Last season when we went to Watkins Glen I didn’t make it past lap 5 even though I would say I had a great car. This track is one of the more popular tracks on iRacing and I don’t want to say it’s one of the “easier” tracks because it certainly isn’t but for whatever reason just about anyone who races on iRacing seems to say that Watkins is one of their better tracks. This has both positive and negative effects on our racing. The racing gets tighter and as a result you really have to focus on where you’re at because you spend most of the race in traffic. As it does in real life, Watkins created some pretty awesome racing…
Practice this week was pretty standard in terms of road course racing. I ran a few laps with my qualifying setup at the beginning of practice and spent the remainder of the day working on my race setup. iRacing has made some changes to the aero package and tire model since we last raced here and it we’d all knocked a second off our lap times as a result! It certainly made driving that much more exciting. I managed to piece together a 1:31.632 which was 6th quick in practice. Yang Ou was the fastest in practice followed closely by IZOD IndyCar Series driver Will Power, Firestone Indy Lights driver Martin Plowman, and Ryan Murray.
We headed into qualifying and I immediately launched out of the pits. I knew my best opportunity to put together a great lap was early in the session. I ran out of the pits just behind Ryan Murray and set a nice gap, giving myself some clean track. After a few laps I was able to hammer down a 1:31.486. It was faster than I had gone in practice which was good but it was still quite frustrating as my “optimal” lap time was a 1:31.061 which would have placed me in 5th position. Instead I would start in 8th. I seem to be pretty solidly in the 6-9th starting positions on most road courses which is ok but I’d really like to gain that last .8 of a second to move up solidly into the top 5. Yang Ou would once again take the pole with Ryan Murray, Bryan Heitkotter, Marc Payne, and Will Power rounding out the top 5. Firestone Indy Lights competitor Martin Plowman would start 6th position while IndyCar Series driver Tomas Scheckter, who showed up last minute for qualifying, would start in 15th position.
Surprisingly the race rolled off with no problems in turn 1. This track is notorious for lap 1 turn 1 incidents. The first corner is pretty fast and there’s multiple lines so people tend to get brave. This round we made it through. The first few laps are always a bit hairy. Everyone is trying to shuffle through other cars and get settled in. You’re spending 55% of the time driving in front of you and the other 45% in your mirrors making sure no one is going to make a last second move. Once everyone got into the flow of the race I had one of the greatest battles I’ve had on iRacing to date. Martin Plowman, Tim Doyle, and I went nose-to-tail for upwards of 12 laps. Tim was faster than me on the straights but I would pull right up to his gear box in the corners. Martin seemed to be all around faster than us as both Tim and I had to work quite hard to stay with him. After about 7 laps I got a great run coming off turn 1 and made a move to the inside on Tim. Tim raced me cleanly and let me bye. I was now focusing on catching Plowman who had legged out a nice gap after Tim and I had been exchanging positions. For about 4 laps I pushed as hard as physically possible and I was slowly gaining on Martin. On lap 14 as we came out of the last corner of the boot Martin’s rear-end stepped out on him and he spun around giving me the position and a nice clean track to run on. I knew I had Tim behind me but with the ability to now focus on running nice clean laps with no one in front I knew I could put together a nice gap.
I pushed my fuel as far as I could and on Lap 18 I had to pit. I was sure to try and lay down a quick in lap so that I wouldn’t lose too much ground while I was on pit lane. I entered in 5th and came out in 7th. Not too bad as I knew many others still had to pit and if I could save fuel over the course of this next run I might be able to just make it on one stop. By lap 21 I had picked up the positions I had lost and I was back in 5th position. Unfortunately disaster struck. As I was coming out of what would be considered the “toe” of the boot cold tires got the best of me and I spun around. I managed to hold the brake and keep from hitting anything, however, I was sitting in the middle of the track blocking the entire racing line. I looked down at my relative timer and I saw that the next closest driver was about 2 seconds away. I, incorrectly, thought this was enough time to jump the motor and spin the car around to get out of the way. As soon as I dropped the clutch and the car started to roll the lap car of Todd Bettenhausen came around the corner and struck my right front tire. Totally my fault which makes it that much more frustrating. Todd luckily was able to continue on but my day was over once again.
Yang Ou continued his campaign for the championship and took home the win. Ryan Murray, Bryan Heitkotter, Andrew Kristensen, and Courtney Terrell rounded out the top 5. Martin Plowman finished in 6th position while Will Power and Tomas Scheckter finished 20th and 26th respectively.
This week we roll off to a track IndyCars haven’t raced at in 20 plus years. Pocono!
I’m extremely excited for this event. This track is tough and most importantly FAST! We’re going to have alot of cars (30+ from what I can tell) so it should be a hard fought battle. Check back next week for another recap!