After a tough race last time out at ISM, things don’t get any less “tricky” for the Lionheart IndyCar Series drivers as they get back into action this week for the first of the triple crown races, IracingIflag Pocono 300 Presented by Fat Dog Racing.
Nicknamed the “tricky triangle” the famous raceway in Long Pond Pennsylvania features 3 unique corners that each present a different challenge to the drivers. Turn 1, clocking at 14 degrees of banking, is modeled after turns 3 and 4 of the now defunct Trenton Speedway. Turn 2, also known as the tunnel turn, has 9 degrees of banking and is modeled after the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Unlike Indy, the tunnel to access the infield of the track runs under this turn, creating the signature hump in the middle of the corner that has caught many a driver out over the years. Finally turn 3 is the flattest of the 3 (yes, 3) corners on the track, and is modelled after the Milwaukee Mile. With 3 corners as distinctive as these, it is often very difficult to make the car work in all 3 corners, and engineers are often forced to settle for 2 corners. Normally either turn 1 or 3 are sacrificed, as turn 2 is often taken flat out. This unique race track is the first jewel in the Lionheart Triple Crown.
Last week at ISM, it was Dustin Wardlow working the pit strategy and the fuel to perfection, running out of fuel as he crossed the line for his first win of 2019. In fact, in 4 races, we have had 4 different drivers in Victory Lane. Dan Geren, Scotty Johnson and Sage Karam being the other 3. Karam took 2nd place at ISM to move up to 5th in the championship, while Adam Blocker, Andrew Kinsella and Chris Stofer swept the bottom of the top 5. The win has vaulted “the Candy Man” into 2nd place in the championship. Dewar’s candy has seemed to given Wardlow an extra boost this season, although word on the street is his car passed tech inspection after the ISM race, so we know the candy is not going into the fuel tank!
At the top of the drivers standings is Adam Blocker. While Blocker has yet to win this season, the South Carolina driver has also yet to finish off the podium through 4 races. Your defending series champion, Blocker is showing the type of consistency and prowess that will make him extremely hard to catch if this form holds. In case you were thinking of betting against the points leader, Blocker finished 2nd here last season to his teammate Andrew Kinsella.
Speaking of Kinsella, the Canadian has had an uncharacteristically quiet start to the season. Yes he has 3 top 5’s through 4 races, but no podiums and no wins mean a much slower started compared to last year, where he had 3 wins through the first 5 races. The last of those, coming at this very race track, was the last win for Kinsella in the Lionheart series, meaning a full calendar year has gone by since the Canadian won a race. With Blocker, Wardlow, Karam and Geran all winning in the interim, you can bet this will be one hungry Canadian on Wednesday. He will have one major hurdle to overcome however…Now in Season 7, there are still no two-time Pocono winners ever in Lionheart history. Will Kinsella be able to turn that tide this season?
Dan Geren is coming of an uncharacteristically quiet night at ISM where he finished just 23rd. The Midwest driver has still had a good start to the year, however, after his win in the opener at Homestead and is sitting 3rd in the championship battle. Geren is famous in the Lionheart series for his blistering pole runs; in fact, he sits tied with Jake Wright for all time Pole Positions in Lionheart History at 26. The next time Dan Geren secures a Pole he will become the all-time leader in most Pole Positions. To give you an idea as to just how dominant these 2 have been Jesse Vincent sits in 3rd with 9. That being said, this writer, despite the tie, will still give the tip of his cap to Geren as the greatest qualifier in Lionheart history. Why? Because Wright, while fast on ovals, collected the majority of his poles on road courses, where the gaps tend to be bigger. Geren does have on reason NOT to go for pole position, however, that is that the pole sitter has never won the race at Pocono in Lionheart History. If Geren is looking to win on Wednesday, he may better to wait until Belle Isle to go for a pole run.
