Week Five of the 2015 Season 1 iRacing.com IndyCar Oval sent the series Michigan International Speedway. A total 192 sim-racers raced in the “Irish Hills of Michigan” throughout a week where the draft, handling, lap traffic, pit strategy, overall speed, and tire wear and — happily — caution-free races were just some of the storylines that played-out.
Christopher Demeritt (New Jersey) started on pole with Brandon Trost (Pennsylvania) on his outside. Matt Pawelski (Pennsylvania) started third with Seth Eggert (Carolina) fourth, and Niles Anders (Plains) rounding out the top five starting positions.
The top four all got off to excellent starts as they opened up a gap of several cars lengths over Anders. Trost immediately dove underneath Pawelski on the backstretch even as Anders caught Eggert as a result of the draft. Trost was unable to pass Pawelski on the inside, allowing Eggert to attempt the same move. However, Trost powered forward and on to Pawelski’s outside. Trost cleared Pawelski, and went on to challenge Demeritt as Eggert began to fall back through the field. Nigel Marneef (Benelux) joined the squabble for the lead as the top four battled. At the same time, Trost misjudged the space between himself and Demeritt, resulting in contact entering Turn One. Demeritt, unfazed, kept going as Trost fell from second to fifth.
The running order continued to change as Pawelski aero-pushed behind Anders, and nearly slid up into Marneef. Marneef went wide and brushed the wall, as Trost took advantage and dove under Pawelski. Anders battled Demeritt for the lead, only for Trost to dive under both sim-racers entering Turn Three. The battle up front continued to intensify as Anders pushed off of Turn Two into Trost, sending Anders sliding onto the apron before regaining control of his Dallara DW12. Anders finally cleared Trost when the latter missed the entrance of Turn Three and went wide with Marneef seizing the opportunity to draw even with Trost in the bargain. A lap later, Trost misjudged the position of the car below him and turned into Marneef. The contact sent Trost darting up into the outside wall, although everyone continued including Trost who sported a damaged sidepod that no doubt explained his subsequent drop through the field.
Up front, the leaders began spreading out as they neared the halfway point of the fuel run. Further back in the pack, Eggert and Stefan Remedy (Canada) battled for position with Remedy clearing Eggert on the fronstretch, only for Eggert to try the outside into Turn One. After that attempt failed, Eggert used the draft to try and dive underneath Remedy entering Turn Three. The sim racers made light contact, sending them two drifting through the corner before they easily regained control and continued.
Green flag pit stops started on Lap 36 as Trost ducked-in for service. Anders was next to his pit road on Lap 42, with Demeritt, Marneef and Vick Caudill (Michigan) pitting a lap later. This handed the lead to Adam Dock (Texas), who, along with Eggert, was one of the last two to pay a visit to the pit. Dock, however, got busted for speeding entering pit road.
Demeritt took over the lead after pit stops, as he was able to leap-frog Anders. Although Anders immediately drove by Demeritt to retake the lead, he was unable to put any ground on Demeritt. The two sim-racers then began an “Irish Hills jig” dance’ as Demeritt passed Anders low on the front stretch, only for Anders to do the same on the backstretch. The lead duo repeated this process several times over the next five laps, before Demeritt tried the high line for several laps only to fall back in line, and resume his docey-do with Anders. This dance continued for another five laps until Demeritt was finally able to break the cycle on Lap 61 and take — and keep — the lead.
As Demeritt finally broke the draft and open a sizable gap over Anders, back in the pack, Anthony Lurcock (New York) pushed up and into the wall off of Turn Two with Marco Aurelio Brasil (Brazil) following suit. Lurcock immediately headed for pit road, while Brasil continued limping around the track. Brasil’s badly damaged Dallara DW12 weaved drunkenly back and forth as his suspension collapsed, forcing many to take evasive action for several laps before the Brazilian finally ducked onto pit road and parked.
Back up front, Demeritt was dealing with lapped traffic, first in the form of Dock, allowing Anders to close the gap. Dock quickly recognized the lead battle, and allowed both leaders to pass easily. Once Demeritt cleared Dock, he re-extended his lead, only to catch James Gerity (Carolina) coming to the white flag. The opportunistic Anders quickly closed in, but was ultimately unable to get close enough to Demeritt to make a last lap bid for the win.
Demeritt won the 3652 Strength of Field, the highest of the week, with 0.322 seconds to spare over Anders. Demeritt earned 228 points for his win, his second of four during the week. Marneef finished third, with Caudill fourth, and Pawelski rounding out the top five finishing positions. Caudill was the hard charger of the race, as finished in fourth after starting eleventh, a gain of seven positions. Trost had the tough break of the race as he finished last after starting second.
All told. a total of 23 sim-racers took a trip to victory lane during the week with Cristian Steele (California) winning a week-high seven races, before the series packed up for a virtual trip from “The Irish Hills” and Michigan International Speedway to “The Valley of the Sun” and Phoenix International Raceway.