The twelfth and final week of the 2015 Season 1 iRacing.com IndyCar Oval Series sent the competitors to the Indianpolis Motor Speedway. A grand total of 212 sim-racers took to the historic track throughout a week when aero-push, cautions, handling, high attrition rates, lap traffic, pit road exits, pit strategy and tire wear – not to mention a championship battle — were just some of the storylines that played-out.
Championship leader Nigel Marneef (Benelux) started on pole with Derek M Murray (UK and I) on his outside. Marneef’s championship rival Vick Caudill (Michigan) started third with Brandon Trost (Pennsylvania) fourth, and Christopher Demeritt (New Jersey) rounding out the top five starting positions. Before the field even left the grid positions, Seth Eggert (Carolina) realized he still had the qualifying set-up in the car, and quickly changed his set-up at the cost of being relegated to starting from pit road and one lap down. Eggert’s team manager was unavailable for comment . . .
Marneef had an excellent start even as Caudill missed a shift behind him as Trost used the opportunity to attempt to pass Murray. Caudill, now back up to speed, drafted back up to Trost and Murray, taking it three-wide off of Turn two. Trost attempted to block, forcing Caudill onto the apron, but he was unable to impede Caudill’s run. Caudill backed out of the three-wide situation just before entering Turn Three. Demeritt, who rode behind the action pushed wide off of Turn Four and slapped the outside wall, a misfortune that turned-out to have a silver lining as he missed the chaos that was about to erupt ahead of him.
Trost went around the outside of Murray in Turn One, only for Murray to wash up into his left rear. The contact sent the two sim-racers spinning toward the inside wall in the short chute as Caudill, Demeritt, and Tim Doyle (Atlantic) barely snuck through. Not so fortunate were Adam Dock (Texas), Rob Unglenieks (Michigan), and Gary Borkenhagen (Midwest) who were unable to avoid Murray’s wayward Dallara and slammed into the wreck. Amazingly, Trost managed to escape the chaos unscathed as the yellow lights flashed.
Marneef made an excellent restart as Ray Kingsbury (New England) nearly ran into the back of Caudill. Kingsbury immediately moved to pass Caudill at the first opportunity even as Doyle made an impressive pass on Matt Pawelski (Pennsylvania) on the outside of Turn Four. Kingsbury and Caudill slowly drafted up to Marneef as the field began spreading out and settled in for the long race. As the lead trio pulled away, Caudill repeatedly attempted to pass Kingsbury, only to fall back in line. Meanwhile, Trost slowly worked his way back up to twelfth after his Lap Two spin while, not far behind, Eggert moved up through the field albeit a lap in arrears.
As the laps clicked off, the three leaders extended the gap over the rest of the field to nearly half a straightaway. Meanwhile, Trost proved to be one of the only sim-racers able to easily wheel his Dallara DW12 through traffic, finally cracking the top ten on Lap 14. The quiet single-file racing ended abruptly, when Austin Espitee (New England) dive-bombed Pawelski entering Turn One. The two made contact, propelling Pawelski into a drift, and sending many of their competitors behind them scattering. Just a few laps later, Stefan Remedy (Canada) pushed into the outside wall in Turn One, bringing out the caution. All of the leaders elected to pit, while Eggert opted to take the wave-around in a bid to get back onto the lead lap.
Practice makes perfect as both Marneef and Kingsbury got great restarts, momentarily gapping Caudill. Trost attempted to pass Doyle on the outside of Turn Three but thought better of it and fell back in line. Moments later, Caudill dropped low to pass Kingsbury in Turn One, only to drift up and send Kingsbury into a drift of his own. Doyle took the opportunity to make a move on Kingsbury, taking to the apron in the short chute. However, Doyle lost all of his momentum because of the poor angle of his corner entrance. Trost checked-up to avoid Doyle, only to be drilled and turned by Espitee. Half of the field, including Marneef and Kingsbury pitted under the resulting caution while Caudill and others remained on track.
Caudill made an excellent restart, while championship rival Marneef was in tenth, stuck behind Martijn Nagelkerken (Australia/NZ) when the green flag waved. Although Marneef easily passed Nagelkerken on the backstretch, he had lost the draft of those ahead. Ditto Kingsbury, who tried to pass Nagelkerken in Turn one, only to make contact and send both cars into the wall, with Dave Jinks (West) slamming into Nagelkerken, as he slowly rolled back down the track. Once again some sim-racers pitted under the caution while others stayed on track.
Caudill made a good restart as did the rest of the top three, while a resurgent Marneef climbed back to fourth. Up front James Gerity (Carolina) took the lead from Caudill who rode behind Gerity for several laps before finally repassing the Carolinian, no doubt spurred-on by the sight of Marneef catching the lead trio. Marneef made quick work of Christian Steele (California) and Gerity to jump back up into second, before reclaiming the lead from Caudull with ease on Lap 45. The field quickly spread out as the attrition rate increased, with Gerity tagging the wall and Joe Hassert (Midwest) crashed onto pit road. Then, with just seven laps to go, Caudill got high in the South Short Chute, hit the wall and rebounded into the inside barrier, ending his chances at the championship. The race came to an end only four laps later when Eggert and Demeritt got together, sending Demeritt crashing into the inside wall with only three laps remaining.
Marneef earned 221 points for his win in the 3477 Strength of Field and, with it, the championship. Espitee emerged from the late race carnage in in second ahead of Doyle and Terry Matthiensen (California) fourth, while Pawelski rounded-out the top five finishers. The hard charger of the race went to Eggert who was scheduled to start sixteenth, but started in twenty-fourth, one lap down, and survived to finish sixth – and on the lead lap to boot. Murray had the tough break of the race, starting second, only to end up in twenty-third and out of the race.
A grand total of two dozen sim-racers tasted the milk in victory lane with Murray winning a week-high 12 races before the series packed-up for the off season.