NTT INDYCAR Series
Firestone 175 Fast Facts
When: 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 18
Track: Twin Ring Motegi, a four-turn, egg-shaped, 1.549-mile oval in Motegi, Japan. Turn banking: 10 degrees.
Race distance: 113 laps/175 miles/281.6 km (approximately 75 minutes)
Expected pit stops: Two. Fuel window is expected to be approximately 40 laps. Cars will be allowed one “Fast Repair” during the race.
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 Big Machine Records country music star Carly Pearce singing the national anthem and global motorsports legend Mario Andretti 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.
• Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) won Round 3 of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, April 11, the Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway. He beat Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin by 13.4059 seconds in a race with thrilling action eventually decided by fuel strategy.
• Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) won the inaugural round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge on Saturday, March 28, the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske) won Round 2 on Saturday, April 4, the Virtual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
• Two-time and reigning Virgin Australia Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin (Team Penske), from New Zealand, has the best overall record in the series in the No. 2 Shell V-Power Team Penske Dallara, finishing fourth at Watkins Glen, winning at Barber and placing second at Michigan. Veteran sim racer McLaughlin has produced this impressive record despite competing in series races during the middle of the night in Australia, where he lives.
• In an example of the virtual world mirroring the real world, Team Penske is the team to beat so far in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Penske is the only team to score a podium finish in each of the first three races. Will Power placed third in Round 1 at Watkins Glen, Scott McLaughlin won Round 2 at Barber with Power placing second, and Simon Pagenaud won Round 3 at Michigan, with McLaughlin second.
• Sage Karam (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) is the only driver to lead laps in all three races of this virtual series, also winning the opener at Watkins Glen in the No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet. He also has led the most laps in all three races, pacing a dominant 116 of the 175 combined laps so far (66 percent).
• Participation continues to climb in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. The field for the Firestone 175 will consist of 33 drivers. Round 3 at Michigan International Speedway had 31 drivers April 11, up from 29 taking the green flag April 4 at Barber Motorsports Park. The series opener March 28 at Watkins Glen had 25 drivers.
• The Firestone 175, Round 4 of 6 in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, is the second consecutive oval race in the virtual series, after the Chevrolet 275 at Michigan International Speedway. The first two rounds took place on natural-terrain road courses, at Watkins Glen International and Barber Motorsports Park. Future venues include the Circuit of the Americas road course on Saturday, April 25 and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track Saturday, May 2.
• Four new drivers will join the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge in the Firestone 175: two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch (INDYCAR Provisional), three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Helio Castroneves (INDYCAR Provisional), 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing.).
• Fourteen Indy car races have been conducted at Twin Ring Motegi from 1998-2011. Adrian Fernandez won the first, on March 28, 1998, while Scott Dixon won the most recent, on Sept. 18, 2011. Danica Patrick made history at the circuit April 20, 2008, becoming the only female driver to win an INDYCAR race.
• Ten drivers in the field for the Firestone 175 on Saturday also competed in the last INDYCAR event at Twin Ring Motegi on Sept. 18, 2011: Scott Dixon (winner), Will Power (second), Marco Andretti (third), Sebastien Bourdais (sixth), Takuma Sato (10th), Graham Rahal (12th), James Hinchcliffe (15th), Tony Kanaan (17th), Helio Castroneves (22nd) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (24th).
• Two drivers in the field for the Firestone 175 each have two career victories at Twin Ring Motegi: Helio Castroneves (2006, 2010) and Scott Dixon (2009, 2011).
• Twenty-nine of the 31 drivers who started the Chevrolet 275 last Saturday at Michigan International Speedway were running at the finish, an impressive series high considering the closer quarters of oval racing.
