Shrinking game at Richmond
Everything is smaller at Richmond Raceway in Virgina. The lap times just 15 seconds. The length, just ¾ of a mile. The width, just 3 lanes wide. The list of past winners in the field (0). The only thing bigger is the number of laps. 267 lighting quick, action packed laps are in store for the Lionheart IndyCar drivers at this weeks Midwest Simulations 200.
It was a topsy-turvy day for many of the Championship contenders last time out at Michigan International Speedway; in fact out of the top 5 in points, 2nd place Dan Geren was the top finisher in 15th after leading a race high 36 laps. Points leader Blocker finished 17th, Michael Goodman 25th, Justin Weaver 28th, and Andrew Kinsella 29th. Yikes. Instead, it was the back farther down the standings ceasing the opportunity. In a thrilling 3-lap shootout, Big Joe Hassert out-duelled Tony Showen and Brian Yaczik. Some late race controversy saw a computer glitch result in Tony Showen getting kicked from the server on the run to the checkered flag as he tried to get a final run on Hassert. Because the error occurred on an race control member’s computer, Tony was awarded 2nd place over Brian Yaczik. Series founder Jorge Anzaldo saw his best result of the year as he rounded out the top 5, after he and Joe Branch duelled for 4th and 5th over the last couple of laps. Joe Flanagan, Stephen Laarkamp, Ken Hacker, Paul Jenkins and Scotty Johnson all saw strong runs result in top 10 finishes.
Now from one of the largest ovals on the Lionheart series to the smallest, as the Lionheart IndyCar drivers head south to the ¾ mile Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. With 14 degrees of banking and 267 short laps ahead of them, the drivers will need all their patience and skill to get through this one.
On the 2 short tracks so far this year, only 3 drivers have finished in the top 10 in both. Unsurprisingly, Adam Blocker is one of them. Blocker, the commanding leader in the points championship, has, however, been on a comparative slump with back to back finishes outside the top 15. Will Richmond be the track that puts him back on track, or will the run of bad luck continue?
The other 2 names on that list are Michael Goodman and Chris Stofer. Goodman is currently sitting 4th in the points, 16 back of Andrew Kinsella, while Stofer has had a nightmarish season, seeing himself all the way down in 29th in points. For both Stofer and Goodman, Richmond presents an opportunity to capitalize on past success. For Goodman, it could mean vaulting into 3rd in the championship. For Stofer it could mean a surge up the standings for a driver that has seen strong second halves the last 2 years. Will either be able to use the momentum from the previous short track races to their advantage?
Passing can be notoriously difficult on the short Richmond oval, so qualifying may present a distinct advantage. If so, Dan Geren would be the one to benefit. With a sterling average starting position of 5.81 through 16 races, Geren qualifies an average 2.5 positions better then anyone else on the grid. If Geren is able to keep up that advantage, the Midwest driver should be a real threat for the victory.
Another driver who has had a quietly consistent season so far is Stephen Laarkamp. Laarkamp, who battled down to the wire with Justin Weaver for Rookie of the Year last year, is battling for a spot in the top 5 in points this year. The NHR e-Sports driver currently sits 6th in points, but has the 2nd best average finish of anyone on the grid this year. The catch? Ten top 10 finishes, but none in the top 5. Still it seems only a matter of time before Laarkamp converts one of those good runs into a great run. Will it be at Richmond?
The Rookie of the Year battle took another twist as only Paul Jenkins and John Hill finished all 200 miles at Michigan. Jenkins finishing 9th, while Hill finished 17th. Bryan Carey finished 22nd, one lap down while Damon Martinez and Mike Rigney failed to finish. These 5 drivers all have a shot at the title, with only 67 points separating Carey in 5th from first place Martinez. This will be the battle to watch as the season wears down.
In the team standings, an off night from Adrenaline Motorsports Red saw their gap shrink slightly, but with a cushion of 279 points on Synergy East, something dramatic will need to happen in order for this championship to change hands. Close battles in the team standings include for 3rd place, where Adrenaline Motorsports Black and LPM – Cancer Down are locked in a furious battle. Also, a tight battle rages in the back half of the top 10, with Skid Mark Black, Synergy West, NHR e-Sports and LPM – Thumbs Up all covered by 64 points.
The Midwest Simulations 200 goes off this Wednesday, September 25th, 2019 at 10:35pm eastern. Catch all the live action only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.
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