By Justin Prince
Sage Karam has dominated the streets of Long Beach, Calif., to win the first race at the virtual street circuit in Lionheart IndyCar Series history by more than 15 seconds.
The BDE Motorsports driver looked comfortable from the start in the HyperX Grand Prix of Long Beach, leading 60 of the 64 laps and lapped as high as seventh place on the way to winning his ninth career race in the series.
Adam Blocker, Connor Harrington, Bryan Carey and Aaron Morgan rounded out the top five.
“It definitely feels good. I’m glad it’s over with now. It was a tough race for sure,” said Karam in HyperX Victory Lane. “This place is definitely very difficult to drive. Every lap, depending on how big the lead was, was always on the edge. You always had some sort of moment. With this track being smaller and more technical, there was always lapped traffic to deal with. Putting that into account, it was hard to manage that. Thankfully those guys did a great job of making it not totally unpredictable. It was smooth sailing with no incident points and I was able to just do my own thing out there.”
Karam immediately broke the draft of his competitors after pulling away from Blocker and Joshua Chin by more than a second on the first lap. The NTT IndyCar Series driver pushed the limits of the car and the track, turning laps up to half a second quicker than some of his competitors.
Karam averaged a 1:09.348 lap time for the race. The only other competitor close to that total was Blocker, who averaged a 1:09.588.
“I didn’t quite have the pace for Sage,” said Blocker. “I just had to decide if I was going to push really hard to try and force him into a mistake or just kind of chill because I was confident I had the pace advantage on everybody behind me. I just took the chill route because it’s a long season and I need to finish and get points the whole season.”
It was also the first race in series history to have alternative tire compounds available for use. Drivers had to turn at least one green flag lap on both types of tires or risk penalization by race control. About half the field elected to start on the harder compound of tires.
“It’s really cool that we get to do that like we can in real life,” said Karam. “The reds are really, really fun to drive on. They have a lot of grip. I was really excited when I saw the two (PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype) cars starting behind us on blacks. I knew that pretty much put them out of the race. The way I looked at it was more of a mental thing. If you start on reds, you know you can stay with the pack and attack for position whereas you start on blacks, you’re just losing spots and you’re playing catch up the whole race.”
Harrington said he and his PLTH teammates had elected to try something different for the race.
One of their team drivers in Chin would have an early departure from the grand prix on the blacks after a crash in Turn 1 on Lap 8.
Chin was running in third place when his car snapped loose on entry. The purple and black car slid sideways for almost a second before Chin locked up the left side brakes to try and save the car. Chin then crashed hard into the right-side tire barrier at more than 60 MPH, destroying the front suspension and the right sidepod.
”The car just broke free,” said Chin on YouTube after his crash. “Connor had the same thing happen but he caught it early enough.”
Chin finished in 32nd place as a result of the crash.
The remaining PLTH drivers, Jason Brophy and Harrington, finished 14th and third respectively.
“I don’t think we really had the pace to try and hang with Sage or Adam, so we tried the alternate strategy with the hard tire,” said Harrington, who finished 17 seconds in front of the next closest car. “Thankfully we were able to survive the first stint on the hard tires there and go on the softs and open up the gap.”
The track saw many incidents throughout the event.
On the opening lap, several drivers would be collected in a crash in the fountain section of the track after Justin Weaver hit the back of Scott Holmes. The incident broke the left-side suspension of Holmes against the outside retaining wall as other cars scattered through the smoke. Weaver also destroyed his left sidepod and left front tire in the incident.
As those two came to a stop, Andrew Kinsella also spun at the exit of the section. Weaver would stop in front of Kinsella to avoid hitting him. Brian Greenlee and Dustin Wardlow then smashed into the back wing of Weaver, causing a sea of wings and car parts to scatter across the track.
Greenlee, Wardlow and Weaver all did not finish the race as a result of the Lap 1 incident.
Several others including Jason Galvin also struggled with loose moments in the race.
Galvin’s day ended early after he got loose coming off of Pine Avenue on Lap 5. The Thumbs Up Cancer Down LPM driver immediately locked the brakes, but still slid hard into the left-side tire wall. The ensuing crash immediately destroyed the suspension and front wing of the car.
In the end, 14 drivers did not finish the grand prix.
“The tough thing about the track is the bumps,” said Harrington. “The walls are obviously unforgiving, but the bumps really make it difficult to not lock the brakes or slide the tires under braking. You really had to pick a line that was smoother than others and kind of get lucky you don’t hit the bumps.”
