Week Five of the 2014 Season 2 iRacing.com IndyCar Oval Series sent the series to Richmond International Raceway. Only 28 sim-racers participated in online races throughout the week, nearly matching a season low in participation. Handling and pit strategy would be the stories throughout the week of sim-racing with the new Dallara DW12.
Christopher Demeritt (New Jersey) started on the pole with Herman Pfander (DE-AT-CH) starting on his outside. Philippe Lambert (France) started third ahead of Connor Cross (Ohio) with Rob Unglenieks (Michigan) rounding out the top five starting positions.
Demeritt got off to an excellent start as Pfander laid back a full row at the green. This advantage gave Demeritt a three car length lead over Pfander by the time he reached Turn One. As Pfander closed-in on Demeritt the two leaders gapped Cross and the rest of the field by over 10 car lengths. With Lambert attempting to reclaim third, Cross, Lambert, and Unglenieks slowly lost ground to the leaders.
As the rest of the field began to struggle to keep up, trouble found Matt A Kingsbury (Connecticut) further back in the field. Unfortunately for Kingsbury, the combination of a corner entrance that was too high, and a failure to keep-up with the weight jacker, sent him into the wall exiting Turn Two. The impact destroyed the right side of Kingsbury’s Dallara DW12, and ricocheted him into the inside wall, ending his race on Lap 6. The good news is that Kingsbury was able to keep his car on the apron, and prevent the caution flag from waving.
The field continued to become spread out as both Demeritt and Pfander began to lap the back of the field. Even with the lapped traffic, the two leaders increased their lead to nearly a half a lap until Lap 20, when Demeritt got high out of Turn Two wide and clipped the outside wall. Demeritt held his car against the wall until Turn Three but, as he attempted to make the corner, he spun and backed into the outside wall bringing-out the first caution of the race. At the same time Ricardo Rossi (Brazil) bounced off the outside wall and crashed into the infield, ending his race as well. All but Pfander elected to pit under the caution, as he chose an alternate strategy.
Pfander had a good restart as Unglenieks and Cross battled behind him. Cross got loose in Turn One, allowing Unglenieks to clear him on the outside, their battle allowing Pfander to easily open a several car length lead. Also helping Pfander was his lighter fuel load, allowing him to run faster lap times than the rest of the field. As the race continued, the field became more and more spread out. Pfander quickly lapped the back of the field, and had nearly a straightaway lead by lap 50.
Pfander found the lapped traffic easy until he reached the fifth place car of Seth Eggert (Carolina). Eggert tried to hold-off Pfander for several laps before finally relenting after the two Dallaras touched wheels. Luckily, both sim-racers were able to continue without any damage.
With only four cars remaining on the lead lap, the race continued at its hurried pace. Pfander had nearly a half-a-lap margin over Unglenieks when he finally hit pit road on Lap 89. With Pfander pitting, Unglenieks assumed the lead for the first time in the race and thus the gap between first and second (Cross) shrunk from a half a lap to about half a straightaway.
The strategy seemed to be perfect for Pfander, as it looked like everyone would have to pit once more. Immediately after exiting pit road Pfander was already running laps faster than the leader, making-up valuable time. However, the race was not meant to be for Pfander. While attempting to pass the lapped car of Xavi Iborra (Iberia), Pfander hit the apron and spun into Iborra’s path. Iborra ran the high line against the wall in an attempt to give Pfander more room – to no avail as the two collided, ending Pfander’s race and triggering the second and final caution of the event. Unglenieks, Cross, and Lambert all pitted, with Unglenieks electing not to take tires. With all of the lead lap cars pitting, Eggert opted to take the gamble, and stay out to regain the lead lap.
Unglenieks seemed to have an excellent restart until he spun his tires, allowing Cross to stay within reach of the lead. Sure enough, while exiting Turn Four, Unglenieks understeered and lost momentum, enabling Cross to grab first spot and Lambert to catch up. Seeing his opportunity, Lambert started attacking Unglenieks for second, affording Cross the chance to pull away. Lambert finally worked his way passed Unglenieks after battling for nearly ten laps, but was left with less than two laps to do something about Cross.
However, with his pit strategy paying-off, Cross cruised to victory in the 2737 Strength of Field, the highest SoF of the week, by 1.805 seconds over Lander. Unglenieks finished third, with Eggert coasting across the line in fourth and out of gas. Despite the incident with Pfander, Iborra rounded-out the top five, albeit six laps down. Cross earned a week high 165 points for his victory. Other winners during the week included Brendan Lichtenberg (Midwest) and Robert Grosser (DE-AT-CH).