This brings us to the track. As mentioned above, Pocono is unique circuit, but it is also a big one. 2.5 miles to be exact, and Lionhearts adoption of the dynamic skyboxes iRacing implemented last year has turned the track into and adventure. The track temperatures are fluctuating as the track entering and exiting the cloud cover, with temperatures in practice from the 80’s through temps into 110’s. Due to the size of the track, some corners may be shaded while others aren’t leading to temperature changes corner to corner. The hotter temps are creating more understeer which is making passing difficult. With an anticipated in-sim start time of approximately 12:40 local time, the track is also anticipated to cool down over the course of the afternoon. Look for the drivers to make their moves as the track cools off.
All the action from the IracingIflag Pocono 300 Presented by Fat Dog Racing can be seen live Wednesday 24th at 10:35 pm Eastern only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.
Dustin Wardlow used pit strategy to get to the front of the pack, and then pulled away over the final 40 laps to capture his first career oval victory in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment Wednesday night at ISM Raceway. It marked the fourth different winner in as many races to start the 2019 season.
Wardlow beat Sage Karam to the line by just over a half-second after conserving fuel on the final lap, but the win was never in doubt.
“I think Sage and I both ran out off turn four,” said the Dewar’s Candy driver. “I almost got rear-ended there. I didn’t even see the flag.”
The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 200 started auspiciously, with Jason Galvin spinning in turn one in the title sponsors car, and a total of eleven cautions slowed the race, but a long green flag run at the end led to fuel mileage playing a factor, something Wardlow was prepared for.
“I was lifting quiet early,” Wardlow said. “I thought Sage had more than I did and would work his way up to me, but we were both in full save mode. It was difficult to do, you want to put your foot in it when you’re being chased by Sage Karam.”
Karam led 39 laps early in the event and had to settle for second.
“That last run everyone was saving fuel, everyone was in on the same strategy,” Karam said. “I saved a lot. But I didn’t think he was going to make it.”
Defending champion Adam Blocker extended his points lead with a come-from-behind third.
“I really liked the setup tonight,” Blocker said. “It was tough to pass but you could still do it.”
The final caution came on lap 141 when James Brant lost control exiting turn four, taking Dan Geren and Bart Workman out as well.
The wreck led to pit stops and a tight run to the finish. Joe Hassert and Chris Lanini, both running in the top five, had to pit in the closing laps for fuel, but the leaders were able to find an extra two miles and make it to the end.
Several top contenders were eliminated in early wrecks. Galvin - with two career second place finishes at Phoenix - didn’t make it past turn one, taking Justin Weaver and Kentucky winner Scott Johnson with him.
James Krahula led 42 laps before spinning on his own in turn four, catching the pit wall and ending his night.
Brian Yaczik and Ken Hacker made contact - perhaps aided by net code - sending the defending race winner on a wild ride through the dog leg.
When the dust settled, 20 cars were running, with 14 on the lead lap and several banged up.
As a result, Blocker’s lead sits at 39 over Wardlow. Geren fell to third, five points back of his Synergy Motorsports teammate.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment now returns to the superspeedway ranks for its first Triple Crown event of the season.
The iRacing iFlag 300 presented by Fat Dog Racing at Pocono Speedway can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network at 7:35 p.m. EST Wednesday, April 24. Global SimRacing Channel will handle the broadcast per the usual.
All around America, short tracks around the country rumble every Wednesday throughout the summer with the sound of race car engines. From midgets to late models to modifieds nothing is better then spending the night at your local short track. Now it’s time for the Lionheart boys to get in on the action. It’s short track racing Lionheart style from ISM raceway for the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down Phoenix 200!
Last week at Kentucky, we had a first a first-time winner with Scotty Johnson taking his first ever Lionheart Victory. Johnson had stayed out as the caution came out at the tail end of the final pit cycle when Connor Harrington turned Jason Galvin down the back straight. The two had been running at the front for most of the race and would have cycled back to the front, however Harrington misjudged it as he tried to dive under Glavin, and turned the California driver into the wall. Ken Hacker also had his best ever Lionheart finish with his 2nd place effort, while reigning champ Adam Blocker turned a 41st qualifying position into a 3rd place result, showing the form that made him a champion last year. Dan Geren led the most laps, but only managed 4th after the late caution forced him to use his tires up just to get through the field to the leaders. Tony Showen rounded out the top 5.