Next up, the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by HyperX goes short track racing at the virtual Phoenix Raceway for the Thumbs Up Cancer Down Phoenix 200 Presented by Minus 273.. Live coverage can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV at 10:35 p.m. EST.
By Justin Prince
After a vast majority of the field either ran out of gas or coasted their way to the finish, Alexis Newsome has won the second race of the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by DMLC Racing Channel season at Texas Motor Speedway.
In one of the wildest finishes to a Lionheart Racing Series event in recent memory, drivers had to stretch their fuel tanks to last 44 green flag laps to make it to the end of the DMLC Racing Channel 200.
Just eight drivers finished on the lead lap at the checkered flag after several drivers had to pit with under 10 laps to go, including race leaders Chris Stofer and former GT Academy driver Barrett Rolph.
Tony Showen, Chris Fowler, Jim Brooks and Dean Moll rounded out the Top 5.
It was Newsome’s second-ever race in the Dallara DW-12.
“As soon as I came out of the pits, I noticed how close it was. I just started to fuel save,” said Newsome in HyperX Victory Lane. “Everyone was going really hard, so I just backed it down and waited. When I thought I had enough, I took off.”
It had been a memorable debut for Rolph in the series.
The Ascari Motorsport driver, who started in 10th place, quickly made his way into the top three positions after 40 laps.
Rolph would eventually come out of the pits side-by-side with Marc Cohn for the race lead on Lap 44.
The two would swap the race lead several times and combine to lead 107 of 133 laps.
Rolph was in the race lead when he would have to pit coming to the white flag.
“Half a liter of fuel is all that kept me from winning on my Lionheart Racing Series Powered By HyperX debut,” said Rolph on Facebook after the race. “I am kicking myself that I didn't stay out but I went for the cover to ensure I had a good finish.”
The fuel-mileage race came to be after a Lap 85 crash off Turn 2.
Ridin’ Shotgun Motorsports driver Adam Young and Synergy Motorsports Blue’s Moll collided in a battle for 15th place. Young, who had been at the bottom of the race track, would come up the track and hit the left side pod of Moll as the two transitioned onto the backstretch.
Both drivers then would spin to the inside of the track. Young would destroy his suspension after crashing hard into the inside wall, crumpling the left side of his DW-12. Moll would only lose a back wing in the process.
Young would go on to finish 29th while Moll recovered to finish 5th.
All but four drivers would pit under the caution period - race leader Cohn, Matt Taylor, Jorge Anzaldo and Alex Guyon - with 47 laps to go.
Those drivers all had to pit with under 20 laps to go.
“It was difficult,” said Fowler, who finished the race with 0.1 gallons remaining. “I wanted to survive, make no mistakes. I knew it was going to be close. I figured at that last caution, we were going to have at least one more. I didn’t think any of us could make it. I know those guys who stayed out, they were gambling for that. Then, we were 20 laps in and I was like, ‘man, this is going to go green.’”
The long run also surprised Showen. He said he originally did not expect for the closing laps to be run on a fuel stint.
“I backed off when there were seven cars in front of me. I was like ‘there’s no point fighting with those guys,’” said Showen. “Then I looked at my fuel and was like, ‘we got enough laps where I can save behind this giant wall of wind in front of me.’ From that point on, it was a fuel-save race for me.”
The biggest crash of the day came on Lap 68 When Fowler and Emerson Santos would touch sidepods coming out of Turn 2. Santos would launch off of the right side of Fowler’s car into the outside SAFER barrier.
Chris Lanini and Alexander van de Sandt would then smash into the right side of Santos, sending Lanini airborne. Lanini would flip over more than 10 times down the middle of the backstretch as Matt Wagner crashed into the inside wall avoiding him. Wagner would then join Lanini in the air after being hit by the front nose of van de Sandt.
Mike Rigney and Joe Branch would also get collected checking up for the incident.
Next up, the Lionheart Speedway Series goes short track racing at the Milwaukee Mile for the DMLC Racing Channel 175 on April 12th. Live coverage can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV at 10:35 p.m. EST.
By Justin Prince
For the third time in a row, Sage Karam has won at Watkins Glen in dominating fashion.
Karam started on the pole and led almost every lap of the ButtKicker Grand Prix at the Glen to score his second Lionheart Retro Series Presented by Simxperience victory in a row.
Ryan Otis, Matt Taylor, Aaron Morgan and Mike Rasimas rounded out the top five.
“It was a good race for sure,” said Karam, who led 36 of 37 laps. “This track, the draft is so huge, so I really wanted to push the first few laps to try and break that. Once I was able to get above a second lead, I kind of went into trying to save some fuel, but trying to run some fast laps. It was difficult, but I was able to pull out a big lead.”
