IndyCar veterans wary of Esports experts in Watkins Glen race

David Malsher-Lopez
motorsport.com

The 45-lap American Red Cross Grand Prix from Watkins Glen International will play out tomorrow at 4pm ET as part of a five-race IndyCar iRacing Challenge, streaming on IndyCar.com and IndyCar’s YouTube and Facebook accounts.

The starting lineup will be set in a 10-minute qualifying session prior to the event, with all drivers running the same car setups.

However, some of the stars of the IndyCar stars have admitted they’re going to be at a disadvantage on their game simulators.

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Four-time Champ Car title winner Sebastien Bourdais, who this year runs a part-time schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing, said he had never practiced from home “because we had the kids and life is busy enough without me saying, 'Hey I'm just going to play games.'

“Since our job right now is going to be restricted to only virtual stuff, that's the route we've got to take. We just have to try and do the best we can with it. Ultimately it is just another challenge.

“Hopefully we give some real entertainment to the fans, keep engaged with them and put on some good shows. Then it is a win-win situation."

Tony Kanaan, the veteran with whom Bourdais will share the #14 car this year (although Sebastien will take over the absent Charlie Kimball’s entry for tomorrow’s Esports race), said: “The world of sim racing is new to me, and when I say new, I mean it.

“When INDYCAR announced that they were planning on creating something to keep the drivers and fans connected through this difficult time, I went after getting a sim setup for the house. That was last week! Since then, I've spent some time getting used to it and learning the basics to be able to participate but I've got to admit that the younger drivers… have a huge advantage over a guy like me that just started four days ago. Nonetheless, I believe that it's a neat idea."

Graham Rahal is another relative newbie, commenting: “The last time I even drove on a sim like this was probably 12 years ago… Obviously with my experience level being really nonexistent compared to some of these guys like Santino [Ferrucci], Colton [Herta] and Sage [Karam], who seem to be spending a ton of time on these things, I might be in for an uphill battle but either way we'll have some fun with it…

" Like on real race weekends, United Rentals has pledged to donate $50 per lap that I complete to the Turns for Troops initiative with Soldier Strong.”

Both Josef Newgarden and Will Power race sims at home, but they can expect strong opposition from their future teammate, Supercars’ reigning champion Scott McLaughlin who has won 33.7 percent of his 500-plus iRaces. However, his success percentage is beaten by ex-F1 driver Scott Speed who has won more than 44 percent of his virtual races on road courses, and will sub for Marco Andretti in tomorrow’s race.

One of Andretti’s teammates, Ryan Hunter-Reay, will also be absent, as will Chip Ganassi Racing’s five-time champion Scott Dixon, but Ganassi’s two Swedish stars Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson have been entered. Rosenqvist, one of the most versatile young drivers in the motorsport world, is apparently taking the competition in the right spirit but is also expecting that it will be a fierce battle.

“I think whenever we do anything with our IndyCar drivers, it's always competitive,” he said, “It doesn't matter what kind of contest it is; you know everyone is going to be pretty serious about it.

“Hopefully it'll be a good race for the fans to watch - I think that's the main goal. It is also a good opportunity for our sponsors to get some coverage in pretty quiet times. It's a good thing for the fans; it's a good thing for the drivers.

“At the end of the day, it's just a game but I think any competition of any kind right now is very welcomed."

American Red Cross Grand Prix from Watkins Glen International entry list

1

Josef Newgarden

Hitachi Team Penske

Team Penske-Chevrolet

2

Scott McLaughlin

Shell V-Power Team Penske

Team Penske-Chevrolet

4

Sebastien Bourdais

Tresiba

A.J. Foyt Enterprises-Chevrolet

5

Patricio O'Ward

Arrow McLaren SP

Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet

7

Oliver Askew

Arrow McLaren SP

Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet

8

Marcus Ericsson

Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda

10

Felix Rosenqvist

NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing

Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda

11

Kyle Kaiser

Juncos Racing

Juncos Racing-Chevrolet

12

Will Power

Verizon Team Penske

Team Penske-Chevrolet

14

Tony Kanaan

ABC Supply

A.J. Foyt Racing-Chevrolet

15

Graham Rahal

United Rentals

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda

18

Santino Ferrucci

SealMaster

Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan-Honda

20

Conor Daly

U.S. Air Force

Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet

22

Simon Pagenaud

Menards Team Penske

Team Penske-Chevrolet

24

Sage Karam

DRR Wix Filters

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing-Chevrolet

26

Zach Veach

Gainbridge

Andretti Autosport-Honda

27

Alexander Rossi

AutoNation/NAPA Auto Parts

Andretti Autosport-Honda

28

Kyle Kirkwood

DHL

Andretti Autosport-Honda

29

James Hinchcliffe

Genesys

Andretti Autosport-Honda

41

Dalton Kellett

K-Line Insulators

A.J. Foyt Enterprises-Chevrolet

48

Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson Racing

IiR provisional entry-Chevrolet

55

Alex Palou

Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh

Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh-Honda

59

Felipe Nasr

Gallagher Carlin

Carlin-Chevrolet

88

Colton Herta

Capstone

Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport-Honda

98

Scott Speed

U.S. Concrete/Curb

Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian-Honda

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