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.
The fourteenth round of the 2017 Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment had everyone guessing before the virtual cars took to the grid. What kind of sim race would unfold within the tight confines of Dover International Speedway? Would it a be a caution-fest? A strategic battle? A thrilling fight to the finish?
As it turned out, it was all of the above.
The American Cancer Society Race for the Cure 150 began with half-a-dozen cautions that slowed the field for 25 laps in total. The most notable victim of the early carnage was Andrew Kinsella. The Canadian, who was leading the series points until just a few weeks ago, was tossed violently into the wall following a netcode contact on lap 22.
Other early casualties included Brian Yaczik, who started third overall, along with Tony Showen, Brian Greenlee, Pierre Daigle, Michael Gray, Brandon Limkemann, Ron Hacker, and Dave Barber.
The abundance of pace laps allowed the field to vary their pit strategy. Some choose to pit early and often while others remained on track and gobbled up positions as their fuel tanks slowly ran down. What none of them knew at this point was that following a restart on lap 59, the yellow would not come out again for the rest of the virtual race. What began as a battle of attrition quickly turned into a strategic showdown and many were left questioning whether they had enough fuel to complete the remaining 91 laps on a single stop.
The unexpected twist left Joe Hassert out in the cold as he was too short on fuel. Once Hassert pitted, the AGR Motorsports duo of Jason Galvin and Jason Robarge took control of the stint and remained in front of the field until they made their own green-flag stops on lap 98. Unfortunately, Galvin's hopes were dashed by a speeding penalty entering the pits.
When the dust settled on all of the stops, it was Robarge who returned to the lead, followed by Dan Geren, Adam Blocker and Jake Wright. With 43 laps to go at that point, it remained unclear if any of the leaders would have enough fuel to finish.
“I didn't know what the car was capable of doing,” admitted Geren after the race. “I actually ran half to three-quarter throttle that whole last stint. I had to save the whole time!”
While Robarge, Geren, Blocker and Wright would all make it to the end, their fuel-saving attempts did not get in the way of a thrilling battle for the win. It was Wright who would position himself the best, passing Blocker for third place with 19 laps remaining and then going around Geren for second just four laps later.
Wright waited patiently behind race leader Jason Robarge for several laps before the defending series champion turned up the pressure as Robarge worked his way through traffic. With five laps remaining, Wright used the slower car of Bob Mikes as a pick and swooped to the inside. Robarge, unable to defend, fell in line behind Wright, who would pull away before taking the checkered flag.
“I wasn't really sure what was going to happen there so I just kinda hoped we all made it through clean,” said Wright of the race-deciding move.
The victory was the ultimate vindication for Wright who'd finished thirty-third at Dover last season – one of the worst finishes of his Lionheart career.
“I was not looking forward to going into this race. I just figured I was going to put myself into a wall or something! It's like the first time in forever I've been scared of wrecking myself out of a race!” he said after climbing from his No Name Racing Dallara DW-12. “I honestly have no idea how I ended up in victory lane tonight!”
Jason Robarge would finish second, earning his first podium since April. Dan Geren would come home in third, although his final lap was not without some excitement.
“That last lap, I tried to get around the high side of (Robarge) and I smoked the wall off four,” said Geren, who improved upon a sixth-place result at Dover last season.
Rookies Adam Blocker and Michael Goodman would finish fourth and fifth respectively. James Krahula, Chris Stofer, Scott Bolster, Woodrow Mahan and Robert Blouin rounded out the top ten.
Wright's win and Geren's podium kept the championship battle close with Wright now holding a 27-point advantage over Geren. Andrew Kinsella's early exit left him 50 points back in third overall.
The six total cautions for 25 laps were down noticeably from last season where 10 yellow flags slowed the action at the “Monster Mile” for 38 laps in total. Despite the thrilling event, it remains uncertain if Dover will return to the 2018 schedule.
The Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment returns to action next week with a visit to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Utility Equipment Company 200. The 133-lap sim race will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on August 2nd beginning at 10:35PM ET.
For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.
The Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment is in the midst of the tightest championship battle in league history. The top three drivers are separated by less then 30 points and others are still within striking distance. Anything can happen in the remaining eleven rounds and appropriately enough, the league visits Dover International Speedway this week for a sim race that could be the most unpredictable event of the season.
The series debuted at the “Monster Mile” in 2016 and while the race was by no means a wreck-fest, 10 cautions certainly thinned the herd as the 150-lap sim race wore on. Current points leader Jake Wright was among those who fell victim to Miles the Monster. Wright finished 33rd after an early-race incident ended his run. Also among those who felt the wrath of Miles were usual contenders Ron Hacker, Brandon Limkemann, Jorge Anzaldo, Joe Branch, Robert Blouin and Pierre Daigle.
Wright can ill-afford to have a similar result this season with Dan Geren and Andrew Kinsella looming large in his rear-view mirror. Both Geren and Kinsella gained ground on the defending series champion last week at Michigan and one or both could theoretically leave Dover with the points lead if things go their way.
