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First Responder 175 presented by GMR Fast Facts

by Mike Haag | Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2020

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

When: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, May 2

Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a four-turn, 2.5-mile oval. Turn banking: 9 degrees, 12 minutes. Straightaway width: 50 feet. Turn width: 60 feet.

Race distance: 70 laps/175 miles (281.6 km) (approximately 75 minutes)

Expected pit stops: One or two. Fuel window will be approximately 30-35 laps. Cars will be allowed one “Fast Repair” during the race.

Twitter: @IndyCar@iRacing@IMS, #INDYCARChallenge, #INDYCAR

TV/Online: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, NBC Sports App. Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer, alongside the network’s INDYCAR analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy, and pit reporter Marty Snider. The pre-race activities will be highlighted by the Indianapolis Fire Department’s Voices of IFD singing the national anthem and New York City first responders giving the command to start engines. The podium finishers will be interviewed on the live NBCSN broadcast. Diffey also will host a post-race virtual press conference with the podium finishers for media members (call-in details will be distributed).

Spotter guide: Click here to see a detailed spotter guide for this Saturday’s race.

Starting lineup: Click here to see a starting lineup for this Saturday’s race.

Race notes:

• The First Responder 175 presented by GMR is the last of six rounds in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. It’s the third oval race in the virtual series. Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) won both previous oval rounds, the Chevrolet 275 on April 11 at Michigan International Speedway and the Firestone 175 on April 18 at Twin Ring Motegi.

• Experienced sim racers Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) and Lando Norris (Arrow McLaren SP) will comprise the front row of the starting grid for the First Responder 175 presented by GMR. Two-time and reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion McLaughlin won the pole Friday with a top lap of 39.432 seconds, 228.241 mph, with Formula One standout Norris second at 39.439, 228.201.

• Front-row starters Scott McLaughlin and Lando Norris are two of only three drivers in the 33-driver field with no career starts on the IMS oval in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Freedom 100 or Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard. The other is NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Alex Palou (Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh), who qualified eighth with a best lap of 39.454 seconds, just .022 of a second off McLaughlin’s pole lap.

• Twenty-four of the 33 starters in the First Responder 175 presented by GMR have made at least one Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge start. And five of those without “500” starts competed in the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race on the IMS oval – Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren SP), RC Enerson (Top Gun Racing), Dalton Kellett (A.J. Foyt Enterprises), Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) and Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing). Scott Speed (Andretti Autosport) has started in the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard NASCAR Cup Series race. 

• Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) recorded the closest victory of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge at the last oval race, the Firestone 175 at Twin Ring Motegi. He edged fellow NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) by .3429 of a second.

• All four previous race winners in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge will compete in the finale at IMS: Sage Karam (Watkins Glen winner), Scott McLaughlin (Barber Motorsports Park winner), Simon Pagenaud (Michigan and Motegi winner) and Lando Norris (Circuit of The Americas winner).

• James Davison (Byrd/Petry/Hayward/Belardi), RC Enerson (Top Gun Racing), Scott Speed (Andretti Autosport) and Stefan Wilson (Juncos Racing) each earned a spot in the 33-car starting field by turning the four fastest laps during a special qualifying session Wednesday. Enerson and Wilson each will make their first starts in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge.

• There are eight Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winners in the starting lineup for the First Responder 175 presented by GMR: Helio Castroneves (Team Penske), Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport), Tony Kanaan (A.J. Foyt Enterprises), Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske), Will Power (Team Penske), Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) and Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing). The top qualifier for Saturday’s race among that group is Power, who will start seventh.

• An impressive streak ended at Round 5 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on April 25 at Circuit of the Americas, as a Team Penske driver failed to score a podium finish for the first time in the virtual racing series. Scott McLaughlin was the team’s top finisher, in fourth.

• Will Power (Team Penske) has finished sixth or better in all five rounds of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, with a best finish of second April 4 on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park. Power also has led 74 of 198 laps contested in the two oval races so far in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, more than any other driver. Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) is second on that list with 54 laps led on ovals.

FIRST RESPONDER 175 presented by GMR PRE-EVENT QUOTES:

