Atlanta Motor Speedway has a fairly unimpressive history with American open wheel racing. Since 1965, various sanctioning bodies have come and gone. USAC, CART, and the Indy Racing League have all staged events at the southern oval but none have stuck around for more than a handful of seasons. Indycars have not raced at Atlanta since 2001 when Greg Ray took the checkered flag.
Thankfully, things are very different in the virtual world!
iRacing's version of the Atlanta Motor Speedway has become a mainstay for the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment. This week's Utility Equipment Company 200 will mark the fourth consecutive season that the league has hosted a sim race at the 1.5-mile oval. There's a very good reason why the series makes annual visits to Georgia: the track consistently produces exciting and unpredictable sim races.
Two seasons ago, Jason Robarge took the checkered flag in a thrilling three-wide finish with Dan Geren and Jake Wright. Last season, the race ended under caution but not before another exciting battle for the lead between eventual winner Jason Galvin, Brian Yaczik and Chris Stofer. In addition to the tight battles, both sim races also featured a healthy dose of fuel and tire strategy.
In each of the past two seasons, Atlanta has been the penultimate event on the schedule and the championship had already been decided before the virtual Dallara DW-12s hit the track. Not so this year. With ten rounds still remaining in the season, Jake Wright holds a modest 27-point lead over Dan Geren and despite a win last week in Dover, Wright has been unable to pull away.
Geren has finished higher than Wright in each of the past two visits to Atlanta and the upcoming sim race presents a perfect opportunity for him to close the gap. Of course, Wright has earned the pole position in each of his two previous Atlanta starts and he will undoubtedly be looking to finally convert that into a win after two failed attempts.
With fuel and tire strategy likely to play a role, teamwork could be a big factor in the race. As such, the search for potential contenders this week must go through the Adrenaline Motorsports garage. The team currently sits second behind No Name Racing in the standings and there's every reason to think they will be strong this week. Chris Stofer, already a two-time winner in 2017, finished second in Atlanta last season and led 24 laps. Tony Showen finished right behind Stofer last season and also led laps, earning his first career podium in the process. Joe Branch has never enjoyed much luck at Atlanta but he's usually strong on 1.5-mile tracks and the veteran sim racer could easily be a factor if he avoids trouble.
It may end up being Adrenaline's rookie duo of Andrew Kinsella and Adam Blocker who overshadow their veteran teammates. Blocker has made only two career starts in the series and has yet to finish lower than fourth; he should be strong once again in Georgia. Kinsella, meanwhile, is looking to gain ground in the championship standings after a string of unlucky incidents have pushed him down to third overall. When he avoids trouble, Kinsella is usually a lock for the top ten and is expected to be a contender once again this week.
Expect a strong fight from AGR Motorsports who happen to house the past two Atlanta winners, Jason Robarge and Jason Galvin. Defending winner Galvin, who has already visited victory lane at a 1.5-mile track this season, should be a contender again this week. Meanwhile, Jason Robarge is coming off a solid second-place run at Dover and will be looking for another chance to earn his first victory since that Atlanta win in Season 3.
The underdog team to keep an eye on this week is Blue Bayou Racing. Race sponsor Ron Hacker earned one of the best finishes in team history last season at Atlanta and he will be looking to put his Utility Equipment Company Dallara DW-12 back in the spotlight this week. Brandon Limkemann has been another sim racer bitten by bad luck in Georgia. Limkemann has started seventh in each of the past two seasons but he has not finished either race. Should his luck turn around this year, Limkemann could join
Hacker near the top of the standings.
Other drivers to watch this week include James Krahula, who is always a threat when fuel strategy comes into play; he finished fifth last season. Krahula's No Name Racing teammate Brian Yaczik had one of his strongest races last season at Atlanta before wrecking in the closing laps. Yaczik is another sim racer that simply needs luck to go his way in order for him to finish strong. Finally, Bob Mikes should not be discounted. Mikes won at Kentucky and finished third at Texas earlier in the year so another 1.5-mile track should play to his strengths this week.
The Utility Equipment Company 200 will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on August 2nd beginning at 10:35PM ET.