By Justin Prince
After a heartbreaking loss the previous round, Robert Maleczka III has rallied back to win his first career race in the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker at iRacing’s virtual Iowa Speedway.
The Factory Backed driver scored the first win for himself and his organization in the series on Sept. 22 in the Midwest Simulations Iowa 200. Maleczka III was able to put away from his teammate, Alexis Newsome, to get the win.
With the win, Factory Backed became the first team in the series to have a one-two finish this season.
Philip Kraus, Andrew Kinsella and Connor Harrington completed the top five.
The victory comes in Maleczka III’s sixth career start in the series.
“This feels great,” said Maleczka III from HyperX Victory Lane. “This is one of the ovals I least expected to win at. Iowa and Twin Ring Motegi (the previous round’s venue) are probably two of my weakest ovals here. I thought I had a good chance at Texas Motor Speedway or Michigan International Speedway. I did not expect Iowa. I was going to be happy with a top five, but I’ll take the win and the one-two for Factory Backed as well.”
Despite some of the fears entering the race caused by the attrition-filled Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel event days prior, the Lionheart IndyCar Series race had very little attrition. The race had just two cautions throughout its 229 laps.
Newsome started on the pole for the event, her first in the series. Since joining the series, Factory Backed had started on the pole four out of a possible six races.
One of their fellow crossovers from the Speedway race, Barrett Rolph, suffered the first incident of the race when Ron Hacker drifted into his right side pod coming down the backstretch on Lap 18. Rolph suffered significant side pod and suspension damage with the hit, sending his Dallara IR-18 into the outside wall in Turn 3. Rolph was able to make it to pit road without triggering a caution flag.
Meanwhile, Newsome ran away from the pack. She was able to break away from Maleczka III and Joshua Chin by 20 car-lengths by Lap 23, setting a blistering pace. Traffic started hampering the leaders by Lap 25, compressing the lead down to a few tenths of a second in the span of five laps.
On Lap 59, Maleczka III decided to undercut his teammate. Newsome was held up significantly the following lap, handing the lead to Maleczka III by a couple seconds.
Moments later, the first caution of the night came out when Tony Showen slowed down to pit down the middle of the backstretch. He was immediately rammed into by Jason Galvin. Then, as Showen continued into Turn 3, Mike Rasimas hit his left rear tire, sending Showen hard into the outside SAFER barrier.
The caution led to a majority of the field having to take a wave-around to remain on the lead lap.
Maleczka III remained the leader the rest of the way, with only one other major incident.
Chin, who had been a front-runner much of the event, had suffered damage after contact with Ricky Hardin at one point during the event.
By Lap 176, there was a bottleneck of traffic behind Chin for sixth place.
Shortly after Henry Bennett cleared Chin, the pack of seven cars reached Hardin down the frontstretch. Chin attempted to use Hardin as a pick, trapping Bennett along the outside line behind him. Bennett then arched hard into Turn 1 to get past Hardin, coming into contact with Calisto. Calisto just barely avoided giving damage to Newsome, who was trying to lap the pack. Bennett and Calisto then collected Adam Frazier and Jason Brophy, slamming their cars into pieces along the top of the corner. Seconds after the cars came to a stop, Bennett let his machine roll down the banking into the path of Tyler Graaf.
Next, the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker travels to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the Patrick Taylor Memorial Grand Prix of Mosport Presented by Clipping That Apex. Coverage starts at 4 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on Oct. 6.