Geren ran a consistent race last year at Dover, starting sixth and finishing seventh. He may need to push a bit harder this season with the championship lead so close in sight but he'll also be lacking teammates Jonathan Goke (who won the race last season) and Ian Adams, neither of whom are currently active in the league. If Geren and his only #NailedIt teammate Michael Gray (who finished seventh last season) can have another safe and consistent run, both could find themselves closer to first overall when the checkered flag flies.
Andrew Kinsella would obviously love to re-gain the points lead he held for much of the season and as one of the league's most consistent drivers, he certainly has a shot at doing so. The Canadian rookie obviously didn't run Dover last season, but he did prove himself capable of surviving a short oval earlier this year at Phoenix. There, the Adrenaline Motorsports sim racer started twenty-fifth and ultimately worked his way through the field to finish eighth.
While Team #NailedIt had a strong run last season, it was AGR Motorsports' Jason Galvin who broke up their podium party with a solid second-place run. Already a winner this season at Texas, the California-based sim racer could just as easily find his way to victory lane again this week. Galvin, who sits just over 100 points out of the championship lead is not out of the picture yet and an upset win in Dover would move him closer to the top.
Focusing only on the usual favourites would be a mistake with the kind of close racing expected at Dover this week. Among those who could pull off an upset win include Controlled Chaos Racing teammates Bob Mikes and Dave Barber. Mikes, already a winner this season at Kentucky, was the biggest-mover at Dover last season and gained 20 positions during the sim race. Barber, meanwhile, notched career-bests in both qualifying (sixth) and finish (twelfth) last season. Barber has already come close to victory lane several times since and the Wisconsin-based sim racer is hungry for his first career win.
Other racers to watch this week include a trio of rookies. Michael Goodman came close to earning his first career victory last week at Michigan and has already put in hundreds of practice laps in preparation for this week's race. Meanwhile, Adam Blocker will make just his second career start at Dover this week after an impressive run at Milwaukee that saw him finish fourth overall. Woodrow Mahan will also make his second Lionheart start after a short-lived debut last week at Michigan; his race ended due to contact after just four laps. However, Mahan is a veteran of the Premier Racing League, which will undoubtedly give him plenty of experience at Dover. Now, he just needs to adapt that experience to the much-faster Dallara DW-12!
Finally, two underdogs to keep an eye on this week are Joe Hassert and Jason Robarge. Both sim racers have struggled this season with bad luck, bad timing and – in Hassert's case – technical issues. However, Dover presents an opportunity for both to turn their luck around. Hassert finished fourth last season after starting mid-pack. Robarge, meanwhile, scored a solid fifth-place result after qualifying just inside the top ten.
The American Cancer Society Race for the Cure 150 will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on July 26th beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.
The saying goes, “sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.” Chris Stofer was both Wednesday night, taking the win in the HPP Simulation 200 at Michigan International Speedway, his second win of the season in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
Stofer edged ahead of Michael Goodman as the second, and final caution flew with two laps remaining.
“I feel bad for (Michael Goodman), I didn’t even get to race it out with him,” Stofer said from victory lane. “But I’ll take the win. He and I swap drafted there and it was fun.”
Stofer led 41 laps, and Goodman led 26 more, as the duo dominated the event. Stofer edged ahead of Goodman on the front straight, and just as the leaders came to two laps remaining, the caution flew for James Paulson, who had contacted the wall in turn 2 and slid all the way to turn 3, before coming to a stop, unable to get off the track.
“It feels good regardless, I’m very happy,” Goodman said after his near-win. “I know this will sound corny, but I didn’t even care (that the yellow came out). I just wanted get a clean run in, and it was a good finish.”
For Stofer, the win was a bit of redemption. The Indianapolis-based driver previously won at Pocono, but the win was overshadowed by contact with Dave Barber while racing for the win. He completed just three laps in the season opener, and was buried in 15th in points before Michigan.
But Stofer left little doubt he’s prepared for a strong second half surge.
“I want to put that first half behind me, and just focus on the second half and see how much ground we can makeup in the standings,” Stofer said.
Dan Geren also benefitted from the timing of the caution, beating Jason Galvin for the final podium spot by virtue of location on the track.
“I had a lot higher hopes for that race,” Geren said. “But from what happened with me and Galvin earlier in the race, to him and I working together to get third and fourth, that was a fun race.”
On lap 10, Geren and Galvin were racing for fourth. Exiting turn 2, Geren pushed up and turned Galvin. The duo both slid low, Galvin nearly perpendicular to the pack. But somehow, both gathered it up and rebounded over the next 90 laps.
“I know Dan didn’t do that intentionally,” Galvin said after the race. “He’s so clean, he just pushed in the dirty air. I’m glad we saved it and rebounded, but it’s a shame. I really thought the two of us were the best cars.”
Andrew Kinsella finished fifth, part of a great run for Adrenaline Motorsports. Tony Showen finished seventh while leading eleven laps, and Joe Branch was eleventh.