In contrast to the high banks of Kentucky, the D shaped oval at ISM presents the next challenge Lionheart drivers will have with a short track. Last year it was Brian Yaczik tasting his first Lionheart victory at ISM. With 2 first time winners in 3 races already in 2019. The odds are in favour of another new winner happening a second time in 2 years at ISM.
Bryan Carey is so far the cream of the rookie crop. The Canadian has demonstrated that he can run consistently on ovals and is a threat on road courses. With 200 tricky laps at an oval where lifting will be a factor, maybe Carey will be able to apply his road course speed to his oval consistency and take the checkered flags at the end.
Or maybe it will be Michael Goodman. Goodman has been one of the most consistent drivers in Lionheart history, constantly knocking on the door of wins with top 5’s and top 10’s galore on his resume. Goodman has qualified at the front in all 3 races this season, however his last 2 have ended in heartbreak not of his own creation. Perhaps a short track race at Phoenix, a track similar to the Rock, where he took his all-star race win, will finally net him his first points paying Lionheart win.
But then there are the veterans who are looking to get wins of their own. Brian Yaczik is always dangerous and will be looking to defend his win. Andrew Kinsella has been up front at almost every short track in the past 2 seasons, however is another driver with a string of bad luck. Maybe this will be the day he breaks through and gets his first win of 2019. Jason Galvin is always fast and aggressive, and will be looking for revenge for his late race heartbreak at Kentucky.
James Krahula and Joe Branch are to consistent drivers who are known for fuel strategies of opposite ends. Krahula will pit early and often, while Branch will extend his tank past where most other drivers will. Both strategies can work depending on when the yellow flags fall, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of them near the front at the end if the yellows fall their way.
The final element all the drivers will have to contend with is the setup. After last years race saw a distinct inability to pass the leader in clean air, the Lionheart race engineer has taken away a substantial amount of downforce from the drivers, force the drivers to lift at both ends of the race track, even in clean air. This has been done in the hopes that the aero-push that prevent passes for the lead last year will be a thing of the past, however it also has resulted in many drivers needing to adapt their driving style to extract the most out of the set-up. It would not be surprising to see a few unknown names at the front of the field.
For all of the action from the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down Phoenix 200, tune in on Wednesday April 10th at 10:35pm eastern on the iRacing eSports Broadcasting Network present by the incomparable folks at GSRC!
Sometimes it pays off to be lucky and good. Scott Johnson was both Wednesday night, and it paid off in the biggest of ways, with his first career win in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
The Minnesota native led the final 22 laps after a caution propelled him into the lead, holding off Ken Hacker and a hard-charging Adam Blocker for the surprise win.
“I still don’t believe this actually happened,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I had this until we were coming out of turn four.”
Johnson had yet to stop during green-flag pit cycles late in the race. Already planning on stretching his fuel as far as he could, Johnson was one of five drivers still on the track when Connor Harrington spun Jason Galvin on lap 114 - in what was a battle for the lead amongst driver who had already pit - causing Galvin’s car to careen off the wall on the back straight before being plowed by Bob Mikes.
Both Galvin and Mikes were unable to continue, and Harrington was assessed a drive through penalty by race control for reckless driving. He would finish 24th, two laps down, after running in the top three for most of the event.
Justin Weaver beat Johnson off pit road, but was issued a penalty for going through the stop sign at pit exit. Johnson inherited the lead, and never looked back.
“I had a bit of a cushion with the lapped cars after Justin got pushed back,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t raced in traffic all day long so I was kinda afraid I was going to screw up, but it worked out.”
Ken Hacker was able to fend off a hard-charging Adam Blocker for second. The result was the best of Hacker’s career.
“I just spent the race trying to stay clean and keep up with the team,” Hacker said. “At the end I got around Justin and tried to make a run around Scotty but ran out of time.”
Blocker rallied from the 41st starting position to earn his third podium in as many races in 2019.
“I blew my qualifying lap and spun at the end of my hot lap,” said Blocker, the defending series champion. “Kentucky is hard to pass but eventually I found my groove and was able to avoid a few close calls. We just ran out of time at the end.”