The race could have ended much more differently.
Gary Corley, who had been running 23rd place, spun out entering The Boot and flipped upside down into the middle of the track.
Karam, who had won the race by more than 14 seconds, just avoided significant contact with the right side of Corley’s car.
“Obviously the biggest worry is you have a car spinning in front of you or a couple cars tangled up.,” said Karam. “When spinning or up in the air, you really don’t have any control. You have to pick which way to go and pray … Thankfully we got away with it today.”
Taylor, who started on the outside of the front row, had been kept under pressure by Morgan throughout the second half of the race until Lap 28. Morgan would spin after carrying too much speed into Turn 7. He would slide to the left of the track, locking up the brakes while doing so.
Morgan would quickly get back up to speed after spinning the tires, but would lose more than 10 seconds and one spot as a result of the incident. The Avatar Auto Racing driver would then go back and forth with Rasimas for several laps before finishing in fourth.
“I was kicking myself for the spin, but hey it put on a show,” said Morgan.
Otis said it was a good race for him. The two-time champion had held onto second place from the drop of the green flag. It was Otis’s 45th career top five finish in the series.
“I think either my races go really well, or they go really, really bad,” said Otis. “I’m always trying to be consistent obviously and put myself into position to win. That wasn’t the case today. Karam just smoked us.”
Several other drivers struggled with pivotal mistakes throughout the race.
On Lap 6, Isaac Snider would spin coming into the final corner from the Top 10 after clipping the grass on the left side of the track. Snider would then spin, smashing the rear end of his Lotus 79 into the tire barrier. Snider would go on to finish in 25th place, two laps down.
Then, on Lap 13, Ariel Alaniz had been running in 13th before clipping the grass entering the boot. Alaniz would slide from the right side of the track into the armco barrier on the exit of the chute. The Independent driver did not finish the race and was scored in 27th.
Later on in the race, Thomas Lovelady would also crash in Toe from ninth place.
On Lap 31 Lovelady would slide the back tires coming out of the corner, then bobble hard left into the armco barrier. The front nose would immediately be crushed in. Lovelady would then smash the back end of the car against the wall. Lovelady would finish three laps down in 25th place.
Overall, nine drivers did not take the checkered flag.
“(Watkins Glen) is definitely a little bit draining,” said Otis. “It takes a lot of focus. You can’t have a lot of distractions. It’s definitely taxing. Not physically, but mentally.”
Next race, the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience will be going short track racing for the KARNOX 175 at Phoenix. It can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on April 1st at 10:35 p.m. EST.
By Justin Prince
After staying out on a late-race caution on old tires for a 10-lap shootout, Dean Moll has won the HyperX Indy Japan 200.
Moll held on to win the first race of the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by DMLC Channel season by 0.297 seconds over a hard-charging Tony Showen, who went from eighth to second in the span of nine laps.
It is Moll’s first career victory in Lionheart Racing Series competition. He had previously started in 32 Lionheart Retro Series races with a best finish of second.
Joe Branch, Charles Teed and Trevor Malone rounded out the top five.
“I was weaving all over the track, doing whatever I could to break the draft and trying to maintain a gap,” said Moll in HyperX Victory Lane after the race. “The only good thing was I was able to do a high entry into Turn 3 and then moved to the bottom of the track in Turns 3 and 4, which took the air off (Showen). I was trying to use everything I learned driving IndyCars to hang on there.”
The opportunity to stay out was set up after pole sitter Michael Goodman clipped the apron in Turn 4 coming to 15 laps to go.
Goodman then spun out in front of Branch and Moll, triggering the caution flag.
Several drivers had been trying to fuel-save prior to the caution. Others such as Moll said they were good on fuel before the yellow flag.
Luis Gonzalez Nuñez, Teed, Mike Rigney, Alexander van de Sandt and Alexis Newsome had joined Moll in staying out under caution.
“I think we were in good shape before the caution came out,” said Branch. “(Showen and I) were saving. We were going to make it and because we were saving for two stints, we had extra fuel. Everybody was trying to be racy. Then in the last stint, it was time to go with fresh tires. It was definitely fun.”
Strategy became a big factor in the race after a Lap 2 crash.
Dark Horse Motorsports driver Eric Schaus had been running in eighth position after the start when his car went straight into the outside safer barrier in Turn 1.
Schaus then bounced down the 10 degrees of banking into traffic, hitting the sidepod of Christopher Kresge.
