Throughout Lionheart history, Texas has been notoriously kind to pole-sitters. Past winners Matt Kingsbury, Dan Geren and Jake Wright all earned the pole and led the majority of laps on their way to victory lane. As such, it's very possible that the most important on-track battle this week will take place before the race even begins.
So, who has the edge in qualifying?
Based on sheer numbers, Dan Geren certainly seems to have the advantage. Geren already has three pole positions this season, all of them on ovals. The Iowa-based sim racer is particularly fast on 1.5 mile ovals having already scored the pole at Kentucky earlier this season. Geren finds himself second in the standings and will undoubtedly be motivated to become the first two-time Texas winner.
If motivation is the key, then defending pole-sitter and race winner Jake Wright should not be overlooked. Wright dropped to tenth overall after a disappointing DNF at Pocono last week and now finds himself over 100 points back of leader Andrew Kinsella. While Wright's road-course dominance will help cut into that deficit, he's going to need some strong results on ovals as well. A repeat win at Texas would be just what the doctor ordered and the defending series champion is obviously capable of starting first on the grid.
Wright could have some competition from within his own team thanks to Brian Yaczik. Yaczik qualified third at Kentucky earlier in the season and is still searching for his first career pole. He's also still looking for his first win and he nearly earned it last season at Texas. Yaczik finished a close second to fuel-saving Wright and likely would have passed him had the race been a few laps longer. Regardless of whether or not Yaczik wins the pole, look for him to provide a strong challenge to whomever stands in the way of his first win.
Earning the pole may be important, but with 133 laps of unpredictable racing required to determine a winner, there are no guarantees. Favourites like Jonathan Goke, Christian Steele, Jason Galvin, Chris Stofer and Dan Geren all failed to finish at Texas last season despite strong runs. A more consistent and safe strategy has yielded results in the past and could do so again.
Chris Lanini started thirty-eighth at Texas last season and finished fourth. Matthew Mercer turned a thirty-fourth place grid position into a career-best sixth. Even runner-up Brian Yaczik started twenty-first.
If it is indeed consistency and safety that wins the race, points leader Andrew Kinsella may be the sim racer who benefits most. Kinsella is the only driver in the league to complete every single lap this season. Although the Canadian had a season-worst finish at Kentucky, he still came home thirteenth which would be more than enough to defend his points lead at Texas. With his Adrenaline team firing on all cylinders after a 1-2 finish at Pocono, Kinsella could easily earn his second win of the season.
Other drivers to watch this week include Dave Barber, who came very close to victory at Pocono and has shown speed in the past on 1.5 mile ovals. His Controlled Chaos Racing teammate Bob Mikes did find victory lane earlier in the season at Kentucky and should be strong again at Texas after an eighth-place finish last season. Finally, James Krahula finished on the podium in his home race last season and it's very likely he'll be strong once again as he tries to bounce back from an early DNF last week.
The virtual trip to Texas will be a special one for league founder Jorge Anzaldo who will be making his milestone seventy-fifth career start this week. Anzaldo made his very first Lionheart start at Michigan in July of 2014.
The Texas 200 will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on May 10th beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.