FIRESTONE 175 PRE-EVENT QUOTES:
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Oberto Circle K/Curb Honda): “I got a late start to the season, but really enjoyed Michigan and looking forward to returning to Motegi. My teammates and I have had some good DMs on our fuel strategy for this race. Looking forward to executing and hopefully bringing home a trophy.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet): “I have never (virtually) raced the oval at Twin Ring Motegi, but the little practice I did so far has been quite fun. The tire degradation is high with the low downforce setup, so the end of stint gets rather interesting. Finally, I hope the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet will have better success than it has experienced in the prior events.”
KYLE BUSCH (No. 51 Rowdy Energy Dallara): “I really appreciate everyone at INDYCAR for inviting me to race with them this week. It’s a unique opportunity to showcase Rowdy Energy to the INDYCAR fans and race against a lot of talented drivers. I’m still fairly new to iRacing, but I’ve had a lot of fun racing different cars I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to try in real life because of my schedule on the NASCAR side. I started practicing with the group on Thursday, and things have gone well so far. These guys are really good at what they do in real life and equally as good in the sim world. Just want to thank all the INDYCAR drivers for welcoming me, and I’m really looking forward to racing with them on Saturday.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 50 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “I am very excited to be going back to Motegi. It was always such a fun track to race at, as well as an amazing place to visit. I hope a successful iRacing event can lead the way to adding this back on to our schedule!”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m so happy to be back in INDYCAR, even though it’s in a virtual race at Twin Ring Motegi. I feel like I have the edge for this weekend since I’m one of the few drivers in the field who actually raced there in real life and have been able to win there with Roger (Penske) back in the day. I also could not be more excited to be back in the virtual Pennzoil Chevy also known as the ‘Yellow Submarine.’ I’m excited to be back representing our great partners and our wonderful team. I’m not sure I can say it enough about how much I can’t wait to race against my fellow INDYCAR drivers and show the fans an exciting race on NBCSN!”
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I’m looking forward to racing the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. Last weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway was my first iRacing event ever, and even though we didn’t have the best race and it’s taken some time to get used to iRacing, I’ve been having a great time. Our engineers are having a lot of fun getting involved, and Felipe (Nasr) and I have both been working hard preparing for these race weekends on the sims. The oval at Twin Ring Motegi should make for some great racing for the fans this weekend, so hopefully we can stay away from any trouble on the start and come away with a solid result.”
CONOR DALY (No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet): “Motegi is quite a new challenge for me. I’ve never driven a lap there on a simulator – or in anything! – until Wednesday. I got out on track, and it’s very interesting. It’s way wider than I thought. It seems like a cool track, and I’m all for more oval racing! I think it will be exciting. I’ve always heard incredible stories about racing in Japan, and I wish I could do that myself. For now, we’ll have to virtually race there and put on a good show for everyone with the U.S. Air Force machine!”
MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I can’t wait to get to race this weekend again! Motegi, it’s actually a track I’ve been racing at back in ’09 in Formula 3, not on the oval, but the road course there. That was pretty fun. I can’t wait to try the oval! It looks like quite a tricky oval, to be honest. It’s going to be fun to race there. Also, I’m looking forward to building on my performance from last weekend. Last weekend was my first pole position with the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda car. That was great, and to be leading the race and running in the top group for the first half of the race was so much fun. Unfortunately, we had some issues there in the second half, and the result was not what we wanted. But getting there! Closer and closer, step by step. So, let’s make it a really good one this weekend!”
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda): “I’m excited to virtually drive at Twin Ring Motegi this weekend. It’s been exciting to have fans vote on different tracks each weekend for us to race at. I’ve been spending more time practicing on the sim each week, and I’m starting to get the hang of it. Last weekend was great to come out P6 at Michigan, so I’m hoping that we can repeat that performance on Saturday.”
COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Honda): “To be honest, I was only 11 when INDYCAR last raced at Motegi. To help out, my dad hooked up something he called a VCR, and I’ve been watching old races of him and RHR (Ryan Hunter-Reay) in Japan back in the day. It looks like a pretty cool circuit – I’m excited to give it a go.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “My family is so important to me when we go to a track like this, so really happy they were able to make the trip with me. It’s crucial to have good people in your corner who can feed you snacks and fill up the water bottle.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 7-Eleven Chevrolet): “I have a lot of good memories about Twin Ring Motegi. It was a track where I had a lot of success. It was a fun track to drive; it was a fast, fast oval. Driving the sim this week and remembering the times in Japan brought back a lot of good memories. I had a lot of fans and friends there. I think it is my second-biggest fanbase. This weekend I’m debuting the 7-Eleven car, which is a throwback livery, and I’m excited! Hopefully we’ll have a good weekend – I’m looking forward to it.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “I have raced on Twin Ring Motegi a few times with my simulator. But I was too young to race there in person, similar to the Michigan track last week. But I have practiced on it recently and getting ready to run up front again if possible. It’s a big field, and the racing should be outstanding again this Saturday. It’s amazing how advanced the iRacing technology has become in the recent years. You can feel the bumps through your sim steering wheel and feel the difference in the track surfaces. Marbles from the tires can develop, too, as does the change in track grip. You see shadows on the track and glare in your car’s windscreen. It’s truly awesome. Everyone is sitting in their homes and looking for things to watch in all sports, in general. The iRacing is a form of competition that has real drivers competing wheel to wheel. This is opportunity for fans to watch some good racing and the sponsors to gain exposure, too. Other sports can’t do that right now. We hope we are giving the fans some entertainment in these strange times.”
DALTON KELLETT (No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet): “I am excited that Twin Ring Motegi was chosen for the Random Draw iRace. It is a track I have never been to. Ovals on iRacing have proven to be great for exciting races, so I’m sure this weekend will be no exception. And I expect that we will make it to the green flag this time. Once again, tire management will be critical. I don’t believe we will be able to run multiple lanes for as long as we could at Michigan. Drivers will have to choose between being aggressive early on in the stint, to gain track position, or saving their tires to have something at the end. Looking forward to being back in the No. 41 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet!”
SCOTT McLAUGHLIN (No. 2 Shell V-PowerTeam Penske Dallara): “I’m ready to give the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge event another crack. I’ve loved being able to get to experience the series and to get to know the drivers, even just over a computer. This will be awesome as it’s another oval event, which is really different for me. Michigan last week was a learning experience for me, and this week will be the same because Motegi is totally different. We’ve had some good luck so far and hope to have the Shell V-Power car up front again this weekend.”
FELIPE NASR (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet): “I had a great first experience on an oval last weekend at Michigan, and I’m so glad we’re going back to an oval for this weekend’s event at Twin Ring Motegi. We qualified really well, and the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet ran with the leaders most of the race, so I know we have the ability to finish up front on an oval. If it wasn’t for my mistake late in the race in pit lane, I really think we could’ve come away with a podium last weekend, which makes me even more excited about the possibility of running up front again this weekend at Motegi. The Carlin team is taking the iRacing INDYCAR Challenge very seriously, and we’re all working together to get the Carlin cars up front. Hopefully we can come away with some good results for the 31 and the 59 this weekend.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The race this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi is really special for our team and for me. I’m a huge fan of Japan and Japanese culture, so it’s really cool to be doing this race. But for Team Penske, the relationship with Hitachi pretty much started thanks to this race years ago. So, the entire Hitachi group is really excited about it. So, I’m going to work with my team and give the Hitachi Chevy all we got.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “The randomly selected track this weekend by INDYCAR is definitely a great surprise since it’s such a neat track. Twin Ring Motegi is pretty unique, so it can be a really exciting challenge. Thanks to Ben Bretzman and other members of the team who helped me prepare, we had a really great race last weekend and are looking for another successful result. I’m looking forward to having all the fans join us through NBCSN since this is going to be one really great show!”
ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “I’m super, super excited for this weekend’s race. It’s probably the most exciting one for me so far because it’s an oval, and it’s in Japan, even if it’s just virtual. I love Japan because of the experience I’ve had there in the past. I experienced my first oval race last weekend, and it was really fun. We were really competitive. We didn’t maximize the result because of the strategy. There were some other drivers that had a bit more luck on the strategy side. We were learning, and hopefully we can take all that experience and try to get a proper result at Twin Ring Motegi, and we’ll try to go for the win.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Motegi is such a neat road course – I wish we still raced there. I raced there back in the day, and it was such a fun place. I’ve really started enjoying ovals more and more. We had some success there, so it’s a track I am really looking forward to racing in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge. I’ve been working hard with my team to get the Verizon Chevy in a good spot to just keep building on the momentum we have had. We’ve had some really great speed in the past few races but haven’t gotten a win yet. That is 100 percent our focus going into this weekend.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): “I am very excited to return to a virtual Twin Ring Motegi circuit this weekend. It’s a track that I genuinely love and have had success at. While we are improving in our iRacing journey, I’m hopeful we can find our way to the front and pick up a W there this weekend for Fifth Third Bank and all of our partners. And, because it is an oval, there are a lot of laps and therefore a lot of potential to add to our Turns for Troops program with United Rentals.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Motegi, it’s a track I have been to before. I haven’t been to the oval, but I have been to the road course two times in Super Formula and Super GT. It seems like it’s a cool track! Many people are talking about that race in the team, so there’s a bit of nostalgia going back to Motegi. I didn’t have very much luck last race. I made it 300 yards, then I was on the roof. So, hopefully we’ll have better luck this time. Trying to go for that first win still in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda car!”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda): “I’ve been training extra hard for the elevation this weekend in Motegi. Also had a new floor fan delivered and pretty excited to try that out. Might put it near my feet. Not sure yet.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Panasonic/Keihin Honda): “I was surprised when I saw INDYCAR will go to Twin Ring Motegi again! I have never raced in iRacing, but I have been watching the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge and was very impressed. I finally have my equipment this week and am thrilled about my debut in iRacing at Motegi; what amazing timing! The Japanese fans are already very excited and very happy that they can watch the current INDYCAR SERIES race in Motegi virtually. I have been visiting Twin Ring Motegi every winter as Honda held fan appreciation days. Honda’s riders and drivers attend and have a fun time. A lot of current and historical cars and bikes were making exhibition runs. However, my first time to drive an Indy car since 2010 on the oval in Motegi was at Honda Racing Thanks Day in 2017 when I drove the Andretti Autosport Indy 500-winning car. That was a very special moment. Even the engine was original, so everyone that attended at Motegi that day listened to the same exhaust note as May in Indianapolis. It was an absolutely amazing moment to share the time with loyal fans. Racing in front of home crowds is always very special, so you could imagine the Indy Japan days were crazy, but I am very fortunate to drive some very historical special cars in front of Japanese fans there still today. We missed racing in an INDYCAR race in Japan for a long time, but who could imagine we are going back there for virtual racing? We are living in extraordinary times at the moment, but this is an amazing story to be able to race an Indy car at virtual Twin Ring Motegi. The fact is that the Twin Ring Motegi oval was quite popular for drivers and a very tough track. Turns 1-2 are super-fast, but Turn 3 is very tight. There is not such an oval (anywhere) apart from some short ovals today where you have to brake and (make) two or three downshifts for every single lap! Overtaking is usually done by braking into the corner, just like a road course. I drove on virtual Motegi in iRacing for the first time on Thursday. The graphics look great. I can’t wait for the race!”
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “I’ve never been to Japan before, so I’m really looking forward to racing at Motegi this weekend. The travel over to the race was a lot shorter than I expected; it’s almost as if I didn’t even leave my house – and no jet lag!”
RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I am very happy to finally be able to compete in the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge! This will be my first time using iRacing and I’m looking forward to giving it everything I’ve got.”