By Justin Prince
In one of the calmest races of the 2021 Lionheart Racing Series season so far, Sage Karam has won at Watkins Glen International for the third straight time in dominating fashion.
The NTT IndyCar Series driver led 32 of 37 laps after starting on the pole position for the eighth running of the SimXperience Grand Prix of Watkins Glen Presented by Chris Fowler Racing.
It is Karam’s ninth career victory in the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker.
Adam Blocker, Connor Harrington, Joshua Chin and Ryan Otis rounded out the top five.
“It was a good race from me obviously,” said Karam from HyperX Victory Lane. “I was able to clock in the fastest lap and had no incident points, so it was a pretty perfect day.”
Karam was very fast from the opening lap of the race. After Blocker passed Chin in the opening corner, Karam pulled away by 1.1 seconds on Lap 1 alone. He would lead by as much as five seconds by the opening pit stop window on Lap 14.
“I knew the first lap was going to be huge to get away from the draft, so I burned one push to pass. I was practicing my outlaps and stuff just to see how to make the car go faster on cold tires,” said Karam. “That seemed to just be the difference. It seemed like my outlaps were pretty strong compared to people. Also, just that first lap of the race I was able to get out of draft range. From there, it was basically just hitting my marks.”
Blocker said he was content on how his race turned out.
“I was basically at the start just happy to pass Josh,” said Blocker. “After that it was basically just managing the reds because I thought more people were going to be sliding than they were. They didn’t really, so I probably managed them a bit too much at the first stint. I was able to go long at least, go on the blacks late, lead a lap and get a bonus point, but after that I knew Sage was gone. It was about keeping Connor and Josh behind me.”
Karam said the track suits him well on the sim despite not liking Watkins Glen in real life.
“When you have the Bus Stop and some faster-speed corners and a little off-camber corners, you’ve just got to trust the car,” said Karam. “I just feel I got a good trust with the car and feel for it.”
Engine temperatures were a major talking point for drivers entering the race. Both Ron Hacker and Tyler Graaf would blow their motors in the race on Laps 22 and 31 respectively.
Overall, just four drivers did not finish the event.
Harrington said the engine issues affected his ability to undercut Blocker.
“We knew going into this race that a lot of the engine temperature stuff was going to be really difficult to deal with,” said Harrington. “I think after my first stop, I had the engine oil temperature warning on my dash for something like 26 laps straight.
“In the pit stop phase when we were trying to undercut Adam, I was looking to attack and I couldn’t get on the button because I was afraid of blowing the motor. A little bit of a lost opportunity to stick it to Adam maybe and gain a little ground, but you can’t be upset when you come to a Lionheart race and finish on the podium.”
Next up, the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker goes to iRacing’s virtual Kentucky Speedway for the OMA's 200 on May 5. Live coverage can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV at 10:35 p.m. ET.
By Justin Prince
After gaining more than two seconds in the pits and a dramatic crash in the battle for the race lead, Aaron Morgan has won the SimXperience Grand Prix of Mosport.
In an eventful round of the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience, Morgan took the checkered flag at iRacing’s virtual Canadian Tire Motorsport Park by more than four seconds.
It is Morgan’s first career Lionheart Retro Series win in his 30th start.
Ryan Otis, Matt Taylor, Michael O’Brien and Chris Ragan rounded out the top five.
“I’m so excited, especially because I never thought I was going to win on a road course against Otis in a straight up fight pace-wise,” said Morgan. “I knew he probably had some traffic come into play there, but I still never thought I’d ever be close enough to him coming into the year to take advantage of something like that. I can’t believe it.”
The drama would ensue after the first pit stops of the race.
Rasimas and Morgan passed Otis in the pits after Otis elected to pit coming to Lap 24 after leading by 1.4 seconds. Rasimas, who came down the pit lane a lap later, would gain more than a second in the pit stop sequence. Morgan also gained two seconds.
“In the practice races, I was playing around with fuel-saving and stuff because I knew the fuel number for one stopping. I was just so close to it, but late in the race it wasn’t a possibility. Then, I tried spitting in the second practice race,” said Morgan. “I did a full tank and my teammate did half a tank and he just pulled away from me so much. I knew tonight I had to do the half and half.
