The 5th season of the Lionheart Indycar Series, iRacing’s premier fixed set-up open wheel series, draws to a close Wednesday night at Auto Club with the Lionheart Championship 300; and what a season it has been. From the very first race, where a rookie won on debut, to the penultimate round, where the two-time defending champion, and Lionheart road course king, drove another vintage road course race, this Lionheart series has been one for the ages.
It has been nearly a month since that race at Road America, where Jake Wright was pushed for all he was worth by rookie Adam Blocker. Try as he might however, Blocker could not pull the trigger on the move that would see him by the two-time champion. Andrew Kinsella drove one of his best road course races of the season to finish 3rd, but it was not enough to keep the Canadian rookie in the championship hunt at the finale. Dan Geren recovered from a lap 2 spin to keep his championship hopes alive with a 4th place finish, while Joe Branch drove a clean race to finish 5th, his best result on a road course this season.
While this season has had secondary characters play their parts throughout the season, truly the tale of this championship has revolved around 3 main contenders all season. Kinsella, the Canadian rookie who grabbed the win and the championship lead in the first race of the season and then refused to let it go for the next 10 races. Geren, who has grabbed pole after pole, and done everything he can to catch the man he lost last year’s championship to. Wright, the two-time and defending series champion, who found himself 10th in the championship and over 100 points back after 7 races; who then elevated his game even higher to orchestrate one of the best seasons in Lionheart history. With the 3 drop weeks factored in, Wright has emerged triumphant in 10 of the 20 results counted, and in the top 10 in an incredible 19 of the 20. A truly historic season.
And yet, despite those gaudy numbers, Wright still doesn’t have a stranglehold on the championship. Dan Geren, who put up a masterful season of his own, still has a shot at the Lionheart title. In order to win the title, Geren, who sits 90 points back of Wright. The worst result Geren can have and still win the championship is 3rd, so it is podium or bust for the Midwest driver. That is assuming that Wright finishes worse then 37th and Geren maximizes bonus points. Realistically, however, Geren must win and hope for some serious bad luck for his opponent. If Geren wins and maximizes the bonus points, Wright must finish no better than 27th for Geren to take home the crown. Sound unlikely? That’s because Wright has finished worse than 27th only 2 times this season. Perhaps Geren would be better focusing on the man behind him, as Kinsella sits just 66 points back. That means Kinsella can overtake Geren by winning the race and maximizing bonus points, if Geren finishes worse than 15th. Kinsella can finish as low as 7th in the race and still overtake Geren if results fall the Canadian’s way.
Secondary to the main championship battle, the Rookie of the Year trophy, and 3rd in the championship, is also still not settled. Kinsella currently holds a 94 point advantage over season long rival Michael Goodman. Try as he might, Kinsella has not been able to put the trophy to bed over the past few races, however Goodman must win the race, maximize the bonus points and have Kinsella finish worse than 29th to have a shot. If Goodman is unable to finish 1st or 2nd, there is no way the New York driver can catch the Canadian.
While all eyes have been on the front of the field, watching as Geren and Wright battle it out these past few races, a logjam has formed for the back half of the top 10, starting with Joe Branch and Jason Galvin, who sit tied for 5th. In fact, from 5th place Galvin back to 12th place Ron Hacker are separated by just 91 points, or to put it another way, one more point than the gap between 1st and 2nd. That means that in the finale, we will have 8 drivers going for the final 5 spots in the top 10, with not insignificant amounts of prize money hanging in the balance. This should be good.
Finally, one last battle to watch out for is the Team Championship. Ever since Adam Blocker joined Adrenaline Motorsports midseason, that team appears to have supplanted No Name Racing as the team to beat every week. No Name’s points lead, that just 5 races ago stood at 286 points, has been whittled down to just 155. With double points on the line, No Name is far from guaranteed the championship, and with most members of each team also having individual positions to fight for in the championship, this race could come down to the final lap.
Finally, we must talk about the track. Built by Roger Penske, this track is the sister of Michigan International Speedway. It is unbelievably fast, and wide, and is the site of many tight draft battles over the years in real life. Expect nothing different on Wednesday, as the Lionheart drivers will face 300 miles of edge-of-your-seat action as they draft around this gigantic facility. Tire wear, aero wash, pit strategy, and slower traffic will all come into play, and the winner will be the driver who puts it all together and has a dash of luck thrown in as well. Truly, there is no better place to end this championship.
Catch all the action on Wednesday December 13th at 10:30 Eastern on GSRC and iRacing Live, and stick around afterwards as the Lionheart Series hands out their post season awards live on air.