Indianapolis Motor Speedway, THE track every IndyCar driver wants to win at, was host to the seventh round of the 2012 Season 1 iRacing.com IZOD IndyCar Series. High speeds around four, flat 90 degree corners takes nerves of steel to hold it wide open on the 2.5 mile oval. Many drivers try to win here but very few can do it with any regularity. Participation at Indy is always high and this week didn’t disappoint with a season-high 49 sim racers attempting to go for the win.
The week’s top split saw 25 drivers make the show with last week’s winner Yang Ou grabbing the pole with a 39.320s lap followed by last week’s runner-up Tim Doyle with a 39.400s lap. Starting third with an impressive 39.410s lap was Bud Weissert, who happens to host daily “Days to Indy” races for those looking to gain experience leading up to the 2012 iRacing.com Indy 500 in May. Fourth place in qualifying went to point leader Chris Cahoe, just one thousandth of a second behind Weissert with a 39.430s lap, while Randy Freeman rounded out the top five with a 39.431s lap.
While Ou led the field to the green flag, a couple of drivers had issues on the first lap. Chris Manifold grazed the Turn Three wall causing him to swerve low onto the access lane before coming back up to the racing surface where Cory McLemore was able to narrowly avoid him. On the second lap, Weissert’s car got a bit tight forcing his car hard into the Turn One wall. Randy Freeman also had a spin exiting Turn Two on the same lap. Freeman was able to continue after making slight contact with the inside retaining wall while Weissert limped to the pits, only to retire from the event.
The first yellow of the event waved on Lap Five when C. Manifold inexplicably stopped his car on the Indianapolis road course portion of the track on pit exit. The top five running order at the time was Ou, Doyle, Cahoe, Neffry Aawg and Niles Anders. Leader Ou decided to take advantage of the early caution and play the fuel strategy by pitting, hoping for the race to go green and making it on just one more stop. Several other drivers pitted as well.
With Doyle now in the lead, the green flag reappeared on Lap Nine. Eleventh starting Matthew Lambertson was up to fifth place on the restart behind Cahoe, Aawg and Anders in fourth, while Ou slotted into ninth place. It only took Ou four laps to regain a spot in the top five, as he passed Anders for fifth position before the race’s second yellow waved on Lap 18 when Freeman yet again spun on the exit of Turn One while battling Joe Branch for fifteenth position. Branch was able to escape contact with the rest of the field, safely by-passing Freeman’s spinning Dallara
With the pits open again, the entire field, with the exception of eighth starting Scott Manifold, pitted for fresh tires and fuel. The running order on the restart was now S. Manifold in first from Doyle, Cahoe, Aawg and Ou. Doyle wasted no time in reclaiming the lead with a pass low off Turn Two and onto the backstretch. Lambertson and Ou meanwhile were battling hard for fifth position. Lambertson was able to make it to the third position before the race’s third yellow waved on Lap 24 after Robert Bohanek who lost the handle off Turn Two. After making hard contact with the inside retaining wall, Bohanek shot back across the track into the path of Eric Vanek’s path, bringing both drivers’ races to an end.
With a handful of drivers taking the opportunity to pit during the third caution period of the race, the top five coming to the Lap 29 restart featured Doyle, S. Manifold, Lambertson, Cahoe and Aawg. Ou, who restarted sixth, was up to third by lap 31 and starting to pressure Lambertson for second position. These two battled hard for over ten laps until the two Dallaras made contact on Lap 41. With Ou down low and Lambertson high, the two came together in Turn One sending Lambertson hard into the outside wall as a result. Lambertson was able to keep his car high against the wall, but not before a following Freeman checked-up – much to the surprise of Brian Stevens. Unable to avoid the inside retaining wall, Stevens crashed hard out of the race.
With only 34 laps remaining, the ensuing caution set-up a critical round of pit stops. While Doyle led the field onto pit road, it was pole-sitter Ou who won the race off pit lane with Doyle second, Cahoe third and Cary Bettenhausen just edging Aawg for fourth spot.
The green flag reappeared on Lap 45. Ou and Doyle led the charge and were slowly able to build a bit of a gap over the third place car of Cahoe. Bettenhausen’s restart didn’t go too well and he fell several positions before settling into the twelfth position.
Green flag racing was the name of the game until the race’s fourth caution waved on Lap 70. Battling for seventh, Gary Borkenhagen and S. Manifold made slight contact exiting Turn Four, pushing both cars into the outside wall. S. Manifold got the worst end of it as his car almost flipped when Jeffrey Koolbergen clipped him on the way past. While Koolbergen managed to escape with no significant damage, S. Manifold was forced to retire just 15 miles from the finish.
The net result of the yellow with just six laps to go, was a one lap shootout to finish-off the race. The top five coming to the restart were Ou, Doyle, Cahoe, Anders and Jonathan Goke, who started all the way back in twenty-third position.
Any hopes of a classis finish were dashed when chaos erupted even before the green flag appeared. In a case of one car anticipating the start and unleashing an accordion effect, cars were crashing everywhere! By the time the calamity was finished, a total of eight cars were involved in the melee and several positions changed as a result. The big winner to come out of the mess was Bettenhausen. Lined up in the eighth position before the restart, Bettenhausen was able to score a top five finish even though the green flag never appeared. Aawg on the other hand went from sixth position all the way to fifteenth in the final reckoning.
As a result, Ou scored his second win in a row with Doyle in second spot, a replay of the previous week’s race at Richmond. Cahoe was a solid third after running there most of the day, with Goke and Bettenhausen completing the top five. After starting in twenty-fourth position, Jeff Chandler worked his way up to a sixth place finish ahead of Michael Peters, David Sockrider, Branch and McLemore.
Pole: Yang Ou
Lead changes: 4
Caution laps: 21
Lap leaders: Ou 1-5; Doyle 5-19; S. Manifold 20-22; Doyle 23-42; Ou 43-75.
Margin of victory: 00.140s
Hard charger: Jonathan Goke (19 spots)
Biggest loser: Bud Weissert (22 spots)
Laps led: Ou (38)
Fastest lap: Ou 39.440 lap 14
1. Yang Ou
2. Tim Doyle
3. Chris Cahoe
4. Jonathan Goke
5. Cary Bettenhausen
Cars finishing: 14
DNF: Weissert, C. Manifold, Al Nagy, Vanek, Bohanek, Lambertson, Stevens, Dave Judson, S. Manifold, Koolbergen, Aawg