Week 4 of iRacing.com’s premiere open-wheel oval racing series saw the IZOD IndyCar Oval Series pound the bricks of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Only 58 teams made the virtual journey across town, but more than two dozen of them sought the ultimate prize in the weekly Strength of Field race, with drivers and teams in search of victory at the venerable Speedway.
The Strength of Field event registered an average iRating of 3263 with 26 Dallara IndyCars on the grid – a full field. The race featured only three cautions for 11 of the 60 laps and saw the top six positions in the starting lineup locked-up by the Banshee and Aero-X team sim-racers.
Defending series champion Martin Miller2 (Mid-South) was the man to beat from the start and led the first 42 laps of the race followed by team members including Jon Porzuc (New England), Randy Crossno (California), Matt Cooke (Canada) and others. It didn’t take long for a caution though as Mat Lambertson (PA) pushed up into another car and wrecked, resulting in Brad Sanford (Texas) and Chuch Eisenbarth (Ohio) quickly out of the race with 54 laps remaining. The resulting pause saw some takers (mostly from the back of the field) head to pit lane, but Cooke was baking a plan and stopped for service.
The race restarted in routine fashion up front before another caution shook-up the order, as Brandon Trost (PA) ran into the back of another Velociraptor team mate, Adam Dock (Texas), spun around collecting UK and I’s Niall McBride (who had no Irish Luck today) while Dock made an excellent save and kept the car off the inside wall. A few laps after the subsequent restart Bryan Tong (West) executed a single car spin and manned his car to relative safety.
West’s solo loop led to the final restart of the day. As had been the case from the original start, Miller was dominant with Porzuc, Crossno, and Michael DuTemple (Northwest) his only competition. After leading the first 42 laps, Miller called on pit road for a speedy stop. Crossno, Porzuc, and DuTemple flew into pit road the next time ‘round, with Porzuc collecting a speeding penalty as he saved his car from nearly smashing Crossno to pieces.
The later pit stops afforded Crossno and DuTemple a slight advantage over Miller, with Crossno leading the next half dozen laps and DuTemple and Miller battling for P2. With two laps remaining it looked like Crossno had the win in the bag . . . until Miller roared past DuTemple and darted to the leader’s inside coming down the front stretch to the white flag. Miller hugged the white curbing and Crossno ran wide, dropping into a side-by-side battle for second with DuTemple. Worse was to come, as Crossno executed a “Hildebrand,” slamming the wall exiting Turn Four and limping to a third place finish while Miller was beating DuTemple across the line for the win. Although Miller’s strategy was not the best, his clear pace and ability propelled him to Victory Lane. Cooke, meanwhile, came home fourth followed by Terry Matthiensen (California).
The iRacing.com IZOD IndyCar Oval Series standings see Miller mounting a successful defense of his Season 2 crown thus far, albeit just thirteen points clear of Cooke. Crossno is third, followed by Lambertson and Brendan Lichtenberg. Although Cooke appears to have the best chance of derailing Miller’s championship defense, Lambertson looks strong . . . especially if he can string together some wins and challenge for the title.
The fifth week of the series sees the drivers head to Richmond International Raceway for some high speed short track racing. The 0.75 mile track promises to give us a good show as the drivers and teams gear-up for the championship fight as Miller strives for his three-peat.