Two weeks ago Andrew Kinsella stole the spotlight in the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Canadian came from mid-pack to edge league veterans Pierre Daigle, Dan Geren and Brandon Limkemann for the win in his league debut.
Kinsella will be looking to keep his undefeated record intact this week as the series heads west to the virtual Phoenix International Raceway for the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 150. However, earning another victory won't be an easy task. The likes of Geren, Daigle and Limkemann will all be hoping to build upon solid results in the season opener. Additionally, there will be numerous Lionheart favourites who will be looking to find some redemption in the desert.
Jake Wright's quest for a third consecutive league title did not get off on the right foot at Homestead. A connection glitch in the early laps of the race sent Wright into the wall and resulted in a career-worst finish. He'll arrive in the desert with a clean slate but it remains to be seen if Phoenix will help turn his luck around. Wright won both the pole and the race in Season 3 but he finished a disappointing nineteenth last season after being collected in a wreck. The 2017 season is still young but Wright could use a good finish to avoid falling too far behind the leaders in the championship battle.
Homestead dealt Chris Stofer an even harsher blow as he finished dead last following contact on Lap 3. Stofer, who'd finished second at Homestead last season, was coming off a run of three-consecutive podiums to end 2016. While his Adrenaline Motorsports teammate ultimately took the win, Stofer will undoubtedly be looking to find his form again at Phoenix and avoid another early-season slump that took him out of title contention last season.
Also hoping for good luck in the desert will be defending race winner Jonathan Goke. He finished a disappointing twenty-fifth at Homestead, which ironically was actually an improvement over his result from a year ago. Goke, who is not a fan of the Florida-based oval, will likely be much more comfortable on the one-mile bullring where he will be looking to re-assert himself as a championship contender.
If Goke finds himself at the front it's very likely he'll have to contend with Joe Hassert for the victory. Hassert had a modest tenth-place finish at Homestead two weeks earlier which was likely a disappointment following his win a year ago. Hassert has never finished lower than fifth in three career Lionheart starts at Phoenix and he is expected to be strong once again in 2017.
Finally, it was a disappointing start to the Indycar season for Jason Galvin. He finished twenty-sixth in the season-opener after winning the Lionheart Retro Series race at Homestead a few weeks earlier. Galvin, who is sponsoring this week's event, is expected to be a threat at the Phoenix circuit where he has worked as a track announcer for many years.
Other sim racers to watch at Phoenix include Pierre Daigle, who started 2017 with a career-best finish at Homestead. Daigle is still in search of his first Lionheart victory and has already shown strong pace in early Phoenix practice sessions. Brandon Limkemann is in the same position and he also posted a career-best result in Florida. Additionally James Krahula finished just off the podium at Phoenix last season and showed strong pace at Homestead. Krahula posted the fastest lap of the race and led 12 laps before an untimely yellow shuffled him back to seventh.
Underdogs to keep an eye on this week include Tony Showen. Showen, much like his teammate Chris Stofer, had a solid finish to 2016. After a sixth-place result at Homestead it appears he has picked up where he left off. Michael Goodman just missed out on a top ten at Homestead and has already shown good pace in early Phoenix practice. Goodman could easily become the second rookie to earn a victory in 2017. Finally, Michael Gray, who is often seen as a road-course ace, finished seventh at Phoenix last season and is coming off a fifth-place result at Homestead. Gray won at Brands Hatch last season. Could an oval victory be in the cards for the Australian sim racer in 2017?
The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 150 will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on March 15th beginning at 10:35PM ET.
To learn more about Thumbs Up, Cancer Down, please visit www.thumbsupcancerdown.com
For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.