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Dale Earnhardt Jr. finishes third in IndyCar iRacing

UPDATE: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished the race in 3rd.  Simon Pagenaud was the winner. Scott McLaughlin finished 2nd.

Earnhardt Jr. talked to the media after the race:

THE MODERATOR: To the third-place finisher, Dale Earnhardt Jr., in the Nationwide Chevrolet under an INDYCAR entry, your first INDYCAR iRacing Challenge, Junior. You got on your first INDYCAR podium. How about that?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: There was a lot of luck involved. The start of the race was a little bit odd. We’d been starting much quicker much earlier off of turn four in our practice races. I think the rest of the field behind the leaders were anticipating going around that same area.

The leaders chose to roll a little closer to the start/finish line. Everybody kind of got banged up there, accordion-ed into each other. Someone ran into the back of me. We wanted to save our quick fix that would repair all the damage on the car because I was anticipating a lot more yellows. With the damage we had, the car would burn the right front tire really quickly, so we didn’t have the pace that we had in the practices to run with the leaders.

We did pit. I didn’t even know that we had fell into the strategy on fuel that we had. That kind of became apparent as we started to think about taking our first pit stop. I was like, Let’s split the race in half. We ended up running out the gas as we crossed the finish line, getting the checkered. Ended up frustrating some guys because their strategy didn’t work out well in the fastest car, the best sim racers didn’t finish where they should have.

I had a good time. I was really thankful to be invited. Really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of this. I really became a huge fan of the series, even more of a fan of the series last year when I went to the Indy 500.

The guys, it’s fun to get to know them. They all have such wild personalities, different personalities. So much complexity to the stars in that series. It’s kind of fun getting to know who they really are.

I think in sim racing, much like any kind of console gaming, PC gaming, whatever, that’s going to bring out your real personality, the good and the bad (laughter). It’s kind of fun to see some of those guys really kind of come out of their shell.

THE MODERATOR: We have a lot of people on the line who will be keen to ask questions. We’re waiting for the race winner, Simon Pagenaud.

Dale, a lot of guys who ran up front today were avid iRacers and sim racers. Do you think this really displays a new car for this platform when you try a different race like this?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I mean, if you were to put the best guys in the service in that race, they would destroy all of us. If you were to put some of the best customers or best drivers on the service in the NASCAR events, they would destroy all the NASCAR drivers. You can’t hold a candle to them because of their experience and the time they put into it.

But you can see there is a wide variety of skill sets when it comes to the real world drivers. When you group them together, you see the guys have a lot of time on the sim that are smart and clever about how the sim reacts, how the tires fall off, how you can counter that. There’s other guys that have no idea what is about to happen. They just drive the car as hard as they can, burn it up.

But the funny thing about it is, with all that said, I’ve seen this on the NASCAR side, I certainly think it’s got to be true on the INDYCAR side, is they adapt super fast. The guys that have never used the service, never drove the sim, not even gamers, really adapt so quickly because of how realistic I believe the platform is, the iRacing platform is. They pick up on it really quick.

I mean, I kind of hate to step outside of the INDYCAR world, but we’ve been spending so much time with our Cup cars, all the Cup regulars. Kyle Busch, what a great example of a guy who had no clue of what he was doing, and now he’s guaranteed a top-10 finish, maybe top-five, and it shouldn’t be that way. It’s much more challenging than he makes it look. He puts so much time in.

I can say the same thing with the INDYCAR guys. We’ve had a lot of time together this weekend, a lot of laps, a lot of practice, a lot of little test races and so forth, more so than I even see on the NASCAR side. There’s a lot more commitment for the drivers to put the laps in, put the time in, to be as good as they can so they can make the show as good as they can make it.

There was a lot of people on social media that would love to see you try a real INDYCAR race at some point. Would you even consider a road course or a road course test in an INDYCAR?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: No, I probably wouldn’t. For the most part my driving days are over. I have a few events left in me. I don’t know how many of those Xfinity races I’ll be running beyond this year.

For me, I mean, I guess it’s okay to be honest. This is a dream come true, to have all the real world guys on the computer. That’s where I’ve been for two decades. This is awesome to have all these guys, whether they all 100% really loved and wanted to be there, it’s awesome that they’re all competing and we’re having these races broadcast on network television in front of so many people.

The reaction generally from the population and public is, Man, I’d love to have the real thing, but this is pretty good. I’ll watch this till we get the real thing back.

I’m loving it. This is awesome. Dream come true. I never would have imagined this would happen in a million years, for there to be legitimate, in my mind, as far as sim racing goes, in that community and that bubble, legitimate racing with real world drivers. It’s pretty impressive.

— Team Chevy —

UPDATE 4-8-2020: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has received an invite and will participate in the Saturday, April 11th IndyCar iRacing event at the virtual Michigan Speedway.

Earnhardt will drive the No. 3 in the event.

Original post: If the invite comes from IndyCar, Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he happily will accept – and he’d be looking forward to the apparent next race in the iRacing Challenge.

“I think they should go to Michigan,” the NASCAR on NBC analyst said Monday during a Racing Week in America on NBCSN call with reporters. “The history the series has there is pretty awesome. I know that was a track that almost beat out Watkins Glen (in fan polling) for the first race. I know a lot of people want to see them race at Michigan.”

IndyCar has yet to announce the next track in its six-race iRacing Challenge series, but the April 11 event apparently will be held at Michigan International Speedway. The 2-mile oval was on the ballot as among the options for the “Driver’s Choice” race.

Among the final three races on the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, two have yet to be chosen, and some IndyCar drivers have suggested Talladega Superspeedway would be a “brilliant” choice.

“I wouldn’t want to step on anybody’s toes, so I’m just waiting for an invite from (IndyCar president) Jay (Frye) or somebody,” Earnhardt said. “I’d love to do it. I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

See more at NBC Sports.