IndyCar drivers, new and old, hit the track at Michigan International Speedway on Wednesday, February 2, for the much-anticipated first online race of the start of a new season for Big Red Racing’s popular Fixed Setup Indy Series. Series newcomer, Daniel Olszewski pulled-off a minor upset by passing last season’s runner-up, Tim Doyle, on the final corner of the race, as Tim ran out of fuel due to a fuel miscalculation by his crew chief during his final pit stop. Congratulations on your first BRR victory, Dan!
Close qualifying is expected in a fixed setup series, and this race was no exception. Drivers qualify with full fuel loads, using the same setup they use for the sim races in this series. Last season’s champion, Vincent Sciuto, grabbed the Pole with a time of 32.664. Tim Doyle qualified 4/100s behind, with a time of 32.704, while third place qualifier, Ryan Heeter, was 6/1000s behind Doyle with a time of 32.711. Series regular, Dan Lee Ensch, qualified fourth with another BRR rookie, Woodrow Mahan, closing out the top five qualifiers.
The start of the race went off without a hitch. The pole-sitting Sciuto grabbed the lead as the green flag fell, with Doyle latching onto his gearbox quickly. Ensch, Mahan and Olszewski caught-up to the lead pair on Lap Four to create a five car lead pack in the early going. Longtime BRR member, John Ahles, lead a two car group following them, with Eddie George hanging onto on his tail. The rest of the field was in a large pack a couple of seconds behind this pair, attempting to make up ground on the leading cars.
The race quickly settled in, with drivers giving each other the respect needed to survive at this high speed two mile tri-oval, The first trouble erupted when, on Lap 26, Kevin Neely and Nicholas Staller made contact while exiting Turn Four, sending both spinning into the outside wall, and ending their races earlier than they had hoped. This would turn out to be the only yellow flag of the race, though not the last incident.
The timing of the incident put the drivers just outside their fuel window to make the end of the race under green flag conditions. When the pits opened, all but one car chose to go down pit lane. Ensch decided to stay out and gamble on taking a later pit sto in the hopes the extra fuel he would have might help him make a run for the checkered at the end of the race. Unfortunately, it looked like Ensch’s strategy would backfire before it even started, as the starter gave the “one to go” signal as he crossed the timing stripe. But as the fortunes of fate would have it, Ensch would get his stop in under yellow anyway.
As the field was exiting pit lane after their yellow flag stops on Lap 29 and re-forming in single file on the backstretch, Justin Petschauer made a critical mistake, hitting the rear of Ernie Buckels’ Dallara, sending him into the wall and ending his race. Petschauer heavily damaged his front wing during the contact and would retire just a couple of laps later. This incident is still under review by the Race Stewards at the time of this writing, but Petschauer is expected to receive a warning or penalty as the result from this transgression.
Due to this mishap, the starter waved-off the green flag, mandating one more lap under yellow to allow the field to reform. This allowed Ensch to make his pit stop later than everyone else, and allowing him a shot at his fuel strategy for the race.
The race restarted on Lap 31 with Sciuto still leading after just edging Doyle out of the pits during their stops. Getting out of the pits first was big for Sciuto, as he would go onto lead 69 of the 75 laps of this race, and grab the valuable bonus point awarded to the driver leading the most laps in the race. Olszewski and Heeter battled around Turn Two following the restart, with Olszewski completing a pass on the outside down the backstretch to take third place.
Unfortunately, the restart was not without incident, as Shutte received black flag from Race Control for passing George on the left prior to the Start/Finish line. George missed his shift, forcing Mark to go low to avoid him while getting up to speed. This would force Shutte to the pits to serve a Stop and Go penalty, effectively ending any chances of a top finish in the race.
The race ran under green from this point to its conclusion, meaning the entire field, including Ensch, would eventually have to make a green flag fuel stop to make it to the end. The race started to get a lot more interesting now, as the outcome would come down to the performance of the drivers and their crews in their last pit stop of the race.
Ryan Heeter was the first to hit the pits on lap 56, gambling on an early stop. Unfortunately for Ryan, he made an illegal pit entry by coming off the track while exiting Turn Four instead of coming down to the apron prior to Turn Three. This is the rule for this series at all ovals due to the extreme closing speeds involved with these cars on oval tracks. All drivers were instructed of this rule prior to the race and the black flag penalty resulting in the loss of a lap knocked Heeter out of contention in the race.
The rest of the field waited until their fuel loads were depleted before entering the pits. The leaders started hitting the pits for a quick gas and go on Lap 71, when Sciuto relinquished the lead to Doyle who had Olszewski hot on his heels. Doyle, with Olszewski following, entered the pits on the next lap, and did so faster than Sciuto did, which resulted in them passing the former leader during their stops.
Doyle had the lead heading into the last few laps of the race, as he so often does in races that develop like this. Olszewski pressured Doyle hard on the next two laps, attempting passes on the outside only to be rebuked by the leader as Sciuto steadily inched his way closer to the two often side-by-side cars. The last lap of the race saw Olszewski get a run on Doyle exiting Turn Two that allowed him to once again get along side the leader, and they stayed this way around Turns Three and Four with the checkered flag in sight. Exiting Turn Four Doyle’s car sputtered, and ran out of virtual ethanol, allowing Olszewski to easily accomplish the pass. No sooner did Olszewski move into first than his car also started sputtering as his fuel tank emptied. Sciuto quickly passed Doyle for second place, but couldn’t quite reach Olszewski before he coasted across the line with his first ever BRR Fixed Setup Indy Series victory.
By winning the race, Olszewski grabs the early points lead in the Season Championship. Congratulations again, Dan!
1. Daniel Olszewski
2. Vincent Sciuto
3. Tim Doyle
4. John Ahles
5. Dan Lee Ensch
6. Bryan Lebo
7. Matthew Lambertson
8. Andrew Hayes
9. Georgio Ponti
10. Woodrow Mahan
11. Mike Grandy
12. Joe Branch2
13. Mark Witz
14. Eddie George
15. Robert Bohanek
16. Ryan Heeter
17. Mark Shutte
18. Justin Petschauer
19. Ernie Buckels
20. Kevin Neely
21. Nicholas Staller
Next week the BRR FSIS drivers will be at the famed Milwaukee Mile for a 125 mile race there on Wednesday, February 9. Practice opens at 8:00pm Eastern, with Qualifying at 9:30 Eastern, and the race itself shortly following that. If you’re interested in getting involved in the Series, please visit http://www.bigredracing.org for more info.
Big Red Racing has been in existence since the early spring of 2005, running league series in a variety of Racing Software over the years. At this time BRR uses the iRacing platform exclusively for their current ongoing racing series. BRR is dedicated to helping both novice, and experienced drivers improve their racecraft in all the Fixed Setup Series they currently offer.