(sorry not the real one)
Yes! I won the 2015 iRacing Indianapolis 500! The longest running special event on the iRacing service, the iRacing.com Indianapolis 500 is circled on everyone racer’s calender. This is the second year I have participated in the 500, and after finishing a respectable 8th place. I wanted to better myself.
The car was presented to me 2 weeks before the race. I say presented because I have awesome teammates who are more dedicated to the Indycar than I am and were gracious enough to share their set. I race NASCAR on iRacing and the setup screen for the DW12 Indycar confuses the crap out of me.
The DW12 is a departure from what I normally race because the DW12 does these weird things where it turns and stops unlike the NASCARs. In-car adjustments in stock cars are all but non-existent; meanwhile the DW12’s steering wheel is lit up with crazy numbers that mean something important and in-car adjustments are a plenty. If it wasn’t for the fact that the car needed tires and fuel, there is almost no point in stopping for adjustments since you can make significant ones from the cockpit at 200+ miles per hour.
The action of my Indy 500 starts 3 days before the race with qualifications. Unlike most races on iRacing, the iRacing Indy 500 splits fields based on qualifying time. This means if you are Top 33 fastest, you get into the top split, race with all of the big names, get yourself on TV, and announcers mispronounce your name. Pole speed for the event was about 228.763 mph (39.342 sec). I put up 225.91 mph (39.839 sec), which in racing terms is terrible, and in iRacing terms is quite bad. I qualified 304 out of 496.
Qualifying didn’t go to well mostly because I have no idea what I am doing. The set provided to me was a race set, and in a race environment, it was a beast. However, I had no idea how to approach qualifying. All I ended up doing was reducing downforce and turned anything toward what the guide said was faster. It is basically the iRacing form of duct taping over all of the openings. I am not upset that I didn’t qualify well, mainly because I wanted to be in a race with people that would be competitive with my times.
iRacing set 4 time slots for people to race. Two races had occurred already so most of the people going in had an idea of what was going to happen. 2 hours before race time, I enter practice, improve in-traffic handling, and practice pit stops and race starts.
I enter the pre-race festivities (which on iRacing consist of a warm-up period whilst others join the room). iRacing also seeds you based on you skill rating. The results of this seeding ends up being your car number for the race (i.e. 1 - 33). I ended up in the #1 car starting 24th, oh boy...
The race begins car slowly build up speed and the race is on.
Driving an Indycar is difficult. It is the most multitasking racecar I have ever driven. There is so much stuff to pay attention to. Those in-car adjustments must be monitored every lap during the race to maximize the speed of you car. In iRacing, you don’t have the luxury of a crew chief, so it is up to you to make adjustments and set tires for pit stops. Lucky for me, the car setup was very good so I didn’t really need to worry about pit stop set up changes.
The first half of my race was pretty mundane and anti-climatic. I avoided a few wrecks, kept it off the wall, and had a lovely Saturday night drive. Lap 130 is when it began to heat up.
[Lap 130, Position: 7th]
With just over 70 laps to go, it came time for another round of green flag pitstops. I was about 14 seconds behind the leader and was cruising around.
[Lap 130 - 131]
Pit sequence. Made sure everything was neat and tidy, but quick. The last round of pit stops cost me 2 positions and significant track time. This time though, the crew gained one position.
[Lap 132, Position: 6th]
The strategy began. These cars can make it about 30 - 35 laps on a tank of fuel. I had been able to do about 33 - 35 laps per tank so I knew that if I could stop again at Lap 165 or better 166, that I would make it to the end. Now the question is what would my competitors do?
[Lap 157, Position: 3rd]
So it began, the people in front of me started pitting. I knew they were not going to make it. All the while I had been watching my fuel estimations. They were sitting right where I needed them to be. At 157, it estimated I had a little over 8 laps of fuel left, excellent/
[Lap 161, Position: 1st]
By know a majority of the field had pitted. The leader had about an 18 second lead on the field when he pulled into the pits. However, he was not going to make it from there unless he did some fuel saving.
[Lap 162, Position: 1st]
The car behind me and I were the only to to have not pitted. He was my closest competition at the time and was faster. But on Lap 162, he pitted. This meant he too could not make it to the end. All that had to happen was for me to make it to Lap 165 and the race could fall into my hands. Estimated Fuel remaining: 3.5 laps.
