Norris Spins, Then Wins IndyCar iRace At COTA

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Norris Spins
Lando Norris celebrates with a burnout after winning Saturday at virtual Circuit of the Americas. (McLaren photo)

AUSTIN, Texas – Formula One invader and McLaren young gun Lando Norris performed his own version of the famed “Spin and Win” from the 1985 Indianapolis 500 on Saturday at virtual Circuit of the Americas.

Dropping in for a special appearance in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, Norris qualified on the pole and handily led the first 11 laps of the AutoNation IndyCar Challenge, but looped his No. 04 Dallara just after a lap-15 restart and had to rally through the field following his final pit stop with eight to go.

Climbing to second as he and Felix Rosenqvist carved through traffic and several frontrunners pitted late for fuel, Norris retook command for good when Rosenqvist slipped and spun inside of four laps left.

The 20-year-old Brit then held off his Arrow McLaren SP teammate-for-the-day – fellow 20-year-old Pato O’Ward – over the final moments to notch the victory by 1.444 seconds.

It marked Norris’ first virtual Indy car win in his first start on the IndyCar iRacing Challenge trail.

“I had to work for that one; it was not easy,” Norris admitted. “That came down to myself and the spin in the second stint, but it was a tough race, especially with Pato closing down on the new tires at the end.

“I didn’t think I was going to be able to get back to the lead (after the spin), honestly, and I was pretty gutted,” he added. “But the call came from my engineer (Andrew Jarvis) on the team radio to keep pushing, and I did and then Will spun. I don’t know what happened to him, but that was a key to our win and in getting back to P1 before the checkered flag.”

What was Norris’ personal reaction when his car stepped out and went around exiting turn 20?

“I was swearing, quite a bit,” Norris said with a laugh. “I was really annoyed, because we’d been really strong as a team and I felt like I threw it away there when I spun as stupidly as I did. I was a bit too eager jumping on the throttle coming out of the last corner, and I was bothered after all the work we’d put in.

“At that point, I knew I’d lost an opportunity to win, and it was thanks to our rally and some other guys making mistakes that we were able to get back through to the lead when it was all over.”

O’Ward’s runner-up finish gave Arrow McLaren SP a much-needed and impressive 1-2 punch at COTA.

Though the Monterrey, Mexico, native was pleased with his finish, he admitted that he just didn’t have what it took down the stretch to take the fight to Norris when it mattered most.

“That was a good day, but man … Lando is quick in the sim!” O’Ward chuckled. “There’s obviously still some work that I have to do; I don’t have many hours in the sim, but I got it back up and running again when we started this IndyCar iRacing Challenge and it has been fun. I think it’s a great tool.

“The whole week, we were trying to improve one another as a team … so it’s been a big team effort to get the 1-2,” he added. “I was pushing hard to get him in the end, but couldn’t quite get to him.”

Rosenqvist regrouped from his spin to complete the podium for Chip Ganassi Racing, followed by Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Santino Ferrucci.

Will Power, who spun on his out lap from his only planned pit stop, bounced back for a sixth-place result, ahead of Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou and defending Indy car champion Josef Newgarden.

The only caution of the race – a competition yellow – waved on lap 12 of the 32-lap event, while Norris, Power, O’Ward and Palou all led Saturday at the 20-turn, 3.426-mile permanent road course.

Round six – the final scheduled stop on the IndyCar iRacing Challenge schedule – will be held at The Racing Capital of the World, historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on May 2.

The results:

  1. 04-Lando Norris, 2. 5-Pato O’Ward, 3. 10-Felix Rosenqvist, 4. 2-Scott McLaughlin, 5. 18-Santino Ferrucci, 6. 12-Will Power, 7. 21-Rinus VeeKay, 8. 8-Marcus Ericsson, 9. 55-Alex Palou, 10. 1-Josef Newgarden, 11. 9-Scott Dixon, 12. 31-Felipe Nasr, 13. 88-Colton Herta, 14. 22-Simon Pagenaud, 15. 27-Alexander Rossi, 16. 60-Jack Harvey, 17. 15-Graham Rahal, 18. 41-Dalton Kellett, 19. 29-James Hinchcliffe, 20. 98-Chaz Mostert, 21. 59-Max Chilton, 22. 50-Ed Carpenter, 23. 14-Tony Kanaan, 24. 4-Sebastien Bourdais, 25. 45-Spencer Pigot, 26. 26-Zach Veach, 27. 11-Kyle Kaiser, 28. 7-Oliver Askew, 29. 20-Conor Daly, 30. 30-Takuma Sato, 31. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 32. 6-Robert Wickens, 33. 24-Sage Karam.

Lead Changes: Four among four drivers.

Lap Leader(s): Lando Norris 1-11, Will Power 12-17, Pato O’Ward 18-27, Alex Palou 28, Lando Norris 29-32.

Laps Led: Lando Norris 15, Pato O’Ward 10, Will Power 6, Alex Palou 1.

Caution Flags: One for three laps

Margin of Victory: 1.444 seconds

Time of Race: One hour, two minutes, 27.063 seconds

Average Speed: 105.329 mph

Pole Position: 04-Lando Norris, 1:43.469 (119.201 mph)

Fastest Lap: 04-Lando Norris, 1:44.372 (118.170 mph)