By Justin Prince
After a vast majority of the field either ran out of gas or coasted their way to the finish, Alexis Newsome has won the second race of the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by DMLC Racing Channel season at Texas Motor Speedway.
In one of the wildest finishes to a Lionheart Racing Series event in recent memory, drivers had to stretch their fuel tanks to last 44 green flag laps to make it to the end of the DMLC Racing Channel 200.
Just eight drivers finished on the lead lap at the checkered flag after several drivers had to pit with under 10 laps to go, including race leaders Chris Stofer and former GT Academy driver Barrett Rolph.
Tony Showen, Chris Fowler, Jim Brooks and Dean Moll rounded out the Top 5.
It was Newsome’s second-ever race in the Dallara DW-12.
“As soon as I came out of the pits, I noticed how close it was. I just started to fuel save,” said Newsome in HyperX Victory Lane. “Everyone was going really hard, so I just backed it down and waited. When I thought I had enough, I took off.”
It had been a memorable debut for Rolph in the series.
The Ascari Motorsport driver, who started in 10th place, quickly made his way into the top three positions after 40 laps.
Rolph would eventually come out of the pits side-by-side with Marc Cohn for the race lead on Lap 44.
The two would swap the race lead several times and combine to lead 107 of 133 laps.
Rolph was in the race lead when he would have to pit coming to the white flag.
“Half a liter of fuel is all that kept me from winning on my Lionheart Racing Series Powered By HyperX debut,” said Rolph on Facebook after the race. “I am kicking myself that I didn't stay out but I went for the cover to ensure I had a good finish.”
The fuel-mileage race came to be after a Lap 85 crash off Turn 2.
Ridin’ Shotgun Motorsports driver Adam Young and Synergy Motorsports Blue’s Moll collided in a battle for 15th place. Young, who had been at the bottom of the race track, would come up the track and hit the left side pod of Moll as the two transitioned onto the backstretch.
Both drivers then would spin to the inside of the track. Young would destroy his suspension after crashing hard into the inside wall, crumpling the left side of his DW-12. Moll would only lose a back wing in the process.
Young would go on to finish 29th while Moll recovered to finish 5th.
All but four drivers would pit under the caution period - race leader Cohn, Matt Taylor, Jorge Anzaldo and Alex Guyon - with 47 laps to go.
Those drivers all had to pit with under 20 laps to go.
“It was difficult,” said Fowler, who finished the race with 0.1 gallons remaining. “I wanted to survive, make no mistakes. I knew it was going to be close. I figured at that last caution, we were going to have at least one more. I didn’t think any of us could make it. I know those guys who stayed out, they were gambling for that. Then, we were 20 laps in and I was like, ‘man, this is going to go green.’”
The long run also surprised Showen. He said he originally did not expect for the closing laps to be run on a fuel stint.
“I backed off when there were seven cars in front of me. I was like ‘there’s no point fighting with those guys,’” said Showen. “Then I looked at my fuel and was like, ‘we got enough laps where I can save behind this giant wall of wind in front of me.’ From that point on, it was a fuel-save race for me.”
The biggest crash of the day came on Lap 68 When Fowler and Emerson Santos would touch sidepods coming out of Turn 2. Santos would launch off of the right side of Fowler’s car into the outside SAFER barrier.
Chris Lanini and Alexander van de Sandt would then smash into the right side of Santos, sending Lanini airborne. Lanini would flip over more than 10 times down the middle of the backstretch as Matt Wagner crashed into the inside wall avoiding him. Wagner would then join Lanini in the air after being hit by the front nose of van de Sandt.
Mike Rigney and Joe Branch would also get collected checking up for the incident.
Next up, the Lionheart Speedway Series goes short track racing at the Milwaukee Mile for the DMLC Racing Channel 175 on April 12th. Live coverage can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV at 10:35 p.m. EST.