Week Nine of the 2014 Season 1 iRacing.com IndyCar Oval Series sent the series to Kentucky Speedway. 50 sim-racers participated in online races throughout the week. Pit stops, along with stability on restarts — and in Turns 3 and 4 — would be the stories throughout the week.
Matt Cooke (Canada) started on pole, with Connor Cross (Ohio) on the outside of the front row. Christopher Demeritt (New Jersey) started third, with Erick Davis (Canada) fourth, and Vick Caudill (Michigan) rounded out the top five starting positions.
Cross got off to a good start, but had to check up when Cooke spun his tires. Cooke easily held the lead with Cross’ loss of momentum as the field behind them settled into a single file rhythm within a lap. The front four of Cooke, Cross, Demeritt, and Davis quickly started to gap Caudill and the rest of the field. However, this breakaway wouldn’t last long as on Lap 7, TM Hauser (DE-AT-CH) and Kenneth Harshbarger (Indiana) made contact. The contact sent Harshbarger spinning into the outside wall, ending his race. As the caution waved, Xavi Iborra (Iberia) checked-up, and collided with Gary Borkenhagen (Midwest), damaging Iborra’s suspension. Everyone in the front of the field stayed out as the caution flew. Borkenhagen, Hauser, Joel Feytout (France), and Adam Dock (Texas) were the only competitors who elected to pit.
This time Cooke had an excellent restart, opening up about a five car length gap on Cross. Once again, the field quickly became single file behind the front runners. The single file racing didn’t last long, as handling forced some sim-racers wide off Turn 4. The caution flew again on Lap 18 as Loïc Boussiquet and Lucas Laville made contact, sending the two Frenchmen spinning into the outside wall. The contact with the wall sent Boussiquet cart-wheeling down the track, and into the path of Hauser. Hauser caught Boussiquet with his rear wing, although somehow Hauser avoided incurring any further damage. Once again pit strategy came into play as all but Brad Sanford (Texas) elected to pit. Cooke lead Cross, Demeritt, and the rest of the field off of pit road.
Sanford had an excellent start, as behind him, Cross cleared Cooke entering Turn 1, gaping both of them by four car lengths. Cooke immediately reclaimed second entering Turn 3. Sanford, Cooke, Cross, and Davis broke away from the rest of the field as Demeritt nearly spun exiting Turn 4 dropping from fourth to twelfth in the process.
Yet again, the breakaway didn’t last long as Matteo Bortolotti (Italy) broke loose exiting Turn 4. Rob Unglenieks (Michigan) had nowhere to go, and slammed into Bortolotti, sending the Italian’s Dallara flipping down the front stretch, essentially ending his race. This time everyone but Dock elected to pit, with Sanford earning a black flag for passing the Pace Car entering pit road. Cross led Cooke, Davis, and the rest of the field off pit road.
Both Dock and Cross opened up a six car length gap on Cooke after he had a slow restart. Undaunted, Cooke slowly reeled in the leaders, bringing Davis with him. Meanwhile, Borkenhagen, Demeritt and others behind him lost ground to the leaders as they moved high off Turn 4 to pass Sanford as he entered he pits to serve his penalty. Compounding Sanford’s issues, an unsafe pit entrance cost him more time, and a longer penalty for the Texan.
During the green flag run, Dock, Cross, and Cooke, slowly pulled away from Davis and the rest of the field. The gap widened every lap as fourth, fifth, sixth, among others slowly lost touch with the leaders. Lapped traffic caused some tense moments as the leaders caught the crippled car of Bortolotti entering Turn 1. Bortolotti, still running the preferred line, forced the leaders wide off of Turn 2 before yielding and pulling off the racing surface. The near disaster allowed Davis to catch up to the leaders. Once cleared of Bortolotti, the leaders picked-up where they left off and pulled back away from Davis. More tense moments occurred as Dock understeered attempting to lap Sanford. This check-up nearly caused an accident between the three leaders. Tired of running third, cooke finally passed Cross a few laps later.
Green flag pit stops started on lap 78 as Dock relinquished the lead to Cooke as he pitted. Dock just barely got slowed down to the pit road speed as he slid his tires across the commitment line. The rest of the leaders made-up ground on Dock as they were able to remain on track for an extra 9-10 laps. Pitting only a lap apart from each other, Cooke opened up over a second on Cross with only 10 laps to go. Cooke continued to expand this lead to win with a 1.814 second gap of Cross. Davis finished third, with Dock fourth, and Demeritt recovering from his earlier troubles to round out the top five finishing positions.
Cooke earned 175 points for his win in the 2766 Strength of Field race. This was the first of two wins Cooke earned throughout the week. Terry Matthiensen, the week’s only other winner, capture the highest Strength of Field of the week, which had a SoF of 2825.