“It gave so much pace exponentially when you got to the end of the fuel tank.”
On Lap 27, Morgan would apply pressure to Rasimas, driving side-by-side coming out of the Mario Andretti Straightway. Morgan would take the preferred line away in the esses, clearing Rasimas for the race lead.
Rasimas would then get loose coming out of Whites Corner. Rasimas would fishtail out of the corner, slamming the brakes before crashing into the right side wall.
The damage would put Rasimas two laps down.
Then, during the second and final pit stop window, Morgan and Otis would go for two different strategies.
Morgan would pit on Lap 37 after holding onto a five-second advantage. Otis elected to stay out, giving him a lead of more than 16 seconds.
That lead would last until Lap 46, when Otis would come in for his final stop.
“You had to get a little luck in traffic, but you had to play the smart strategy. Aaron did both and I think I did a little bit of neither,” said Otis.
Several drivers struggled with keeping their cars moving forward on the track early on in the race.
On the opening lap, Paul Slavonik and Jorge Anzaldo followed each other off the left side of the track. Slavonik would spin out for hundreds of feet before stopping in the grass. Anzaldo meanwhile would slam on the brakes, narrowly avoiding the tire barrier and turning a hard left back towards the pavement.
Both drivers would come back on track deep in the field in 30th and 33rd position at the end of the first lap respectively.
Then, on Lap 8, Richie Hearn would carry too much speed into Moss Corner and spin around in a full circle around the corner from the top five.
The former CART driver locked the brakes, stopping at the edge of the racing line for the exit of the corner.
While Chris Fowler would miss Hearn by inches in the incident, David Sirois would dart to the left, slamming into Hearn’s left front tire.
Sirois and Hearn would finish TK and TK respectively.
On Lap 11, several more drivers would crash hard on Lap 11 coming out of Quebec Corner.
While battling for 23rd position, Thomas Lovelady would click the grass on the left side of the track, spinning into Dustin Wardlow.
Wardlow would then slide straight into the left side wall, flipping upside down. The Raven Motorsports Silver would ride on his helmet for several feet before flipping back over several times down the straightaway.
Moments later, Danny Roberts would slam into the inside wall on the run up to Moss Corner. Roberts had spun his red Lotus 79 after carrying too much speed into the corner
Overall, eight drivers would not finish the race.
Next race, the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience will be having its first triple crown race of the 2021 season, the The Watchman 250 at Pocono Raceway. It can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on April 29th at 10:35 p.m. EST.
By Justin Prince
For the second round in a row, Alexis Newsome has taken the checkered flag to win in the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by DMLC Racing Channel.
Newsome won the DLMC Racing Channel Milwaukee 175 after several late-race cautions and incidents mixed up the running order.
Alexandr van de Sandt, Chris Stofer, Ken Hacker and Matt Taylor rounded out the top five.
“I feel great,” said Newsome from HyperX Victory Lane. “I was not confident at all entering this race.”
Taylor and Stofer had been the dominant cars in the field early in the 175-mile race. Taylor pulled away by as much as two seconds in clean air to lead 80 laps.
“You couldn’t pass the leader,” said Stofer. “When you’re further back, you can make some moves and I was surprised.”
That changed after the caution came out for contact between Marc Cohn and Charles Teed with 59 laps to go.
Taylor, Stofer, Barrett Rolph and several others elected to stay out under the ensuing caution period. Drivers were estimated to be able to make it 54 laps on a tank of fuel.
A couple laps later, the big one would strike after Chris Fowler, Nick DeGroot and Luis Gonzalez Nuñez made contact entering the apex of Turns 1-2.
Nuñez dived to the inside of Fowler and DeGroot in the corner, making contact with the left rear tire of Fowler. All three drivers would then spin in Turn 2, sliding across all lanes as the heart of the pack crashed into the group of crashing cars.
DeGroot would launch off the front nose of A.J. Musselman into the catch fence. He would flip in the air more than five times before landing back on the ground next to Dean Moll’s car.
At least six cars were involved in the incident.
That forced a majority of the drivers who had stayed out the previous caution to pit.
“I was worried about pitting, but had to pit,” said Stofer. “I was within the fuel window and just wanted to do the best that I could.”
