By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The best and wildest moment in the six-round INDYCAR iRacing Challenge tour was saved for last as crashes breed crashes for the leaders led to an unlikely runner-up finish for Conor Daly in Saturday’s First Respnoder 175 at virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Daly described his virtual IMS race enjoyable, but eager to get back into real world NTT IndyCar Series racing which is still scheduled to commence at Texas Motor Speedway June 6.
“Honestly, not upset about it being over. I was enjoying today quite a lot, but like it’s been tough,” Daly on the past six weeks of iRacing competition. “There are literally people on the internet like judging you as a driver because of what you are doing on a video game or sitting in my guest bedroom like in 90-degree temperatures because it’s a room and not a race car. So I’m excited to get back to reality.”
The last lap really intensified at the exit of the North Chute when Pato O’Ward punted race leader Marcus Ericsson, who had taken the lead after his McLaren teammate Lando Norris was involved in an incident with Simon Pagenaud a few laps prior.
Ericsson took heavy shunt into the wall as O’Ward’s teammate Oliver Askew was now on top of the leader board. It appeared the INDYCAR rookie was inching closer towards Indy victory similar to last year’s Indy Lights thriller he won.
However, Askew’s celebratory plans were cancelled after Santino Ferrucci got a run and decided to dump him for the win which he apologized minutes later. The contact also backfired as both competitors careened into the Turn 4 wall, sending Askew airborne.
Sneaking by the melee was Scott McLaughlin, who went on to score his second INDYCAR iRacing Challenge win, and a stunned Daly brought home his No. 31 U.S. Air Force Carlin entry to an unprecedented second.
The self-proclaimed worst sim racer described his 70-lap journey as a fun one, citing that warmer conditions played a pivotal role of having a solid car after struggling to find pace during the race practice sessions.
“I think it helped me personally. I was absolutely garbage most of the week,” said Daly. “There are certain things, the way I turn the wheel in the simulator game is usually a little bit too aggressive, and I just immediately snap into understeer and get a quite aggressive push.
“But for some reason the track temp, people were lifting earlier and there was a lot going on that kind of changed the balance just a little bit.
All you need is just a little bit at Indy on the oval for sure. I kind of liked the change. I think everyone as a group, we all sort of like the fact there was a little bit less pack racing.”
Although he won’t miss the iRacing side of things, there were some valuable takeaways such as finding the humorous side of things and thankful to be a part of a growing INDYCAR brand.
“I think there’s a lot to take away from it. I think the driver chat was potentially the most hilarious part of all of it,” said Daly. “I haven’t got to race with Lando Norris or old Scotty McLaughlin over here, legend of the world from Down Under, so I think that was really cool.
“There was a lot of things that I learned about how other people react to each other on the internet, which is hysterical. But yeah, overall I think you’ve got to look at it as it was a positive experience. Really thankful that NBC put us on network television. That’s awesome.
“I remember when I was a kid, there used to be video games on TV every now and then, and then it sort of died off, and now it’s coming back, so it’s pretty cool.”
With virtual racing done, the countdown for the Genesys 600 has really began. One thing will be certain going forward, Daly will no doubt continue to grow his ever popular Twitch platform that’s gained him a lot of fans in the process.
“I think a lot of it — I love interacting with our fan base. I think our fan base and the people and the Twitch community is actually really cool. I think there’s a lot of really supportive people that are getting on to Twitch,” said Daly. “There’s already like — I’ve been streaming for like two years, and there’s like 15 or 20 people that have always been watching my streams for that long time period, and they’re still here and they’re still supportive.
“We’ve obviously got a lot more now, and that’s awesome. I’m just a normal guy that happens to be very lucky enough to pursue what I love to do. And yeah, was it great? Was it a brand-building exercise? Absolutely, I think so. And I’m not going to stop streaming.
“Like I think for sure my Twitch channel is definitely out there now, and you can’t stop once you — once the hype train keeps going. We’ll see how we integrate that once the real racing kicks off, but I’m excited to keep it going.”