The only other incident brought out the first caution, on lap four. Ed Tutwiler pushed into Woodrow Mahan in turn three, sparking a massive crash. Dustin Wardlow catapulted into the fence, and Jack Bogan, Frank Bieser and Marc Aumick were also collected.
On the restart, Goodman, Stofer and Showen jumped out front and remained there for a majority of the race. Showen shuffled back during green flag pit stops.
Pierre Daigle finished sixth, followed by Showen, Bob Mikes, Jake Wright and Ron Hacker.
Nine drivers swapped the lead 37 times.
Wright, the two-time defending series champion, leads Geren by 21 points. Kinsella is third, 30 points back of the lead.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads to the Monster Mile, Dover International Speedway, for 150 head-spinning laps. The race can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST on Wednesday, July 26.
For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.
The Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads to Michigan International Speedway this Wednesday night for the HPP Simulation 200. The timing couldn't be better as the league recently celebrated its third anniversary of operation. Appropriately enough, the inaugural Lionheart race was held at Michigan on July 3rd, 2014.
League founder Jorge Anzaldo, as well as long-time veterans Joe Hassert, Vincent Bluthenthal, Robert Blouin and Michael Gray were all on track for that inaugural sim race and all are expected to be amongst the field of 35-plus Dallara DW-12s to take the green flag this week. (Hassert, who has missed only two starts in five seasons, will be making his 85th career start.)
The 100-lap event will also kick off the second half of the league's 2017 season. The remaining dozen sim races on the 24-race schedule include a diverse assortment of tracks. Indycar favourites like Mid-Ohio, Iowa and Road America will all appear along with former open-wheel tracks such as New Hampshire, Atlanta, Dover and Chicagoland.
Each of those remaining sim races could have major implications on what has become one of the tightest championship battles in league history. Jake Wright begins the second half in first overall but his familiar position atop the standings is far from secure. With drop weeks factored in, he leads Dan Geren by only 28 points. Andrew Kinsella is third overall, a single point behind Geren. For comparison, Wright began the second half of 2016 with a 180-point lead over second-place Geren. (This season, fifteenth-place Brian Yaczik is only 175 points behind the leader!)
What does Wright need to do in order to hold his position atop the standings and wrap up his third-consecutive league title? The most obvious answer is that he needs to continue to dominate on road courses. So far he's been unbeatable with four wins in four attempts. With four road courses remaining it's entirely possible he could sweep those as well. However, that alone may not be enough. Wright won two oval races last season and in order to ensure another title it seems likely he'll have to do that again. Luckily for Jake, he won his first oval race of the season a few weeks ago at Milwaukee and he is the defending winner at Michigan. A repeat victory at the legendary 2-mile oval would serve notice to all of his competitors that he is not going to surrender the #1 on his car without a fight.
After finishing second overall last season, Dan Geren was considered to be Wright's toughest competition in 2017. He embraced that challenge and came out of the gate with three pole positions and one victory in his first five races. He's endured a couple of disappointments along the way, but also posted a surprisingly strong sixth-place finish at Sonoma, a track he's struggled with in the past.
Going forward, Geren will need to take advantage of every opportunity presented to him. With three consecutive ovals kicking off the second half along with Geren's favourite road course – Phillip Island – the Team #NailedIt sim racer could find himself in the points lead if all goes well during that stretch. Geren missed out on a victory last season at Michigan thanks to an untimely caution that handed Wright the win. Undoubtedly, he's hoping luck will be on his side during this year's visit to the Irish Hills!
Sitting third overall, Lionheart rookie Andrew Kinsella has been something of a surprise contender this season. However, at this point, nobody should be surprised that the Canadian sim racer is near the top of the standings. Kinsella kicked off the season with a win at Homestead and then followed that up with eight additional top tens. Impressively, before a disappointing DNF in his last start, Kinsella's worst finish was thirteenth.
Heading into the second half, Kinsella really doesn't need to change anything in order to stay in contention; consistency alone could be enough to win the championship. However, with Wright almost certain to earn more road course wins, he may have to find his way to victory lane on an oval again to have a legitimate shot.
Beyond the top three, there are numerous other sim racers who still remain in contention for the 2017 championship: Michael Gray is having a career season and sits only 67 points out of the lead. The same can be said for Pierre Daigle, who has come close to victory lane several times this season and earned his first career pole at Milwaukee. Ryan Otis is always tough on the road and has put together a fairly solid oval resume this season while giving Andrew Kinsella a fight for the Rookie of the Year award.
Meanwhile, James Krahula is often underrated on the road and could easily find his way to victory lane on any oval. Add in the AGR Motorsports duo of Jason Galvin and Michael Goodman, both of whom could easily earn wins this season, and the final twelve races of the season should make for the most intense championship battle in league history.
The league champion will earn over $1500.00 in cash and prizes at the season finale at Auto Club Speedway on December 13th – including a set of HPP http://www.hppsimulation.com/hpp-3-pedal/26-phtv2p.html3P-PRX-SE pedals valued at $1247.00.
The HPP Simulation 200 will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on July 19th beginning at 10:35PM ET.