Scott McLaughlin was supposed to leave Australia for Indianapolis this month to make his IndyCar debut on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
With sports on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, the two-time Supercars champion saw his IndyCar plans postponed.
Pole-sitter McLaughlin instead settled for a virtual victory on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a wild finish in which most of the leaders crashed as they rushed toward the chequered flag.
“Unbelievable,” McLaughlin said.
“I was literally just hoping there was going to be a wreck at the end.
“I thought we were going to be third, and then the three wrecked and we won.”
It was his second win of IndyCar’s iRacing six-race series.
McLaughlin celebrated in the seat of his simulator in Australia with a glass of cold milk, a nod to the traditional victory celebration at the Indianapolis 500.
The New Zealander declined to pour it over his head while sitting in his expensive rig.
Australian Will Power was 12th and finished second in the overall standings after the six races, behind McLaughlin.
Formula One driver Lando Norris, winner of last week’s IndyCar virtual race, was headed for what appeared a 1-2-3 podium sweep for the Arrow McLaren SP entries on the final lap.
But Norris ran into the back of Simon Pagenaud in what appeared to be a deliberate move from the Frenchman, a two-time iRacing winner and the defending Indy 500 champion, to take both out of contention.
“Cause a guy gets a bit salty that a non-IndyCar driver is about to win an Indy race … just ruins it,” Norris said.
Marcus Ericsson held the lead before being tagged by Pato O’Ward at the final corner before Oliver Askew and Santino Ferrucci crashed in a drag race to the line.
McLaughlin’s victory was reminiscent of Australian short track speed skater Steven Bradbury, who took gold in the 1,000m at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics when his opponents were caught up in a last-corner pile-up.
“That was wild! Did my best ‘Bradbury’ and won the Indy 175! Thanks to Pirtek for the support, proud to do it for them and Team Penske! Thanks to Indycar and @JayRFrye for allowing me to have some fun and race some cars!” McLaughlin tweeted.
McLaughlin and Team Penske teammate Pagenaud won twice, and Norris and Sage Karam were the other winners of this series created for content while IndyCar is on hold.
Conor Daly finished second in Saturday’s race and was followed by Ferrucci, who figured there would be a lot of angry drivers after the 175-mile (282-kilometre) race.
“So many people are going to be salty over that,” Ferrucci said.