[Lap 165, Position 1st]
I had made it with barely over a lap of fuel to spare. Everything was falling into place. As long as there were no yellow flags, the rest of the field would have to pit again but since I had made it 35 laps and there were 34 to go, I was reasonably confident I would make it.
[Lap 166, Position 3rd]
CAUTION!!! Just what I didn’t need. I was leaving the pits when it came out. The other cars were much faster than I was and I thought that a late race fuel mileage game was my best chance to win the 500.
[Lap 167, Position 1st]
All the other leaders pitted during the yellow to get enough gas to make it. I chose not to pit and set the car to GreenPeace loving fuel conservation mode. I knew I had enough - I think. This put me in the lead of the race. It was my 500 to lose.
[Lap 169, Postion: 1st]
The restart. Thankfully they are single file so that makes it a bit easier. I knew the competition behind me was itching to get around me and set off to the 25 second advantage that they had. Once the pace car left, I gunned it. Rocketing ahead I fly into T1 half a second over the pack. Thankfully 2nd and 3rd places began fighting which allowed me to build up a hefty lead.
[Lap 176, Position 1st]
2.2 seconds ahead of the pack and the car that built up an 18 second lead gets hit by a lapped car and brushed the wall. He is out of it. However, the new 2nd place car had been running Top 3 all race long and was not going to give up.
[Lap 180, Position 1st]
2.2 seconds was still the gap, but now is when the weakness of my car showed. About 10 laps into a run the car developed an oversteer issue. In-car adjustments help ease that problem, but it slows me down. However, it is better to make it than stuff it into the wall while leading the Indy 500. The gap was now 2.0 seconds
[Lap 185, Position 1st]
Handling adjustments and lapped traffic had caused the gap to close to 1.5 seconds. The gap continued to shrink. I am sweating. Each time I entered a corner I made sure I didn’t stuff it, this in turn slowed me down.
[Lap 190, Postion 1st]
The gap now was at 0.9 seconds. I knew I didn’t have the best car, but darnit I am leading the Indy 500. Now I started worrying about the draft kicking in and sucking my competitor right to me. All I could do was drive as quick as I could.
[Lap 192, Position 1st]
The gap was a 0.4 seconds. The opportunity was there to win or lose the race. I sail into Turn 1 and my opponent gets sucked in the draft so much that he over drives Turn 1 and has to slow up. The gap opens to 0.9 seconds.
[Lap 195, Position 1st]
After what has felt like 50,000 laps later than 190, I get 5 to go. My opponent was closing again. He was going to have at least one more chance...
[Lap 199, Position 1st]
My opponent had one more shot. He was on my tail. I made sure to inhibit his line, or put him in such a situation that he would back out and try again. Going into T1 and T2 he gets caught up in the draft and has aero-induced understeer. The gap increases to a breathable 0.9 seconds.
[Start Lap 200, Position 1]
WHITE FLAG! One more lap to completely f**k this up. The gap maintained at 0.8 seconds. Careful driving through T1, T2, T3, T4 when suddenly a bobble on the frontstretch coming to the checkers, a slight wall tap, and an opponent screaming toward me. (You already know the result). The finish line lay too close for my opponent to gain from my mistake and I win the Indy 500.
[End Lap 200, Finished 1st]
I did it. 60 million laps after getting 5 to go, I win the race. Just to be sure, I drove an extra lap. I had won the biggest event on the service. I came back to the line did 3 crappy burnouts, and ran out of gas...
Most people won’t understand why winning this race is so great. “It’s just a video game,” they say. Though true, it is more than that. This isn’t a single player game where I can pause everytime I need to go to the bathroom. There aren’t any lifeless AI on rails that are so easily predictable a dog could beat them. No, 33 actual people wanted to prove that they could win the Indy 500 and were placed in a race to duke it out for 500 miles. They each had there own strategies, some even had crew members helping them on the sidelines. This is a community of racing enthusiasts and we always look for opportunities to prove that we are competitive and belong here. This is about as close as anyone of us will get to racing in the Indy 500, and I am happy to say that I will have my name virtually etched on the virtual Borg Warner trophy.
Now if you will excuse me, I am nursing off a massive milk hangover.