The trip to Kentucky could not come at a better time for James Krahula. The Texas-based sim racer is fresh off a thrilling battle with Dan Geren at Motegi that saw the two championship contenders race side-by-side for most of the closing laps. Although he ultimately finished second, it was Krahula's first podium of the season and moved him into the top ten overall.
Perhaps more importantly, Krahula is defending champion in Kentucky after leading his No Name Racing teammates Jake Wright and Pierre Daigle to the first-ever podium sweep in league history. The win came thanks to a risky fuel strategy call with 40 laps remaining in the sim race. With a timely caution to help them out the team dominated the closing laps and took a stranglehold on the team championship that they never relinquished. The victory was ultimately key to Krahula's fourth-overall finish in the standings.
The entire No Name Racing team arrives at Kentucky in a even stronger position this year. Jake Wright has rebounded from a disappointing start and now finds himself eighth overall. Pierre Daigle has come close to his first career Lionheart win on several occasions this season while Joe Hassert seems primed for a breakout after a slow start. Finally, Brian Yaczik sits second overall in the championship and continues to be the team's most consistent performer. Ironically, Yaczik was in the GSRC broadcast booth for last season's race and will now, one year later, be on the hunt for his first Lionheart win.
While No Name Racing would obviously love another podium sweep, their rivals at Team #NailedIt may have something to say about it. Dan Geren is not only coming off his first win of the season at Motegi, he's also the defending pole-sitter in Kentucky. Geren led 24 laps last season before unlucky yellows and an incident in the closing laps relegated him to twenty-second.
Meanwhile, Michael Gray remains fourth-overall in the championship and despite a modest sixteenth-place finish at Motegi, Gray has been strong in all four rounds thus far. He remains #NailedIt's highest-ranking driver and would love to have a solid finish at Kentucky where he ended up 35th last season. Ian Adams was equally unlucky last year, ending up 34th. Thus far, Adams has yet to find his groove in 2017 but he's shown solid pace each week and seems poised for a breakthrough.
Unfortunately, Team #NailedIt will be without Jonathan Goke at Kentucky. Goke, who sits third overall after Motegi will miss his second-consecutive Kentucky race due to his commitments with the United States Air Force. Goke will return to action on April 26 at Watkins Glen.
Adrenaline Motorsports is making a strong case this season to be included in the conversation as one of the league's elite teams. Tony Showen is coming off an impressive pole run at Motegi and despite his misfortune during the race, he has shown strong pace all season and could easily be a threat once again. Showen, along with Joe Branch and Chris Stofer all led laps at Kentucky last season, with Branch and Showen finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Meanwhile, newcomer Andrew Kinsella continues to be solid at every track he visits. Kinsella remains the championship leader and would obviously love to widen the gap between an increasingly large group of challengers behind him.
While the top teams are always obvious contenders, Kentucky offers hope to the entire field due to the unpredictability of the caution flags. Last season, Dragonfly Racing teammates Chris Lanini and Patrick Taylor found themselves leading the field with less than twenty laps to go. However, their fuel tanks ran dry just before a late caution would have ensured them a top finish. Luckily, Robert Blouin turned a thirty-first starting position into an eighth-place result thanks to a slightly different strategy. With Dragonfly's Ed Tutwiler sponsoring the race, the team will be hoping for their best showing of the season at Kentucky.
Other drivers to watch this week include Ron Hacker who has endured a difficult start to the season but seems poised for a turnaround. Hacker had a career-best fourth-place showing at the last 1.5-mile track the series visited in Atlanta last season. Jorge Anzaldo finds himself in the same position and could easily have a breakout night under the lights. Anzaldo finished eleventh at Atlanta. Finally, Tyler and Jared Turnbull have struggled through a very difficult start to the season but they too showed speed in Atlanta, finishing seventh and tenth respectively. A trip to Kentucky could be just what they need to turn things around in 2017.
The Kentucky 200 presented by Dragonfly Racing will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on April 12th beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.