By Justin Prince
For the second straight race, Aaron Morgan has won in the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience.
Morgan led 12 of the 31 laps to win the penultimate race of the season on Nov. 18.
The Avatar Auto Racing driver overcut his teammate, Michael O’Brien, to take the lead of the SimXperience Grand Prix of Road America Presented by KARNOX during its first pit stop window and never looked back.
Mike Rasimas, David Sirois, Matt Taylor and O’Brien completed the top five.
With the win, Morgan is 28 points behind Taylor in the Drivers Championship standings with one round to go.
“I went into this string of road courses thinking ‘I need to win all three.’ I think I could have won at Silverstone if I qualified better, but I finally got qualifying down these last seven days and it feels so good,” said Morgan from HyperX Victory Lane. “I’m so glad I got the points down.”
O’Brien had brought his Lotus 79 to pit road on Lap 13. That had been considered the earliest anyone had to pit for fuel.
While Morgan stayed on the track, O’Brien made contact with some of the drivers leaving the pit lane. On Lap 15, O’Brien was attempting to pass Sirois and Taylor - who had just finished their pit stops - when he tried to enter Turn 1. He then made Internet-assisted contact with Sirois, sending him into the sand trap. O’Brien came back onto the race track in 10th place.
The incident also helped Rasimas. The GRAAFix LC Motorsports driver passed Taylor right before the entry to the corner, then drafted past Sirois down the Moraine Sweep to move into second place. By the end of the lap, he was more than 10 car lengths ahead of Sirois and Taylor.
“I had been practicing a lot and been trying to keep my pace consistent,” said Rasimas, who qualified in sixth place. “I know some guys are faster on a single lap, but for the races, I like to find clean air and do my own thing to see where I end up.”
Rasimas’s pace caused some concern for Morgan. By the second half of the run, Rasimas was gaining a few tenths of a second on him per lap. Then, Morgan had to pit for fuel on Lap 22.
“I was really concerned (of Rasimas) because I extra short-filled on that first stop,” said Morgan. “I had to add an extra two clicks of fuel (in the black box) to make it to the end during that second pit stop.”
Meanwhile, Rasimas had a strong chance to fight for the win. As Rasimas pit for fuel, Morgan had to check up for a spinning car exiting Canada Corner on Lap 24. Isaac Snider, who had destroyed his rear wing from a spin in Turn 1 earlier that lap, spun out again out of Turn 12. Morgan was forced to lift out of the gas to avoid potential contact.
The incident cost Morgan four-tenths of a second on the track.
By the time Rasimas came back onto the race track, he was within seven car lengths of Morgan’s car.
Rasimas did not get a chance to attack Morgan for the lead until Lap 30.
After Morgan accidentally shifted down a gear going through Hurry Downs, Rasimas dived to the left side of the track. The two drivers drove side-by-side through Turn 8. Rasimas nearly spun coming out of the corner, allowing Morgan to take back the lead.
Then, after taking the white flag, Rasimas drafted behind Morgan down the frontstretch. He then drove alongside Morgan heading into Turn 1. Rasimas went faster into the corner, forcing him to lift on corner exit.
“I had to try everything,” said Rasimas. “It was really hard to pass under normal conditions here, let alone for the win. I knew Aaron and I are up in the points and both want to finish, so I wasn’t going to try to jeopardize that. I was still trying to race him hard and he stayed really clean. It was really wild. I’m glad we brought it home.”
The final race of the Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience season, the HyperX Championship 250 at Auto Club, will take place on Dec. 16. Coverage will begin at 10:35 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV. It can also be watched on tape delay on ESTV.