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.