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 4 ripKurrent Chevrolet): “The last event will be a big challenge at IMS. It is a very unforgiving place in real life, and it is similar on iRacing. I hope luck will be on our side to finish on a high.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Riley Children’s Foundation Chevrolet): “It’s always great to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I am pumped that they chose this for our final iRacing INDYCAR Challenge event, and it just makes me wish that it were August. Plus, I will have a special Riley Children’s Foundation car raising awareness for the Riley Relief Fund. I can’t wait for Saturday.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 911 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s time to go back to Indy, baby – at least on the computer for now. It’s been so great to be involved with a couple of races, and it’s been so much fun racing against my INDYCAR competitors in the virtual world until we can race in the real one. The cherry on top is that all of the drivers selected Indianapolis for the final race. Everyone knows I love that place. There’s just something about it that has jelled so well with the way I race, and I’ve had some truly incredible success there. I don’t know if that translates on the computer, but I can tell you I will give it the same effort. It will also be a little weird to see the Yellow Submarine without the No. 3, but thanks to our friends at GMR/AMR, we are going to run the 911 this week to help honor all of our first responders. I know I can speak for everyone in the INDYCAR community when I say I am so thankful for all the first responders and everyone who is doing everything they can to keep all of us around the world safe. That’s why I’m so honored to have a special number for this race for my Pennzoil Chevy. It’s our way of saying thank you to all of those folks for everything they are doing during this crisis. I am going to do my best to give this race my all and hopefully come away with a win.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I think ending the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a great way to round out the NTT INDYCAR SERIES adventure into the world of iRacing. We haven’t had the best results during the last few rounds, but it’s been a lot of fun learning the game and keeping fans engaged during these strange times. Hopefully we can come away from this INDYCAR iRacing Challenge with a solid result for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet this weekend.”

CONOR DALY (No. 31 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “I definitely want to thank Carlin for giving me the opportunity to have a locked-in spot in this weekend’s virtual Indy 500. It’s a cool little piece of teamwork between the two teams to make sure we’re locked in and ready for the race on Saturday, which is awesome. I’ll still be in the U.S. Air Force Chevrolet; it’ll just have a 31 on it. I’m starting the real NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in Texas with Carlin, so it’ll be good to get a head start on working the Carlin guys and have some fun this weekend together. We’ll see what happens in the virtual racing world this weekend at IMS in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge finale.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Last race of the iRacing Challenge – I’m looking forward to it. I think we have been on a good run lately. The last couple of events have been pretty good, pretty solid. I’m getting more and more comfortable, so I want a top result to end this INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I think we can run the No. 8 Huski Honda car right up the front and actually fight for the win this weekend, so that’s what we’re targeting. We’ve got the tools to do it, and I’m eager to try to get to Victory Lane. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s nice to finish off at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; I think it’s a perfect way to finish off this iRacing Challenge. Let’s see what we can do.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet): “Excited that we’re in Indianapolis this weekend. Even more excited that it’s the last one out of this series of virtual races, which means we are going back to reality races pretty soon. Really excited about that. I hope the fans enjoyed it. There’s not a better place to finish the series than Indy, but I want to go to the real one.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “I think a lot of the drivers are excited to race the IMS oval. I know that it will be very high intensity. That’s because it’s Indy and it’s the final INDYCAR Challenge event. With only 70 laps rather than 200, the drivers will want to qualify well and get to the front pretty quickly. We had a good oval car at MIS and Motegi, but things didn’t go our way. Hopefully, we’ll have another strong car this Saturday. It should be a great race.”

DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet): “I am very excited to be among the 33 drivers taking the green flag for the final race of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, and I can’t think of a better place to cap it off than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The oval races have been very exciting, and I know we can bring the fans a great show. With fixed setups, the field will be tight. It will be very important to get everything out of qualifying and make smart decisions in the pack during the race. I will be working with these goals in mind and going for a strong finish with the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet eCar.”

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (No. 40 PIRTEK Team Penske Dallara): “It’s always been a dream of mine to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I hope to get the chance to do it one time. But I’m stoked to take a shot at the virtual IMS this weekend. I’ve been lucky enough to be at the track during the Month of May to root for my Team Penske teammates and its cool, so I’m ready to rip around there on the sim. I hope some of my oval experience from the series so far helps, but this will be a challenge and I am really looking forward to it. I’m also excited to have PIRTEK on my Dallara, which is also a big team sponsor for us in Australia. We’ve also changed our number this weekend to be No. 40, which honors their 40th anniversary. So pretty cool to say I’ll be in the No. 40 PIRTEK car for Indianapolis.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Shell V-Power Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m excited for the final race of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge to be at Indianapolis. All of us INDYCAR drivers love that place for so many reasons – the history, the pageantry, the chance to win at one of the hallowed places in all of sports. It’s just such a special place. I’m thankful to INDYCAR, iRacing and NBCSN to give us one more way to race that beautiful track now in the virtual world. The whole iRacing series of races has been such a great learning experience. I’ve been able to spend time with my team in a new way to prepare for whenever we can go back to racing in real life. I’ve been training a lot for this one and can’t wait to race.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “It really all comes down to this, and I just can’t wait. Indianapolis has always been special to me, but after the success the team had there in 2019 during the Month of May, it’s even more so. It all feels so full circle to be racing there again, at least virtually, back in my Menards Chevy that brought us so much luck last year. It was so great to bring home another couple of wins for Roger (Penske) and also really great to bring John Menard his first Indy 500 win. We won’t be able to have another go at winning the Indy 500 until August, and this is an excellent way to prepare for that. I know all the INDYCAR fans out there just can’t wait for us to go back to racing – especially at Indianapolis – as much as the rest of us drivers can’t wait. I’m really thankful to NBCSN for showing a number of our iRacing events to all the fans out there. I’ve been training extra hard for this weekend because I know myself and the rest of our team would love another win at Indy – especially a virtual one.”

ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “It’s been two tough weekends for us, so I’m looking forward to this weekend’s race and hoping for a good result to end the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Last week, I was running well up until I spun. On the sim, it’s very easy to go a little bit over the limit without knowing. In the real car, you feel more what the car is doing. You can drive at 95 percent without spinning, and on the sim you think you’re 90 percent but you’re actually at 110 percent, which is why I spun. I was running in the top three, so it was a shame. This weekend we head to virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I didn’t think that the first time I’d race at Indianapolis would be on iRacing, but it should be an interesting race. I’ve been practicing this week with some of the other drivers, and it’s going to be close and exciting. It will probably come down to the last corner. I have a new computer and new pedals for this weekend, so hopefully that will help me be a little bit faster.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I guess I have one more shot to win one of these, man. We’ve been so, so close all year long. I don’t know if anyone else has run up front as much as the Verizon Chevrolet. I’m pumped that we’re going to end it at the virtual Indianapolis for the last race of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I just love that place and am proud of our success there. We work our tails off every year to be our best, and a race at the virtual IMS is no exception. My team and I have been preparing for this one in a different way because it’s one we all want to win. We’re really planning on throwing we can at it and taking everything we have learned in the real world to apply to this race in the virtual one. I can’t wait to get back on track and be a part of this awesome iRacing event with all of the other INDYCAR guys one more time.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “The iRace at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be a blast. I expect there to be plenty of carnage, fun, laughs and good racing. There will be big drafts, and the leader will always be a sitting duck — good times! I think the fans will like this one the best. I feel the oval races have been great. Humorous, which we all needed, but also much better racing than the road courses. I think everyone has had fun with this and will continue to do it well past the end of the INDYCAR Challenge in a more fun and less-focused manner. Overall, it has been a great experience. Difficult for some – those who aren’t regulars at this stuff – but overall it has been a huge hit for all of us and more importantly our fans and partners. We want to keep this growing and help build into the start of our real INDYCAR calendar, which we all hope is coming soon. We have certainly enjoyed the laughter and communication between teammates and our engineering core during this time on iRacing. It has allowed us to get some of our usual on-track communication back to normal and give us a little leg up as we go into the season. The best part has been to raise some money for Turns for Troops thanks to United Rentals. I am just ready to go racing. Being in my home gym constantly, watching old race tapes, it’s time to go racing, and I hope it really is close for all of us.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s the final race of this new generation of racing for us this year. There will probably be a lot more races after this I bet, but it feels good to get a closure to iRacing Challenge with ending at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s been quite a lot of hours for a lot of us on this, and it’s been great fun. But I think everyone is now ready to start focusing on the real deal. Hopefully we can get going here soon in a couple of weeks. Indy is always going to be the big one, even in iRacing. So, we better get prepared for it. We’re hoping to get the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda car up to the front for this last one.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic/Mi-Jack Honda): “Each race is a new experience for me, and I am enjoying both the oval and road course. The close racing never stops on the oval way, which is great fun. The road course is much more challenging in terms of driving at the moment for me, but I guess once you are totally comfortable, it’s going to be a lot of fun just like real racing. You just need to have a really good amount of practice and experience for this. A lot of the feelings are missing, just some force feedback though the steering wheel and visual from the display. You miss the sensation of G-forces and pitching, rolling and particularly the yaw moment – all the senses you use for driving. But I am starting to understand more and more, and it feels like I’m actually driving, so that is a very interesting phase now. Having great drivers from all over the world over different series is just fantastic. It’s great for us to be able to race against them, and it’s fantastic entertainment for fans. Certainly the relationship with the engineers and keeping us sharp for non-racing time by the sim world is beneficial since it’s very competitive here, too. And, of course, connecting with fans for the sport and entertainment is a great thing, especially in times like today. We hope we will get over this challenging time together, and we will be all very happy to go back a real racing. It’s going to be very unpredictable in an exciting way. It will be close racing through all the way to the finish, and that gives fun and great entertainment.”

RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I’ve always looked forward to the first time driving an Indy car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Even though it’s going to be virtual, I’m very excited to get going and I’m looking forward to all great battles coming during Saturday’s race.”

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.

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