By Justin Prince
For the second week in a row, Philip Kraus has driven his PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype Black car to victory lane in the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker.
Kraus won the HyperX Pocono 200 by almost three seconds on Oct. 13 after utilizing a different strategy compared to much of the pack.
Andrew Kinsella, Connor Harrington, Adam Blocker and Joshua Chin rounded out the top five.
Kraus has become the ninth different driver to win at iRacing’s virtual Pocono Raceway in the series in nine events.
The PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype Black driver elected to try a different pit strategy after Barrett Rolph spun out entering the pit lane on Lap 19. During the caution flag, Kraus stayed out with Jason Brophy, leaving them as the only two drivers in the field not to pit.
Drivers were projected to make it 23-24 laps on fuel entering the event, but were expected to try and cut out a pit stop.
“It was really an aggressive strategy call, but we had a good start on that short run (at the start of the race). Chin and I got up to about 5th and 6th position when we stalled out while Jason had a lag issue and wasn’t able to make the grid, so he stayed out,” said Kraus from HyperX Victory Lane. “It was pretty straight forward for him to stay out, but I was like, ‘You know what, this could work.’” So I decided to stay out with him. (Brophy) suggested it initially so big props to him for suggesting that.
“From there, it played beautifully into our hands the rest of the race. I really gotta thank Jason for making that call for us.”
Brophy and Kraus stayed together until Lap 30, when they came in for their scheduled stops. The two drivers elected to swap-draft, trading positions each lap into Turn 1 and into Turn 3.
Meanwhile, Andrew Kinsella remained in the spotlight at the front of the field. The Adrenaline Motorsports Red driver, who won at Pocono in Season 6, had started on the pole for the second time in his LIS career. He, along with fellow Canadian Bryan Carey, had dictated the pace at the front of the field for much of the night. The two drivers had combined to lead 40 of the 80 laps.
“It was a very interesting race,” said Kinsella. “The car was great for most of the race. It had good settings. During the first stint, I was just cruising. Bryan and I were just trying to save fuel, trying to make the green flag number. Then all the sudden, the caution comes out.
PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype, give credit to them. They did some good strategy there. They did some short fills, made their cars really fast for large portions of their stints and helped get Kraus way out front.”
The second and final caution of the race came out on Lap 42 when Lionel Calisto bounced off the outside wall coming out of Turn 2. The Sector 5 driver was sent back to the inside of the track, smashing his left-side suspension on impact. He then crawled his car to the access road in Turn 3 before spinning out, triggering the yellow flag.
During that caution, Chin and Harrington decided to join Kraus and Brophy on their strategy call by not pitting. Robert Maleczka III and Ricky Hardin also stayed out.
Off the restart on Lap 47, the PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype cars quickly swarmed around Hardin. Kraus cleared Hardin through the Tunnel Turn. He then pinched Hardin along the top of the track, allowing Chin to get past him entering Turn 3. Brophy then had to check up hard out of the corner to avoid hitting Hardin, causing him to go four-wide with Harrington, Kinsella and Blocker for fourth place down the frontstretch.
By the end of Lap 48, Brophy had been shuffled back to the ninth position.
On the next lap, the battles for position got a bit chaotic.
After Harrington cleared Hardin entering Turn 1, Hardin took a higher line through the corner. The Sim Racing Merch Esports driver then snapped loose trying to drive across the bumps. Hardin quickly snapped his wheel back to the right, keeping the car straight and avoiding being in Brophy’s path by a few inches.
Seconds after clearing Hardin, Carey was trying to set up a pass on Kinsella down the straightaway heading into Turn 2. At the same time, Chris Fowler was able to get to his inside to move past Carey. Carey then proceeded to come across Fowler’s front wing, sending both cars hard into the inside SAFER barrier. Both cars received significant suspension damage from the incident. Carey and Fowler went on to finish in 25th and 26th place respectively.
The incident did not trigger a caution flag.
Meanwhile, the strategies continued to unfold.
The drivers who stayed out during the previous caution period started pitting on Lap 52. Kraus was able to extend his run to Lap 58.
As drivers started coming in for fuel, Kinsella decided to try something different. Kinsella stretched his stint to Lap 66.
“After that last caution, I knew I had to try something a little bit different,” said Kinsella. “When I saw everyone peeling off like I knew they would have to, I was sure my only shot there was to try to go long and draft up behind the guys who already pitted. I was monitoring my lap times and I had not dropped off too far, so I figured I could get out at least within the draft of all the guys I needed to get out with and it worked out exactly right.”
With the pit stop call, Kinsella came out within drafting distance of Brophy. After passing by Maleczka III, Kinsella set his sights on finishing as best as he could. Kraus had broken the draft of Chin, Harrington and Blocker for the net race lead.
After squabbling for several laps with Brophy, Kinsella was able to clear him on Lap 72. Then on Lap 75, he drove his way past Blocker by more than 10 MPH down the front straightaway entering Turn 1.
Kinsella then drafted his way up to Harrington and Chin for second place.
With two laps to go, Kinsella built up a big run, getting to the inside of Harrington at the start of the braking boards for Turn 1. Chin attempted to defend, but Kinsella was able to quickly swerve and dive his way to the inside of him entering the corner. He was able to clear both Harrington and Chin by the apex of the corner.
Next time out, the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker heads to iRacing’s virtual Chicagoland Speedway for the Fisch Motors Chicagoland 200. Coverage starts at 10:35 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on Oct. 20.