By Justin Prince
After taking a chance on fuel strategy early, Robert Maleczka III has won the HyperX 200 at Chicago.
The Factory Backed driver took the checkered flag in the 134-lap race in the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel on Aug. 23 after an early caution mixed up the fuel strategies across the pack.
Alexander van de Sandt, Matt Taylor, Craig Forsythe and Dean Moll completed the top five at iRacing’s virtual Chicagoland Speedway.
It is Maleczka III’s fourth victory of the season.
At one point, Maleczka III gave up more than six seconds to save fuel and to pick up the draft from one of his fellow Factory Backed cars.
“I knew going to the last pit stop I stretched it as long as possible and I know it looked like I stretched it as far as anyone, but I knew I was probably in the best shape,” said Maleczka III from HyperX Victory Lane. “Then I came out of the pits in clean air and I was like, ‘dang it, I can’t make it in clean air’, so I dropped back to my teammate Nick (DeGroot) and he really helped me there at the end.”
The fuel strategies came into play after the only caution of the race came out on Lap 7.
Chris Stofer took Matt Wagner and Luis Gonzalez Nuñez three-wide coming out of Turn 4 in a battle for ninth position. On corner exit, Nuñez bobbled down the track into the right rear tire of Stofer, sending both spinning up the track into the path of Alex Guyon. Nuñez, Stofer and Guyon all slammed hard into the outside wall along the frontstretch.
All three drivers were knocked out of the race as a result of the incident.
With the caution coming at the very edge of the fuel window to make it on one less stop, a majority of the field decided to come in for service. Surprisingly, Alexis Newsome and Paul Jenkins decided to come down to pit road during the second pace lap, losing them second and 10th positions respectively. Trevor Malone, Matt Huston and A.J. Musselman also came down a second time.
That left Joe Branch, DeGroot, Tony Showen, Barrett Rolph, Charles Teed and Wagner out on track on alternate strategies to get track position.
The caution those drivers were looking for never came though. Of the competitors who stayed out during the only yellow flag of the race, just Rolph finished on the lead lap.
As the race developed, the strategies for the other drivers continued to intensify. Chris Fowler took the lead by Lap 30, electing to dictate the tempo of the pack. He and Maleczka III worked with Rolph, DeGroot and Showen to pull away from the rest of the pack by several seconds by Lap 36. That lap, DeGroot lost touch with the pack that lap after grazing the apron in Turn 3. He went on to finish in eighth position.
The event became a nightmare for Newsome after sacrificing track position during the yellow flag.
After making it to as high as ninth place before much of the field on her cycle came down for service, she had an issue on pit road. She overran her stall, then went on the jacks for tires twice. That cost the two-time race winner almost a full lap alone. She was also later caught for speeding during another pit stop. Newsome went on to finish in 20th position, tied for the second-worst finish by her all season.
Next race, the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel heads to Pocono Raceway for the Minus 273 Pocono 200 Presented by HyperX on September 13. Coverage will begin at 10:35 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and can be watched on tape delay on ESTV.