Brandon Traino becomes the first two-time Top Split iRacing Indy 500 winner

Photo courtesy of Brandon Traino / Team I5G

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing eSport driver Brandon Traino made history Saturday by becoming the first multi-time iRacing Indianapolis 500 Top Split winner.

Traino and his Team I5G teammate Michele Constantini dominated the race, leading a combined 152 of the 200 laps. While his virtual No. 5 Total Dallara IR18 traded the lead back and forth, it was a move on the final lap that earned Traino the historic victory.

Traino lost the lead on the prior restart to Tanner J. Watkins. As Watkins opened up a three-car length lead, the Team I5G Broken Aero driver used the draft to re-take the lead. Traino then defended his position and took the checkered 0.318 seconds ahead of Jeff Drake as Watkins crashed behind him. Joao Valverde completed the podium.

“It’s good to be back in victory lane here,” admitted Traino. “I never thought we had it in the bag. I pitted off sequence because Adam Blocker, Henry Bennett, and those guys were trying to save fuel. We didn’t want those guys to have the draft to hopefully make it, and we pitted off sequence. We ran as fast as we possibly could in clean air.

“The caution came out at the end and threw everything up in the air once more. Until I won that shootout, I didn’t think I had it. I thought I had too big of a lead, threw a pretty aggressive block, but I think anyone in my position would have done the same thing. It’s the Indy 500.”

Watkins ultimately spun across the line in sixth. His accident saw him get airborne and flip before landing on his wheels. In the chaotic finish, Watkins’ wounded Dallara collected several cars coming to and past the start-finish line.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Traino / Team I5G)

What setup the final restart was an incident on a restart with five laps to go. In turn one, Constantini got turned head-on into the outside wall. Watkins made a daring move off turn four to take the lead from Traino. With the field three-wide behind them, contact wiped Constantini and four other cars out. It set up the one lap shootout opportunity for Traino.

The first 109 laps went caution-free, allowing Constantini and Traino to dominate. With several cycles of green flag pit stops, the virtual Indy 500 field had to perfect their pit entry and exits.

A rash of cautions in the final 30 laps threw the strategy, and who the favorite was up in the air. Six drivers traded the lead, including NTT IndyCar Series driver Scott McLaughlin, Traino, Blocker, and others. An alternate fuel strategy ultimately worked in Traino’s favor, keeping him out of the mayhem.

The NTT IndyCar Series does not currently have a dedicated eSports division on iRacing like their NASCAR counterparts. However, each year iRacing puts on a virtual Indianapolis 500 as a special event every year for the past 11 seasons. In those 11 years, there have been 10 different winners with Traino becoming the first two-time winner in the events’ history.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Traino / Team I5G)

Traino reflected on his history making achievement before drinking a glass of whole milk to celebrate:

“It feels pretty good (to make history), I’m not going to lie. The guys put together one hell of a car this year. Michele Constantini and I probably put 6,000 laps together the last couple of months and it shows. We did a lot of setup work to try to get this car right and I think we did pretty damn good.”

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Traino / Team I5G)

Just one day after his win, Traino was back to work in his day job as a NASCAR Cup Series tire changer for Gaunt Brothers Racing. He was one part of driver Daniel Suarez’s 25th-place finish in The Real Heroes 400, NASCAR’s return to racing at Darlington Raceway. The NTT IndyCar Series is scheduled to begin their real-life season at Texas Motor Speedway on June 6.

In total, iRacing had eight time slots and eight opportunities for iRacers to win ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Sim Racing.’ Four of those were open setup races.

The motorsports simulation also hosted a Fixed-Setup version in which all drivers utilize the same setup. Bradley Walters won the Top Split of the Fixed Setup version of the iRacing Indy 500.

iRacing has three NTT IndyCar Series on its’ service. A Fixed Setup Oval Series, a combined Oval and Road Open Setup Series, which utilizes the iRacing Road Course License, and a series that mimics the real-life schedule.

The Finish

1. Brandon Traino [2], 2. Jeff Drake [9], 3. Joao Valverde [30], 4. Jason Brophy [6], 5. Zac Campbell [7], 6. Tanner J. Watkins [5], 7. Henry Bennett [22], 8. Stefan Remedy [28], 9. AJ Burton [19], 10. Chad Simpson [4], 11. Adam Blocker [25], 12. Philip Kraus [13], 13. Michele Constantini [1], 14. Martin Miller [31], 15. Chris Cahoe [18], 16. Yohann Harth [8], 17. Ray Kingsbury [24], 18. Andreas Eik [17], 19. Scott McLaughlin [14], 20. Andrew Z Wood [15], 21. Liam Quinn [10], 22. Tim Doyle [33], 23. Christian Steele [27], 24. Austin Espitee [23], 25. Frank Levick IV [32], 26. Matt Hollibaugh [21], 27. Jonathan D. Goke [29], 28. Kevin Ellis Jr. [3], 29. Matt Pawelski [11], 30. Christopher Demeritt [12], 31. Adam Crane [26], 32. Brendan Lichtenberg [16], 33. Joshua Chin [20].

Lead Changes: 46 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leader(s): Brandon Traino 1, Michele Constantini 2-3, Brandon Traino 4-11, Michele Constantini 12, Brandon Traino 13, Michele Constantini 14, Brandon Traino 15-28, Michele Constantini 29, Zac Campbell 30-31, Kevin Ellis Jr. 32-33, Philip Kraus 34, Brandon Traino 35-42, Michele Constantini 43-59, Kevin Ellis Jr. 60-64, Scott McLaughlin 65-66, Michele Constantini 67-89, Kevin Ellis Jr. 90-95, Chad Simpson 96, Michele Constantini 97-126, Brandon Traino 127, Michele Constantini 128, Brandon Traino 129, Michele Constantini 130, Brandon Traino 131-132, Michele Constantini 133-134, Brandon Traino 135-136, Michele Constantini 137-140, Brandon Traino 141-142, Michele Constantini 143-148, Brandon Traino 149-150, Michele Constantini 151, Brandon Traino 152, Michele Constantini 153-154, Brandon Traino 155, Adam Blocker 156-158, Yohann Harth 159-161, Brandon Traino 161-171, Yohann Harth 172-174, Brandon Traino 175, Scott McLaughlin 176, Adam Blocker 177-181, Tanner J Watkins 182, Chris Cahoe 183, Tanner J Watkins 184-190, Brandon Traino 191-194, Tanner J Watkins 195-199, Brandon Traino 200.

Laps Led: Michele Constantini 92, Brandon Traino 60, Kevin Ellis Jr. 13, Tanner J Watkins 13, Adam Blocker 8, Yohann Harth 6, Scott McLaughlin 3, Zac Campbell 2, Chris Cahoe 1, Philip Kraus 1, Chad Simpson 1.

Hard Charger: Joao Valverde (+27)

Cautions: Eight for 24 laps.

Margin of Victory: 0.318 seconds.

Time of Race: Two hours, 47 minutes, 8.202 seconds.

Average Speed: 179.494 mph.

Pole Winner (4-Lap Average): Michele Constantini, 38.874 seconds (231.517 mph average)

Fastest Lap: Tim Doyle, Lap 142, 39.570 seconds (227.445 mph).

Strength of Field: 4,277 average iRating.

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