Phillippe Denes clinched the TireRack.com Road to Indy iRacing eSeries Presented by Cooper Tires in style Wednesday evening by winning the 10th and final race of the season. Denes, from Carmel, Calif., representing the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires defending champion team RP Motorsport USA, shared the honors at a virtual rendition of Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, with Andre Castro, who headed an impressive sweep of the podium for Legacy Autosport in the first of two 20-minute races.
With his TireRack.com eSeries championship title, Denes takes home a valuable prize from SimMetric Driver Performance Labs, the Official Sim Partner of the Road to Indy. With an on-site mobile simulator presence at all Road to Indy events, SimMetric will be providing Denes with a complimentary 30-minute simulator session at each race event on the 2020 schedule.
Team principal and fourth-generation racer Louis “Mike” Meyer edged Michael Meyers to second place in Race 1, while DEForce Racing team principal David Martinez finished second in the finale. Max Kaeser (Miller Vinatieri Motorsport) completed the podium in Race 2.
“This is awesome, it feels so great. It’s a perfect way to end the season,” said Denes. “I had a great race and kept it clean the whole time. I had lots of moments but I’m really happy to come away with the championship. I’ve been working so hard for this, in and out of the real car for the past few years, and it’s really important for me to show people what I can do. I have so many people believing in me – my family, my sponsors like Fire Flighters, my girlfriend, so many people who have taught me through my career. I’m really working hard to get the budget together to run the season with RP Motorsport, doing everything I can to be in the car. To be able to consistently fight for race wins, I really feel as though this will translate to real life.”
The entry for the final weekend of Season 2was smaller than previous events – but for a good reason – as several teams were instead testing in real life Wednesday at Road America. But the smaller field didn’t mean the racing was any less intense. Far from it. Nor did it interrupt the form of iRacing veteran Denes, who duly claimed his third SimMetric Driver Performance Labs Pole Award in the last four events.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race winner Toby Sowery (Belardi Auto Racing) started second and was immediately involved in a frantic scrap for the lead on the banked, 0.875-mile oval.
A dozen cars were still embroiled in the lead battle after 18 laps, with Denes, Sowery, Kory Enders (DEForce Racing), Danial Frost (Andretti Autosport) and Castro all taking turns in the lead. Surely, it couldn’t last. It didn’t. Lap 19 saw Juncos Racing teammates Nate Aranda and Artem Petrovmake contact, along with Nico Christodoulou (DEForce Racing).
Several others incidents weeded out a few others, but the final stages still boiled down to a thrilling scrap between Sowery and Castro, with Meyer, Myers and former iRacing Mazda MX-5 Cup champion Glenn McGee (FatBoy Racing) also in the mix.
Castro grasped the lead from Sowery with four laps to go, then managed his pace – and line – to perfection to emerge with the win, his third of the season. Sowery looked set for second, only for Meyer to get a run as they headed onto the back stretch for the final time. Sowery attempted to defend but unfortunately made contact with Meyer, who was on his inside, heading into Turn Three. Meyer maintained control to secure second place, with Myers following him home in third. It was the first podium result for both.
McGee finished hot on their heels in fourth, with Sowery limping home a disconsolate fifth. Denes was the first unlapped runner in sixth.
The nightcap race saw Kaeser on pole position by virtue of the top 10 finishers from the opening race being inverted for the start. Martinez started alongside, followed by Christodoulou and Jacob Loomis (BNRacing).
Denes took only 10 laps before moving from fifth on the grid into the lead. The action again was hot and heavy, although while the first race had been relatively uneventful, this one most emphatically was not. Instead, a series of incidents broke up the field and Denes was left all alone at the front of the pack.
Martinez remained as his only challenger, until the Mexican almost spun on his 38th lap. Martinez somehow regained control and was rewarded with his best finish of the season. Kaeser was the only other unlapped finisher in third.
Petrov looked set for a good result, battling hard with Kaeser until unfortunately once again tangling with teammate Aranda with just 10 laps remaining.
Loomis thereby inherited fourth after another strong evening, followed by Frost, who was also involved in an incident earlier in the race.
The TSOLadder.com Fastest Race Lap Awards went to Frost in Race 1 and Castro in Race 2.
The focus now switches to the real-life Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. After a false start on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., and a subsequent lengthy hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Indy Pro 20000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship will commence with a pair of races at Road America on July 9-10.
Provisional championship points after 10 of 10 races:
1. Philippe Denes, 230
2. Andre Castro, 180
3. Braden Eves, 157
4. Max Kaeser, 154
5. Danial Frost, 131
6. Jacob Loomis, 118
7. Hunter McElrea, 110
8. Michael Myers, 99
9. Kory Enders, 92
10. Flinn Lazier, 81