With the caution flag, Newsome would cycle to the lead and never look back.
“When me and my new teammate Nick stayed out there, we were counting on a lot of cautions,” said Newsome. “It ended up working out.”
Next up, the Lionheart Speedway Series goes to iRacing’s virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first triple crown race of the season, the GRAAFix Esports 300 at Miami on April 19th. Live coverage can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV at 10:35 p.m. ET.
By Justin Prince
After a pass for the race win with five laps to go, Sage Karam has won his third straight race in the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience.
The KARNOX 175 at Phoenix came down to a six-lap shootout after two late-race cautions.
Taylor, who had cycled to the lead after undercutting Karam during green flag pit stops, fought hard off the restart. Karam however was able to get a good launch, diving below Taylor into the dogleg for the lead. The two would nearly make contact, forcing Karam below the yellow line heading to the entry to Turn 3.
Karam would get the advantage through the corner before the two ran side-by-side for a full lap.
The two would then tap tires in with four laps to go, shuffling Taylor back to third position, allowing Karam to build a gap.
It is Karam’s 16th career victory in the series.
Morgan, Taylor, Lionel Calisto and Craig Forsythe rounded out the top five in the 175-lap event.
“I was happy with that last yellow,” said Karam from HyperX Victory Lane. “I didn’t get a good jump on the first restart. I don’t think I would have been able to make a move, so when the yellow came out, I knew I just had to go for it. I stayed flat in Turn 1 where the other restart I didn’t do that. I think that was the difference.”
The second chance came after D.J. Clark crashed with 10 laps to go.
Taylor said he did not want that opportunity for Karam to close.
“I was right where I wanted to be there,” said Taylor in regards to the first of the two late-race restarts. “I felt I could keep the draft broken enough to hold him back. That reset gave him just enough gap to get a run.”
Morgan, who capitalized on the contact from the leaders to finish second, said he wanted to see his Avatar Auto Racing teammate win.
“I wasn’t really in contention. It was his race,” said Morgan. “I’m a little disappointed for him ... I was just happy to get the podium. I wasn’t really expecting to do so well in this race because I struggled so hard in the practice races and qualifying.”
Series rookie Danny Roberts started strong at Phoenix, leading by as much as 1.3 seconds in the opening stages of the race.
Attrition and cautions however played a factor in both the strategy and the battles for drivers and their teams for much of the race.
Much of the field would be offset on strategy after a Lap 22 crash when Mike Rasimas and Ron Hacker appeared to make contact exiting Turn 2.
Hacker slid hard into the outside SAFER barrier, bouncing into Mike Rigney. He would then be launched into the air off the front wing of Paul Jenkins, launching more than 15 feet into the air.
The red and blue car of Hacker would then bounce off the pavement several times, twirling around several times before coming to a rest at the entrance of the dogleg.
That incident would be beneficial to Karam, who had started the race in 22nd position. He would move to seventh after staying out under the yellow flag.
Then, after a Lap 42 caution from a Michael O’Brien crash, Roberts and Karam would elect to pit for fuel, matching their strategies. Karam would then pass by both Roberts and Chris Fowler for what would eventually become the net race lead.
“I had a lot of work to do,” said Karam. “I played some good strategy and was able to make up my track position going off strategy a bit.”
That would change on Lap 92 when Chris Staples would go upside down.
After checking up for Alex Guyon down the frontstretch, Staples would be hit from behind by Paul Slavonik. The independent driver then spun into the outside wall and launched off the nose cone of Richie Hearn into the air. Staples would fly over the track for half a straightaway before landing upside down.
Karam, Fowler and several others elected to come down the pit lane while more than half the field would stay out, including Taylor.
The late-race yellows would equalize the strategies.
“It was really kind of a roulette wheel with when the cautions were going to fall and if they were going to work out in our favour or at worst wouldn’t trap you,” said Taylor. “Everything worked out even in the end.”
Karam said he did not expect to have three wins early in a row to start the year. He has the chance to become the first driver to win four races in a row in the next race.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season,” said Karam.
Next up, the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience will head to Canada for the SimXperience Grand Prix of Mosport Presented by Clipping That Apex. The action from the virtual Canadian Tire Motorsport Park can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on April 15th at 10:35 p.m. ET.