As Schaus flew over the top of Paul Jenkins and Joe Branch, Brett Bennett and Emerson Santos collided while checking up for the incident. Santos would then crash at full speed into the outside wall, shearing the front nose and causing terminal damage.
The one of two cautions in the race would help set up a fuel mileage race for the closing half of the 130-lap event.
“I thought I was actually going to be up there when I saw a bunch of guys fuel-saving at the end there before that last caution,” said Showen. “It still worked out pretty good.”
The race featured many major moments prior to the closing stages.
Several drivers crashed into the pit lane after Joe Hassert got loose on the access road.
Big Joe bobbled to the left of the pit straight before swinging to the right. Marc Cohn then locked up his brakes and slid into Hassert’s right sidepod.
The two would come to a stop in the middle of the pit lane entry, leaving nowhere for Nuñez, Tyler Graaf or Trevor Malone to go as they slid into the wrecked cars.
Cohn and Hassert would both not finish the race as a result of the crash. The two had combined to lead 50 laps prior to the incident.
Moll said he was happy to win the race after a rocky 2020 Lionheart Retro Series campaign.
“Last year when I raced in the Retro Series, it was one of the most difficult seasons I have had in sim racing. Just a lot of mistakes on my part and a lot of bad luck,” said Moll. “The admin team is the main reason I stuck with it. Definitely excited for this year and glad to get an awesome result to start.”
The Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by DMLC Sim Racing Channel now heads to the virtual Texas Motor Speedway for its next race of the season, the DMLC Racing Channel 200 at Texas. It can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on March 22nd at 10:35 p.m. EST.
By Justin Prince
In one of the wildest races in Lionheart Retro Series history, Sage Karam has won the opening race of Season 5.
The NTT IndyCar Series driver celebrated his 26th birthday a bit early by beating Ricky Hardin by 0.022 seconds to win the Espo Designs Miami 200 after an intense for the win featuring more than five different contenders.
The finish is the sixth-closest in the history of the series, topping Season 4’s 0.021-second victory differential at the track.
D.J. Clark, Mike Rasimas and Danny Roberts rounded out the top five.
“That got pretty wild for sure,” said Karam after the race.
Hardin and Karam would trade runs throughout the closing stages of the race. Hardin would run the bottom of the track while Karam would run the middle.
“I knew the middle lane was probably the preferred lane,” said Karam. “It seemed guys on the bottom kind of had to lift. When I was running side-by-side in the middle of the race with a lot of cars, I was able to notice I was getting to the stripe before they were.”
The side-by-side squabble would eventually set up Trevor Malone for a three-wide move at the end of the straightaways.
Then, with under 10 laps to go, Hardin would scrub the left rear tire of Karem, losing momentum as a result. Hardin would eventually be shuffled as far back as fourth before becoming the lead car on the bottom with under five laps to go.
Chaos then struck at the white flag.
Malone and Karam would make tire-to-tire contact at the start and finish line, sending Malone into the left side of Rasimas.
Malone would then bounce off Rasimas and launch into Chris Ragan at the bottom of the race track. The two would then crash into the infield at the entrance to Turn 1. Malone and Ragan would go on to finish 13th and 14th respectively.
“I was like ‘I needed to keep this middle lane with what I got,’” said Karam in regards to the incident. “(Malone) really wanted the middle. He really wanted me to go low, but I wasn’t going to give it up. I think we bounced off each other six times. Then he unfortunately spun, but it was a great fight.”
The Raven Motorsports Silver driver said he was getting tight on the bottom line coming to the final stages. Hardin would move into a side-by-side battle with Karam after the contact. The two would finish side-by-side at the stripe.
“I knew I needed to push (Karam) up the track in turns three and four to beat him because he was going to have a big run off and I wasn’t really willing to wreck both of us to do it,” said Hardin. “I hoped maybe I got just enough and when I saw him coming back it was too late.”
The 134-lap race would also feature several other major thrilling and pivotal moments.
Karam and Jason Galvin would have a fierce, side-by-side battle for the lead for several dozen laps in the middle portions of the race.
The battle ended however when David Clymer made contact with the left rear tire of Karam coming out of Turn 2 on Lap 82.
Clymer would then spin in front of the field, colliding with Matt Taylor. Taylor would then slide up the track and collect Chris Lanini and Marc Cohn. All three would slide into the outside safer barrier and ricochet into the air. Several other drivers would then collide into the three cars as they landed across the track, including Joe Hassert and Paul Slavonik.
“I should have waited,” said Clymer after the incident to fellow competitors on Discord. “I just worked my way from the back and I was just happy to be up front. I should have just chilled out.”
Bad luck would eventually strike for Galvin on Lap 99.
