That’s right, earlier this summer, the Lionheart league members gathered at the real-world Iowa IndyCar race to cheer on series driver Sage Karam as he tried to tame the short, tricky oval. Now, several months later they return in virtual form to try to tame it themselves in the Birky Trucking 200 at Iowa Speedway.
Last time out at Gateway, it was Andrew Kinsella charging from 5th to first in the last 20 laps of the race to take the win at the Von Hanson’s 200. On his charge, Kinsella passed the Skid Mark Motorsports trio of Brian Beard, Bart Workman and James Brant, who finished 2nd through 4th, as well as Justin Weaver, who faded from the lead on the restart to 5th in the final standings. The win pushes Kinsella into 5th all-time in wins with 8, passing Jonathan Goke. An interesting statistic; all 8 of Kinsella’s wins have been by less than 1 second, and 7 of them have been by less then half a second. This week’s margin of victory? 0.119 seconds.
Just 16 of 29 cars were running at end as the race produced tight drafting action and some impatient driving lead to a slew of early incidents. Early contenders Dustin Wardlow, Joe Flanagan, Chris Stofer, Big Joe Hassert and others all found themselves caught up in accidents, their nights over before they really got going. But after a caution on lap 60, suddenly it seemed like everyone remembered just how much time was left. Where before we saw multiple passes per lap, suddenly the leaders were more interested in clicking away the miles then with fighting for every inch. The only blemish from them to the end was a spin on pit exit for Connor Harrington, which brought out the final caution midway through a pit cycle, shuffling the order. Leaders Brian Yaczik, Adam Blocker, Harrington and Kinsella found themselves at the bottom half of the top 10 instead of the top half. Kinsella made it back up, but the other 3 did not.
In the points standings, Adam Blocker continues to hold a 263-point lead over Dan Geren, after they finished 11th and 12th respectively. With the win, Kinsella pulls to within 66 points of Dan Geren for 2nd place, while Weaver pulls ahead of Stephen Laarkamp for 4th position, 24 points back of Kinsella.
Looking ahead to this week’s race, the Lionheart Series is returning home to Iowa, site of the annual real-world league meet-up. In last year’s race, Adam Blocker, Michael Goodman, Scotty Johnson and Chris Lanini were the 4 drivers to be on the right pit strategy when a caution flew, trapping the rest of the drivers one lap down. Blocker would barely beat Michael Goodman to the line by a scant 0.034 seconds, the 8th closest finish in league history.
On a short fast oval like Iowa, pit strategy could once again come into play Pitting early will give drivers a distinct speed and tire advantage, but will also temporarily put them not just 1 but 2 laps down. Will the risk outweigh the reward? For some drivers the answer will undoubtedly be yes, as short pitting could see them build healthy advantages. But for guys who are light on the loud pedal; guys like Joe Branch, Brian Beard, Chris Lanini, and Bark Workman, it could also present an opportunity to trap them, just as Blocker did one year ago.
Last week’s winner has also traditionally run strong at Iowa. Kinsella finished 2nd in his rookie season, and last year was the only driver to successfully un-lap himself on pace alone. 3 of Kinsella’s 8 wins have been on short ovals, while a further 3 have been at tracks with progressive banking similar to what we see in Iowa. It is safe to safe the Canadian will be looking to go back to back this week to turn up the heat on Dan Geren.
Speaking of Geren, the Lionheart king of qualifying is facing a bit of a conundrum this week. Geren knows how to extract one lap qualifying speed better then any driver in the series, however not one single winner in 6 previous seasons has come from the pole. If you’re Dan Geren, do you hang back a bit in Qualifying, knowing the history, or are you simply determined to break the trend, and become the first. Knowing what we know about Geren, he should be a lock for somewhere near the sharp end of the grid, and the final standings.
The rookie standings received a big shake-up last week, with Mike Rigney moving back into 1st place, as Damon Martinez drops 6 points behind Rigney due to a 24th place DNF at Gateway. In fact, Rigney was the only rookie in the top 5 to be running at the end, with a solid 7th place finish. Rigney has been coming on strong in recent races, finishing 9th, at Charlotte and 3rd at Richmond in 2 of the previous 4 races. With 6 races remaining, staying consistent and getting those top 10’s will likely be the right recipe for leaving the Auto Club finale with the rookie title.
