Week Four of the 2015 Season 1 iRacing.com IndyCar Oval sent the series to Chicagoland Speedway. Only 140 sim-racers raced in the “Windy City” throughout the week. Cautions, handling, lap traffic, pit strategy, tire wear and whether or not to make use of the apron were just some of the storylines that played out throughout the week of sim racing.
Brandon Trost (Pennsylvania) started on pole with Paul Jennings (Carolina) on his outside. Matt Pawelski (Pennsylvania) started third with Rob Unglenieks (Michigan) fourth, and Joe Hassert (Midwest) rounding out the top five starting positions.
Just prior to taking the green flag, most of the sim-racers came to a gentlemen’s agreement to not use the apron in the tri-oval of the track, although a handful of competitors still used it to different degrees of success. Trost and Pawelski had excellent starts as Jennings rode a row behind Trost. Pawelski immediately jumped to Trost’s outside as Jennings tried to hold-off Unglenieks. Pawelski quickly fell back in line as Jennings dropped behind Unglenieks and into the clutches of Joe Branch2 (Indiana). Trost quickly expanded his lead as Unglenieks got by Pawelski, and Jennings fell further behind Branch.
As the leaders began running single-file, further back in the field, Adam Dock (Texas) and Gary Borkenhagen (Midwest) battled for position as both sim-racers struggled to find a way around Erich Moraga (Texas). Dock drove hard on the inside to clear Borkenhagen, only for Borkenhagen to repeat the same move on Dock a lap later. However, the battle ended as the two sim-racers caught back up to the ill-handling Moraga. Borkenhagen dived low as Moraga broke loose off of turn two.
The loss of momentum allowed Dock to drive-by Moraga on the low side on the front stretch. Moraga then fell back into the clutches of Seth Eggert (Carolina), who was struggling to keep Marco Aurelio Brasil (Brazil) at bay. Brasil dove on to the apron in an attempt to pass Eggert, only to break loose and nearly spin his Dallara DW12. Eggert jumped to Moraga’s outside before cutting low in Turn One. Moraga then pushed up the track and into Brasil. The impact sent Moraga drifting through the corner, and Brasil spinning into the outside wall, bringing out the first caution of the race. Almost everyone elected to pit, and as Hassert left his pit stall, he spun, nearly taking out Dock in the process.
Jason Spillan (Illinois), led the field to green as he had opted to stay on track during the round of pit stops. On fresh tires, Trost easily blew by Spillan with the rest of the field slowly following suit. After making their way past Spillan, Branch and Unglenieks battled for second as they tried to run down Trost. Branch passed Unglenieks on the inside as the two very nearly made contact, only for Unlgenieks to attempt to swing back by on the inside a lap later. The two battled side-by-side for several laps, until Branch slowly cleared Unglenieks to take command of second place.
The green flag racing was not destined to last however as Spillan and Jeff Zook (Virginias) got together with spectacular consequences, as the contact sent Zook flying into the catch-fencing and ended both sim-racers’ races. This time, the entire field ducked onto pit road for service.
Trost had an excellent restart, as he used the apron to build his gap over Branch. Branch closed back in on Trost, who continued to using the apron. Trost’s use of the apron, and the amount of room he needed to rejoin the racing surface, made Branch move up the track several times. Branch eventually got underneath Trost and took the lead only for Trost to regain the lead and drive away, continuing to use the apron. The field quickly spread out as the sim-racers attempted to conserve their tires.
Green flag pit stops started early in this run, with Gary Borkenhagen the first to pit on Lap 63, only halfway into the fuel run. Unglenieks followed three laps later. Trost pitted on Lap 67, and rejoined by driving straight onto the racing surface, cutting-off Dock, who had inherited the lead, and nearly causing a multi-car incident. Dock pitted a few laps later, handing the lead off to Eggert who continued logging laps in the hopes of getting a caution. Eggert’s luck paid off when Moraga rear-ended Ryan Broderick (Pennsylvania) in the middle of the straightaway on Lap 76, sending Broderick into the outside wall, and flipping down the backstretch.
The caution trapped Dock, Borkenhagen, Jennings, Scott W Smith (Atlantic) and Harold Palmer (Mid-South) a lap down. As Eggert and the other lead lap cars pitted, many were forced to take the waved around with one to green.
Eggert had an excellent restart as Ricardo Rossi (Brazil) laid back several car lengths behind him. Trost immediately cut down, onto the apron, to get underneath Rossi nearly making contact. Trost caught Eggert two laps later, and once again, forced his way by with Branch following him through. Trost continued to make use of the apron in an attempt to further extend his gap on Branch who, unable to make any ground on the leader, settled in for the finish.
Trost won the 2243 Strength of Field, one of the highest SOFs of the week, by 1.086 seconds over Branch. Trost earned 142 points for his win. Unglenieks finished third, with Pawelski fourth, and Eggert rounding out the top five finishing positions. The hard charger of the race was Rossi, who moved up eight positions after starting fourteenth, to finish sixth. Hassert had the tough break of the race, as connection issues relegated him to a sixteenth place finish after starting in fifth. A total of 20 sim-racers earned a win in the” Windy City” before the series packed up for a virtual trip to the Irish Hills and Michigan International Speedway.