As the pit stop window opened for several drivers, Galvin made contact with Paul Jenkins on the exit of Turn 4. The contact would force Galvin to get loose, snapping right into the outside safer barrier at the start of the frontstretch. Galvin would then spin in the air several times, shearing off the front wing and destroying his car.
The caution would hurt Alex Guyon the most.
After losing track position due to the caution flag, the Lavoie Motorsport driver would make contact with the right front tire of Chris Staples on Lap 107. The incident would then send Guyon sideways. He would save the car before being hit again by Gary Corley, sending him into the outside wall.
That would eventually set up the tense finish between Hardin and Karam.
The Lionheart Retro Series now turns its attention to its first road course race of the season, the ButtKicker Grand Prix at the Glen. The race can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on March 18th at 10:35 p.m. EST.
By Justin Prince
The reigning champion is already in winning form.
After starting in 18th place, three-time Lionheart IndyCar Series champion Adam Blocker has won the HyperX Miami 200.
It is the Adrenaline Powerslide driver’s series-leading 23rd victory in his career.
“I was able to pick my way through guys when the race started and just keep out of trouble,” said Blocker in HyperX Victory Lane. “I just played the pit strategy right and once I got up there in the front, I wanted to be in the top two to save my tires … By the time I got an opportunity, I just gave (Connor Harrington) some dirty air and we got the separation. Luckily we went green from there because that just made it easy.”
After a restart with under 80 laps to go, Blocker and PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype’s Harrington would go back and forth several times for the race lead. The battle included a few close calls at the bottom of the front straightaway.
Then, on Lap 77, Blocker would start gaining up to three-tenths of a second per lap on Harrington and the rest of the field. Blocker would eventually lead over Harrington by more than two seconds before the final pit stop window.
Harrington would eventually go on to finish second. Jason Brophy, Henry Bennett and Joshua Chin also finished inside the top five.
“I wanted to kind of make a concerted effort to make it to the end,” said Harrington. “Adam was really pinching me into Turn 1 and I didn’t really want to send it and wreck him. I decided to just kind of ride behind, make a little bit of fuel and the dirty air is what got me. The goal was to keep up with him and undercut him at the pit stop and we were just too far behind to do that.”
Several contenders were involved in major incidents in the five-caution race to start the 2021 season.
One of the biggest incidents of the race happened on Lap 20.
NTT IndyCar Series driver Sage Karam and 2020 series runner-up Andrew Kinsella would make contact in Turns 3-4 in a battle for fifth position.
Karam would slide up the track incident into the front wing of Kinsella. Kinsella would then go over the engine cover of Karam and crash into the outside safer barrier coming out of Turn 4. Then, as Karam slid down the track, Matt Taylor would collide with Jay Brant, snapping his suspension while spinning down to the apron.
Jorge Anzaldo meanwhile would collide with Karam’s car at the top of the track, pinballing off the wall as the yellow came out.
“I was trying to let Karam in front of me,” said Kinsella after the incident. “I was off the throttle for most of the corner and was trying to cut down below him, but it looks like when he tried to hit the apex, he just started sliding. He was scrubbing a lot more speed than I anticipated, but there was nothing I could do.”
Later, the race would finish under caution after a crash after Richie Hearn and Scott Holmes collided down the frontstretch coming to four laps to go.
Hearn had tried to move up from the bottom off Turn 4 while Holmes was running the wall off the corner. The left front tire of Holmes’s car then collided with the right rear tire of Hearn’s, destroying the suspension instantly on Holmes. Hearn was sent flying into the inside wall at 175 MPH, smashing into a shower of car parts along the safer barrier.
At the same time, Holmes had launched off Hearn’s rear tire into the outside wall, bouncing down the track into Tyler Graaf. Graaf and Holmes were sent spinning the full length of the frontstretch with both coming to rest in the racing line in Turn 1. Adam Frazier would also get collected, breaking his left front suspension on Holmes’s car and slamming into the outside wall as the caution flag waved.
It is only the second time in series history a race ended under caution at Homestead-Miami Speedway.For PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype, it was a strong start to the 2021 campaign. Harrington, Brophy and Chin had controlled the tempo of the race the first half of the event, leading a combined 60 of 134 laps.
“Frankly for a new organization, I don’t think we could have asked for a better night other than one of our cars being on the top step of the podium,” said Harrington. “I’m confident those results will come later on in the year.”
The Lionheart IndyCar Series heads to the virtual Long Beach Circuit for its second race of the year, the HyperX Grand Prix of Long Beach. The race can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on March 24th at 10:35 p.m. EST.