As always, the Lionheart Series can be watch live on the iRacing eSports Network, presented by GSRC. The Iowa 200 presented by Birky Trucking will fire off this Wednesday, October 23rd at 10:35pm Eastern.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series prepares for its last swing through the Midwest as Adam Blocker prepares to seize the crown for himself after a remarkable campaign. The North Carolina driver has delivered in a way that few have ever been able to in Lionheart history. Now just 7 short races stand between him and the ultimate glory of the season championship. He may not even need that many to secure his crown. First, he must get through the action at Gateway Motorsports Park and the Von Hanson’s 200.
Last time out in Montreal, it was Adam Blocker once again leading the way on road courses this season. This time it was with the help of some fuel saving strategy, that saw the top 4 positions log only 2 stops while the other competitors had to log 3 each. With just seconds to go in qualifying, Blocker stole the pole from Connor Harrington by scant thousandths of a second. Blocker would escape to an early lead and hang on throughout the whole race, to take a dominating win. Behind him was anything but ordinary as rookie Bryan Carey would use that same fuel strategy to leapfrog some other drivers in the pits, and then hunt down Dan Geren for second. The rookie would come up just a bit short of Geren, as the duo finished 2nd and 3rd, just 3 seconds apart at the finish. Nonetheless, this would by a day for celebration as Carey recorded his first ever Lionheart podium. His teammate Andrew Kinsella was looking at a sure 4th place until a spin in turn 4 on lap 30 saw the Canadian into the wall and out of the race. This dealt an almighty blow to the Canadian’s championship aspiration as the Lionheart veteran is chasing Dan Geren for 2nd place in points. Moving up to 4th in the championship and in the race was Stephen Laarkamp. The last of the drivers to successfully execute the 2-stop strategy, Laarkamp overcame several bobbles to take the car home in 4th. In 5th, Tyler Graaf proved the fastest of the 3 stoppers. Despite being on the wrong end of the strategy game, the second year Lionheart driver showed some real speed on the Montreal road course, and put in the kind of solid effort that will reward him down the line.
Shifting focus for the Lionheart drivers, the first of 2 consecutive short-tracks looms large for the Lionheart drivers as they tackle the egg-shaped World Wide Technologies Raceway aka Gateway Motorsports Park. The tricky short track will inevitably produce just as much drama in the virtual world as it did in the real world this year.
Last year’s winner was Chris Stofer. The Indiana driver has been dominant at Gateway over the past two seasons. In Season 5 Stofer sat on the pole setting the league qualifying record at Gateway with a 24.365 set at over 184 mph. Stofer would lead a series high 103 laps but would not find victory lane that year. Fast forward to Season 6 and the tables would be turned as Stofer would find the checkered flag in a race that saw a series high 40 lead changes. If Stofer could find victory lane a second time at Gateway it would be the 5th of his Lionheart career.
With a 264-point lead, it would take a lot to stop Blocker now. He has dominated the entire season of Lionheart, seemingly rarely out of the top 5. At this rate there is little reason to believe that that is about to change at Gateway. But when it comes to short track racing, you never know what is about to happen.
The man trying to track him down is Dan Geren. The Lionheart king of qualifying, and that doesn’t matter any more than on a Midwest short track. This is a track where dirty air can make the difference between taking turns 1 and 2 flat out, or having to make that subtle lift that costs you the position. With Geren hanging by a thread, qualifying could make the difference between the race hanging on or Blocker clinching with races to spare.
The Rookie of the Year title has been the tightest race all season. Damon Martinez currently leads the standings, but the race has never been tighter. Mike Rigney and John Hill are just 14 and 18 points back respectively. One bad race is all it takes from the Martinez, and these other 2 are all over him.
Not to be forgotten in this race are two other fierce competitors. Bryan Carey, fresh off his first Lionheart podium is just 49 points back, and Paul Jenkins is only 56 back. Both are well within striking distance for the rookie of the year title, which comes with its own prizes in addition to the prestige of winning one of the toughest awards Lionheart has to offer.
In summary, this should be one heck-of-a race, as the Lionheart Gladiators go out there with everything to gain, and in some cases, everything to lose. To find out who will be the winners and who will be the losers, tune in this Wednesday October 16th at 10:35pm eastern for all the action, only on the iRacing eSports Network YouTube channel presented by GSRC.