Dan Geren led a race-high 71 laps from the pole, but had to settle for fourth after the late caution. Tony Showen, who was in the mix along with Geren, Galvin and Harrington for the win, came home fifth.
The race was slowed four times by cautions totalling 15 laps. Three of the wrecks occurred before anyone could really find a rhythm.
On lap 15, Adrenalin Motorsports teammates Bryan Carey and Chris Stofer tangled exiting turn two. Carey made a passing move and did not realize Stofer was below him, sending his teammate crashing into the inside wall.
Chaos ensued on lap 26. Contact sent Michael Goodman into a slide where he tagged Andrew Kinsella. Kinsella spun across the track, and several other cars were collected. Ron Hacker received the worst of it, barrel rolling down the back straight.
On lap 35, Jason Robarge, Joe Flanagan and Sage Karam became collected in calamity corner, turn tow. All three would retire.
The race would run green, with Geren, Harrington, Galvin and Showen pulling away over the next two fuel stints until the Galvin crash and final restart.
Blocker holds a 13 point lead over Geren through three of the 24 scheduled events in the 2019 Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment. Dustin Wardlow jumped up one spot to third in points, with Weaver and Brian Yaczik tied for fourth.
It’s a quick turnaround for the teams, who head to a short track for the first time in 2019. The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down Phoenix 200 at ISM Raceway is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10 and can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with coverage by Global SimRacing Channel.
If Wednesday night was any indication, Sage Karam will be tough to beat. The real-world IndyCar star showed his might in the sim world as well Wednesday night, leading 33 laps en route to winning the Minus 273 Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Cranfield Simulation.
Karam led all but four laps, beating defending champion Adam Blocker by 16 seconds, while capturing his first win of the season in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
“It was a good race, the track was very difficult,” Karam said. “I kinda figured it out and got in a groove. I was never 100 percent comfortable and was nervous coming in. But I’m happy we got through it.”
Karam rebounded from a tough opening race at Homestead, where a multi-car crash put his virtual IndyCar behind the wall.
Wednesday night, Karam made sure nobody could get in his way.
“My goal was to get the lead early and get a gap,” Karam said. “Once the draft was broken on the first lap, I was able to put my head down and turn some laps.”
Blocker led four laps during pit cycles, but was never really close to Karam.
“With about ten to go, I hit the wall coming out of the boot and it cost me about ten seconds,” Blocker said. “I tried to make a move early on lap one, but on lap two I made a big mistake in the bus stop and almost ended up in the wall. I just didn’t feel like pushing at that point.”
Connor Harrington ran a clean race, moving up from fifth to earn the final podium spot.
“It feels nice to finally finish a road course race without putting it in the tires,” Harrington. “We didn’t have the pace of Sage or Adam but we were just trying to run clean laps and it worked out.”
Andrew Kinsella and Bryan Carey rounded out the top five - the teammates both started outside the top ten - as part of a mad dash to the finish in the back half of the top ten.
Dustin Wardlow, Justin Weaver, George Sandman, Stephen Laarkamp and Tyler Graaf rounded out the top ten. The gap from fourth to 10th was less than three seconds.
26 of the 40 starters finished the race.
Incidents ended the night for several competitive drivers.
Brian Yaczik spun entering the pits while running in the top ten, and hit the wall, ending his race.
Third place starter Damon Martinez and fourth place qualifier Michael Goodman both wrecked before lap three.
Bob Mikes, Chris Stofer, Isaiah Dupree and Chris Lanini were all out before the third lap as well.
It’s early, but the top of the points look similar to how 2018 ended.
Blocker leads Dan Geren by 13 points, with Kinsella one point back in fourth. Wardlow and Harrington round out the top five.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads back to the ovals, first at Kentucky Speedway for Oma’s Kentucky 200, a race dedicated to the memory of league member Marc Aumick’s mother-in-law. Shari Boggs, known as Oma to her grandkids, lost her battle with cancer in 2017.
The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with production by Global SimRacing Channel Wednesday, April 3, at 10:40 p.m. EST.