When the checkered flag flies at the Michigan International 200 on July 6th, the Lionheart Indycar Series Presented by First Medical Equipment will have officially completed the first half of its 2016 season. Thus far, the racing has been close, often featuring more than 35 virtual DW-12’s taking the green flag each week. Through 10 of 22 rounds, six different drivers have earned wins, while many positions throughout the standings are separated by just a few points.
Michigan International Speedway has a long history with open-wheel racing that dates back to 1968. Perhaps most infamously, the track played host to the U.S. 500 in 1996, a key moment that officially began the “split” between CART and the upstart Indy Racing League. Indycars haven’t raced at the real-life track since 2007, but Iracing’s virtual Michigan International Speedway has been a staple on the Lionheart schedule in each of the league’s four seasons.
After a couple of disappointing weeks at Motegi and Texas, Jonathan Goke will be happy to spend the week at Michigan. Goke – currently second in the standings – is the defending winner of this race; he led 46 of 100 caution-free laps last season. He also finished a very solid third in the pre-season All-Star Race at the track, proving that his initial success at Michigan was no fluke. This will mark Goke’s first visit as a member of Team #NailedIt, which also boasts Season Two winner Jesse Vincent. With the two most-recent Michigan winners in their stable, Team #NailedIt may be tough to beat this week.
While Goke and Vincent have earned wins in past seasons, it is Streamline Motorsports’ Tony Lurcock who has the best career finishing record at Michigan. The Lionheart veteran has never finished lower than fourth in his three career starts at the two-mile oval, and he finished on the podium last season after starting on the pole. Much like Goke, Lurcock had a disappointing result at Texas last week, and he will be looking to turn things around at one of his best tracks.
Ironically, the one driver who is not thrilled about the trip to Michigan is points leader and defending series champion Jake Wright. Wright counts the speedway as one of his least favourite tracks, mostly because he’s struggled to post strong results there in the past. Wright’s only Lionheart start at Michigan did nothing to turn his luck around; he finished 22nd last season after starting 29th. With a 132-point lead in the standings, Wright can easily afford to struggle for one week. However, coming off a thrilling win at Texas, it’s likely Jake will be looking to overcome his past struggles and further expand his championship lead.
Other drivers to watch this week include Wright’s No Name Racing teammate Brian Yaczik. Yaczik narrowly missed out on stealing the win at Texas, and the rookie would undoubtedly love to earn his first career win in just his third start. Adrenaline Motorsports’ Christian Steele has re-emerged as a threat in recent weeks, and getting a win at Michigan would help him to close the 84-point gap to Jonathan Goke in the Rookie of the Year standings. Finally, Jason Galvin finished a solid fourth in the preseason All-Star Race, and the Motegi winner will be eager to get back on track after a wreck ended his run at Texas last week.
The Michigan International 200 will be broadcast on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and Iracing Live beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series Presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.