For the 2nd time this year, the best IndyCar drivers on iRacing travel north of the border. This time, instead of the rolling hills of Mosport, they travel to the dead-flat Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve semi-street circuit in Montreal. The circuit lies on an island in the St Lawrence river that was enlarged from it’s original form for the 1967 World Expo. The island then served as the venue for the rowing events in the 1976 Olympics before a race track was put on the island after the 1977 season. Similar to Belle-Isle, the circuit is created out of normal roads in a park-like setting, but unlike belle-isle the track is up to F1 standards for both safety and smoothness. The circuit was named after Gilles Villeneuve in 1982 after the Quebec native’s death earlier in the year. Gilles had won his home race 1979, while finishing 2nd, 5th, and, perhaps most famously, 3rd in 1981, sans his front wing, after he spent most of the race driving with it obscuring his vision. The Lionheart Series will run 47 laps around this unique facility in the First Medical Grand Prix of Montreal.
Last time out at Richmond, points leader Adam Blocker drove a perfect near perfect race, to take the win. Blocker started on pole and lead 211 of the 267 laps. Brian Yaczik had his best result in what has been a tough season, as the LPM driver came home 2nd. Mike Rigney earned the hard charger award, racing his way from 30th to 3rd, through patience, strategy and some good passes. James Brant and Tony Showen also came from deep in the field to round out the top 5. The race was a tough one, as even before the drop of the green flag Ken Hacker lit up the tires on the warm-up lap, and spun down into Andrew Kinsella, who entered the race in a tight battle with Dan Geren for 2nd in the championship. Both cars were damaged, ruining Kinsella’s chances at the win before the race even started. He would ultimately finish 23rd after some net code contact with John Hill ended his race. Things didn’t end much better for Geren, as he got collected in an incident between Jason Galvin and Samuel Reiman. Geren finished 14th, 3 laps down. Ultimately only 6 cars would finish on the lead lap, as the smallest track on the circuit produced maximum carnage.
The win leaves Adam Blocker an astounding 255 points up on Geren for the championship. Rarely has Lionheart seen the kind of dominance that Blocker has shown this season. 14 top 5’s from 17 races. Those other 3 races? DNF’s; meaning if Adam Blocker has finished the race, he has done so in the top 5. With 8 races to go, the question has shifted from whether Blocker will win the championship to when. All he has to do is avoid DNF’s in as little as 4 more races, and he will have the title sewn up.
The Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on the Ile Notre-Dame in Montreal is certainly a good place to start. Not only is Blocker the defending race winner, but he has been dominant on road courses this year. 4 wins, and not a finish outside the top 5. If ever there was a spot where Blocker could have something happen, it might be in Montreal. The circuit has fast straights and tight turns that offer up a demanding combination for these turbo-charged Dallara’s. Get on the gas a fraction too early or too hard and you could easily end up in the wall.
Also strong on road courses this year has been rookie Damon Martinez, even leading for a significant period of time at Monza. Montreal is very similar in character to Monza with the long straights leading to chicanes. Look for Martinez to be strong again in Montreal.
Speaking of strong runs at Monza, there was another rookie battling with Martinez as the laps wound down. Bryan Carey has shown some definite speed on the road this season, but it’s been the finishing that has betrayed him. A last lap spin at Monza while going for the final podium spot saw Carey finish 6th. At Watkins Glen, Carey hounded his teammate Andrew Kinsella for much of the last half of the race, but couldn’t find a way past before settling for 5th. Will this week be the week Carey puts it all together and finishes a road course race on the podium?
Another driver who will be looking for redemption in this race will be Connor Harrington. Last year at this race, Harrington started 3rd, but went “full send” into turn one and spun in front of the field. Harrington would ultimately battle back up to 5th, but never got the chance to truly show the speed he had. Harrington has calmed down this year, picking up his first win. Will Harrington redeem his first lap mistake from last season with a win this season?
Speaking of last season, Andrew Kinsella had his best road course race of his Lionheart career on this very track last season. The Canadian, more known for his oval racing prowess, started and finished in 2nd place with a quiet consistent drive. The road courses this season have been anything but quiet and consistent for the Adrenaline driver, who has found himself frequently caught up in other people’s incidents; from getting hit on the first lap of Belle-Isle 2 and Monza, or getting confronted by spinning cars at Belle-Isle 1, Barber, and Mosport, the only thing on the Canadian’s mind this year is getting through all 47 laps. A top 5 would must be considered a bonus; although is Kinsella wants to challenge Geren for 2nd, it might be a bonus he needs to find.
Tune in for all the action from the First Medical Grand Prix of Montreal this Wednesday, October 9th, at 10:35pm eastern time, only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.