The IndyCar iRacing Challenge’s latest winner Simon Pagenaud says he has been practicing “five hours minimum” per day to get up to speed in the simracing series for Team Penske.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar Series champion Pagenaud finished sixth at the opening round at Watkins Glen after being caught up in an early crash, and then did one spot better a week later at Barber Motorsports Park.
Despite not having the best pace, Pagenaud made the most of a clever fuel strategy at Michigan to move to the front and take victory as others dropped away at the end.
First oval event on the INDYCAR @iRacing Challenge schedule is complete. Highlights from Saturday’s Chevrolet 275 at the virtual Michigan International Speedway available now. #INDYCAR // #INDYCARChallenge@MISpeedway // @TeamChevy pic.twitter.com/C39YaccPzo
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) April 13, 2020
Pagenaud has been an iRacing member since 2008 but said he was “readjusting a lot” after “maybe too long of a break”.
“Watkins Glen was my first race back in a while,” Pagenaud said.
“Especially at this level, it’s taking me time to train. I’m training five hours minimum a day right now.
“I want to be competitive. That’s my nature. I want to win races. When IndyCar announced this official racing, I wanted to be myself and I wanted to go out there and do the best I could.
“Winning is the most satisfying thing that I know. Being able to do what we did today [on Saturday] to me is why I train so hard, it’s why I do this.”
Pagenaud’s win was Penske’s second in a row after another clever strategy was executed perfectly by double Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin at Barber, and the latter ran well again at Michigan to take second.
But the big story of the race was the addition of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr who wanted to take part in an IndyCar race and finished third on his debut, running a similar strategy to Pagenaud.
“I was just talking to Dale earlier,” Pagenaud added.
“First of all, it’s really awesome to see him join us because he’s such a big name in racing. He can reach to so many more people than we do because he’s been racing for so many years at such high level.
“It’s pretty amazing to see the humility he has to come and race a series he doesn’t know, a car he doesn’t know.
“I know he’s been doing a lot of iRacing, but still what he did today is pretty amazing.
“I just really like him. I’m a big fan of him and his dad, I was of his dad.
“I hope he can do more in the future because I think he’s having fun. I’m personally having a lot of fun racing him. It’s amazing to get to race your heroes.”
The IndyCar iRacing Challenge is running in place of the delayed 2020 real-life IndyCar calendar. Round four will take place at the randomly-selected Twin Ring Motegi on April 18.