Sage Karam obliterated the field in the inaugural IndyCar iRacing challenge race from Watkins Glen.
Karam controlled all of the 45-lap affair, only dropping positions during the mandatory pitstop stages.
The much-anticipated race was headlined by the debut of defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
Polesitter Karam fended off Felix Rosenqvist at turn one. Further back Alex Rossi, who was IndyCar’s last winner from Watkins Glen, was taken out of the race with a spectacular shunt that saw Andretti Autosport’s man do a number of summersaults.
The Bus Stop chicane provided plenty of action throughout most of the first half of the race. Alex Palou was a man on a mission, overtaking both Will Power and Oliver Askew in back-to-back moves.
Meanwhile, Scott McLaughlin on his Indycar debut attempted to follow suit by going around the outside of Askew.
Unfortunately for the two-time Supercars champion, Askew would hang on just enough to nerf McLaughlin into a spin.
Consequently, McLaughlin’s error caught out teammates Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden with the pair crashing into one another. The latter both having to pit for repairs, whereas Mclaughlin managed to carry on.
At quarter distance it was Karam maintaining a sizable lead over Rosenqvist and ex-F1 journeyman Scott Speed in third.
Fourth-place Palou would be the first to pit but collided with McLaughlin almost immediately afterwards.
While much of the field complete their first mandatory pitstop, Penske’s Will Power decided to run longer than everyone else. The Aussie’s pace in clean air was strong and, once his stop played out, Power had leapfrogged himself into third.
Recovering from two separate incidents, McLaughlin began to make strong inroads on the top ten, and by lap 30, the Kiwi had made his way into fifth and ahead of teammates Pagenaud and Newgarden.
After their earlier collision, McLaughlin and Askew had a lively battle for fourth for the closing ten laps. McLaughlin decided to replicate his former manoeuvre on Askew at the Bus Stop chicane, this time coming off far more successfully to claim fourth.
A brief fightback from Askew ensued but the New Zealander remained composed under pressure to finish the race in fourth.
Despite a minor scare when a lapped car spun in front of him, race leader Karam cruised to dominant lights-to-flag victory, with Rosenqvist beating Power by 8seconds.
NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson who, like McLaughlin, was also experiencing his first taste of Indycar action finished 16th.
The much-anticipated return of Robert Wickens was stalled when a shipping hiccup meant his specially designed racing simulator with the necessary hand controls did not arrive in time for the race.
Round two of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge is next Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.