The Lionheart IndyCar Series continues it’s Midwest swing this Wednesday night at Chicagoland Speedway for the Von Hanson’s 200. Chicagoland is the home track of a number of Lionheart members including league founder Jorge Anzaldo.
There’s an old saying in racing: “I’d rather be lucky then good.” This held true for many of the top 10 last week at Iowa Speedway. Driver’s such as David Altman, Robert Blouin, and Rory Collins inherited top 10 finishes when 5 of the top 6 cars had to pit with less then 10 laps remaining due to a long green flag run to end the race. Andrew Kinsella, who led the most laps, looked poised to take home the win; but then some bad luck befell him as he lost momentum trying to lap a slower driver, relegating him to a 2nd place finish.
Which brings us to the question that terrifies every racer: what happens when you come up against a driver who is both lucky and good? The answer, it appears, is you get Jake Wright. On 3 separate occasions Wednesday night, Wright came within inches of getting collected in other drivers’ wrecks, and on each occasion, he escaped unscathed. He made the right call to follow Kinsella onto pit road under the final caution giving Wright and Kinsella just enough fuel to make it to the finish. Then, when Kinsella got boxed in by lapped traffic, Wright was able to pounce and steal a win away from his championship rival. Brian Yaczik drove a smart and solid race to finish 3rd, with rookies Scott Johnson and Woody Mahan each getting their first top 5’s in the Lionheart series with 4th and 5th place finishes. 2nd place in the Championship, Dan Geren was one of the 5 drivers who found themselves a few laps short on fuel, finishing a lap down in 17th place.
With 5 short races to go in this fabulous season, it is time to talk championship scenarios. With Geren’s trouble at Iowa, Jake Wright now holds a 55 point advantage over Dan Geren when drop races are taken into consideration. Kinsella is a further 50 points back of Geren, 105 back of Jake for the Championship lead. With a couple of hard-luck finishes in the last few weeks, Michael Goodman has now fallen 87 points back of Kinsella for both 3rd in the championship and the Rookie of the Year title, making Kinsella the prohibitive favourite for Rookie of the Year. Looking ahead to the season finale, Jake Wright’s task is pretty clear. The season finale, along with the other 2 triple crown races at Pocono and Indianapolis are double points races, meaning a maximum of 126 points on offer. The Lionheart Series drops a racer’s 3 worst result from their points total. With a top drop week of 34 points, Wright must enter the season finale 92 points or more ahead of 2nd place to be guaranteed a 3rd consecutive championship. For Wright, this means that priority #1 is continuing his unprecedented streak of top 10 finishes. By finishing in the top 10, Wright will preserve his top drop week, while limiting the ground his rivals can make up on him in the next 4 races. For Dan Geren, if Wright doesn’t falter, it will need to be top 5’s from here on out. Geren must average no worse then 10 points less then Wright per race over the next 4 races to even have a shot in the finale. The better he does, the better his shot. For Kinsella, the task is even more straightforward; he has 13 points to make up over the next 4 races to even have a shot, meaning he is likely going to have to win at least one more time before Auto Club. Given Wright’s dominance on road courses this season, those results will surely have to come either this week at Chicagoland or the next round at Gateway.
While the championship battle is fine and dandy for all those involved, there are 30+ other drivers whose sole focus is winning the race. From Iowa, where patience is a virtue, we travel to Chicagoland, where aggression may be the most important ingredient. In that vane, two drivers to watch have to be Chris Stofer and Big Joe Hassert, who last season at the similarily configured Kansas Speedway combined for one of the closest finishes in league history. Stofer has shown tremendous speed on 1.5 mile ovals this season, consistently mixing it up in the top 5 at each 1.5 mile track they have visited. Big Joe meanwhile, in a season derailed by hardware and internet issues, showed that he was one of the cars to beat last week at Iowa, before finding himself on the wrong pit strategy at the end of the race.
Defending race winner Robert Blouin is another one to watch out for. In season 3, Blouin lead only one lap, but it was the one that counted, making his fuel strategy work and bringing home the trophy. If this race once again falls to fuel strategy, look for a patient driver such as Blouin to come through for the victory.
Another one to watch out for this week is Bob Mikes. Mikes won earlier this season at the similarly configured Kentucky Motor Speedway, and has been around the top 10 all season. Look for Mikes to once again be strong at Chicagoland.
For dark horse, Woody Mahan and Justin Weaver are two names that spring to mind. Mahan took home is first career top 5 at Iowa and had been knocking at the door for several rounds. Look for him to continue to build momentum. Weaver, meanwhile, nearly won on debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway, another 1.5 mile track.
The Von Hanson’s 200 can be seen Wednesday October 18th, at 10:35pm EDT on GSRC and iRacing Live.