Week Nine of the 2014 Season 2 iRacing.com Indycar Oval Series saw the competitors head to the Valley of the Sun and Phoenix International Raceway. A grand total of 28 sim-racers participated in online races, where clean pit stops, good handling and domination by a single driver would be the stories of the week.
Matt Pawelski (Pennsylvania) started on the pole with Christopher Demeritt (New Jersey) starting on the outside pole. Robert Grosser (DE-AT-CH) started third, with Scott Beck (California) fourth, and Connor Cross (Ohio) rounding out the top five starters.
Pawelski, Demeritt, and Grosser all had excellent starts as chaos erupted behind them. Beck spun his tires and slid into Cross. The impact sent Cross into the inside wall as Beck bounced into the outside wall. The accident clogged the track and cost those behind Beck and Cross valuable time. Gary Borkenhagen (Midwest) narrowly avoided clipping Beck whose race had ended before it even began, while Cross’ chances had been severely damaged. Surprisingly, the caution did not wave as the accident occurred before the green flag flew.
Pawelski and Demeritt opened-up a sizable lead only five laps into the race before Demeritt took advantage of a wide exit by Pawelski out of Turn Four and easily took the lead. Although he initially stayed with the new leader, after another 10 laps Pawelski began losing more ground to Demeritt. By the time Demeritt started to lap the tail-end of the field, he had gaped Pawelski by six car lengths. As Demeritt continued to widen his gap on the field, Cross continued struggling with his badly damaged race car and, by Lap 23, had fallen out of the top five.
Cross’ Dallara finally succumbed to the damage as he was being passed by Trevor Malone3 (Mid-South). Cross, trying to give Malone room, ran the highline in Turn 1. No good deed goes unpunished, of course, and for his troubles Cross got loose exiting the turn and slid into the outside wall. The impact sent him sliding down the track, over the curbing and into the grass. Cross was able to keep the car in the right direction and limped back to pit road, preventing the caution flag from waving.
The field continued to become even more spread out as everyone gave futile chase to Demeritt. By the halfway point of the race Demeritt had opened more than a straightaway lead over Pawelski. As green flag pit stops began on lap 65, Pawelski locked-up the brakes entering pit lane and spun, bringing out the race’s only caution. With everyone short on fuel, the entire field ducked onto pit road for service. Demeritt easily won the race off of pit road as Pawelski dropped from second to fourth, the last sim-racer on the lead lap.
Demeritt had an excellent restart — in contrast to Grosser and Borkenhagen. Pawelski quickly closed in on Grosser and dived to the inside in Turn 1. Pawelski easily completed the pass on Grosser, and had jumped back up from fourth to second, only to find Demeritt had already opened up a nearly fifteen car length lead. Borkenhagen also moved to pass Grosser a lap later, allowing Pawelski to break away from the two of them.
Although Demeritt and Pawelski were easily able to stretch their respective advantages, Borkenhagen was unable to sneak away from Grosser. Grosser made his move on Lap 78, getting to Borkenhagen’s inside before Turn 1. Borkenhagen gave Grosser plenty of room, taking the high line, and nearly pushing up into the wall. Grosser also gave Borkenhagen plenty of room, taking the inside lane. The odd lines cost both Grosser and Borkenhagen valuable time, and allowed the two leaders to further extend their already extensive leads.
The positions of the top four would remain the same for the remaining 22 laps of the race. The last battle for position on track featured Malone and Christian Kern (DE-AT-CH) disputing the fifth position. Kern chased Malone from the restart and was able to keep him only six car lengths ahead. Malone struggled to pass Rick White (New England) who was two laps down and, with only five laps to go, attempted to run a lower line than White. Malone clipped the apron and slid up the track, before saving the car from the outside wall. The slide killed his momentum, however, and allowed Kern to blow by.
Demeritt easily won the 2502 Strength of Field by 2.821 seconds after leading 95 of the 100 laps, earning 151 points for his win. Pawelski finished second with Grosser third, Borkenhagen fourth, and Kern rounding out the top five finishing positions. This was the second of Demeritt’s two wins throughout the week of sim racing. The only other winner during the week was Cross.