the field as well, and attempted to pass Caudill for second into Turn Three. Caudill, on the outside, scrubbed the wall off the turn and powered on, keeping Helminen at bay.
The field began to spread out as Naujoks’ DW12 finally succumbed to its damage as he spun into the inside wall off of Turn One and Pfander slowly caught Martinez. Pfander duly made the pass pass, only for Martinez to swing back by on the next straightaway. Pfander attempted to repass Martinez, only to fall back in line. Riding in Martinez’ wake, he aero-pushed in Turn Three and slammed the outside wall. Pfander dropped back through the field as he limped around in his crippled Dallara, hindering the progress of other sim-racers as they moved around him.
Green flag pit stops began on Lap 24 as Sturm ducked on to pit road. Helminen and Philippe Lambert (France) followed suit a lap later, as the three sim-racers elected a two-stop strategy. Not even two laps later, the caution waved as Pedro Charais (Iberia) made a few erratic maneuvers off of Turn Three before spinning on the front stretch. Everyone, except Sturm, Helminen and Lambert, elected to pit under the caution.
Sturm had an excellent restart as he quickly opened up a seven car-length lead on Helimen by Turn One. Behind the leaders a feeding frenzy developed as Caudill, Lambert, Norton, Martinez and Borkenhagen all jockeyed for position. Caudill and Lambert jousted for third as Martinez, Borkenhagen, and Norton fought for fifth immediately behind them. The frenzied battle got a much needed timeout as David Strid (Australia/NZ) crashed after contact with Paul Jennings (Carolina). The caution created two new strategies as all but Caudill, Borkenhagen, Martinez, and John-Paul Bonadonna (Canada) elected to hit pit road.
The top three had excellent restarts; not so Bonadonna. Charais, who was multiple laps behind and was restarting behind Bonadonna because of the single-file restarts, immediately jumped to the inside. In Turn One, Charais suddenly stopped turning and body-slammed Bonadonn into the outside wall. Bonadonna shot back down the track, and miraculously between Norton and Sturm. Charais continued to aggressively race the lead lap cars, as he attempted to pass Norton even as he blocked Sturm.
The field slowly began tip-toeing past Charais, who nearly made contact with Lambert and Daniel Kendall (Illinois). Sam Katakouzinos (Australia/NZ) and Dave Jinks (West) also weaved their way by Charais but when Eggert attempted to follow suit he was forced out of the groove by the oft lapped Dallara. Eggert eventually cleared Charais, but was forced to take an unorthodox entrance into Turn Two, aka the “Tunnel Turn.” Charais rear-ended Eggert for his efforts, and then went down onto the apron, and made contact with Eggert’s left rear. The impact nearly hooked Eggert, and sent Charais spinning into the path of Robert German (Texas). Everyone pitted for fresh tires for the race to the finish.
Caudill, Norton, and Martinez all made strong restarts. Norton used the draft to get a run on Caudill, and jumped to his inside with Martinez following behind. Norton cleared Caudill, leaving Martinez to take up the battle for second second. Behind them, Lambert, Borkenhagen and Helminen bravely entered the Tunnel Turn three-wide, with contact between Borkenhagen and Helminen sending the latter sliding into the outside wall.
Meanwhile, the battle back up front continued apace as Caudill powered by Martinez on the outside of Turn Three. Caudill drafted back up to Norton, and swept by on the inside of the front stretch. Norton maintained station behind Caudill, biding his time to make his move for the lead. However, his patience went unrewarded as the caution waved with only four laps to go, ending the race. Pfander got loose in Turn Three and drifted into Eggert’s path, sending them spinning in front of German who — once again — had nowhere to go.
The caution sealed the victory for Caudill in the 2810 Strength of Field, the highest of the week, and earned him 177 points. Norton finished second with Martinez third from Borkenhagen and Sturm fifth. Hard charger of the race was Norton, who climbed 13 positions from fifteenth to second. Naujoks had the tough break of the race, finishing in nineteenth, 15 positions behind where he started.
The remainder of a busy Week One saw 17 sim-racers take a trip to Victory Lane with Kevin Ellis Jr (UK & I) scoring a week high three wins before the series loaded-up for the virtual trip west to Iowa Speedway for Week Two.