By Justin Prince
After holding off a late-race charge by Chris Fowler, Matt Taylor has won his first career race in the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel.
Taylor became the eighth different winner in 11 races after leading just nine of the 175 laps at iRacing’s virtual New Hampshire Motor Speedway on August 2.
The Team RaceVerse Red driver also became just the second driver this season to win in multiple Lionheart Racing Series-sanctioned events.
Fowler, Chris Stofer, Alexis Newsome and Paul Jenkins completed the top five for the Espo Designs New Hampshire 175 Presented by the DMLC Racing Channel.
“Man, what a tough race,” said Taylor from HyperX Victory Lane. “It was just a really tricky race with this setup and really hard to pass. Thankfully the strategy worked out and staying patient paid off.”
For Fowler, he joined the conversation for the win by being on a different strategy than Taylor and Stofer. The Team RaceVerse Red competitor had pit during a caution-heavy period of the race, giving him 18-lap fresher tires than Taylor for the final stretch of the event.
Fowler was six-tenths of a second behind Taylor coming to two laps to go when he started closing the gap rapidly. He utilized the second line in Turns 1-2, closing three car lengths by corner exit. On the final lap, he did it again, getting within a few feet of Taylor. He attempted to pass Taylor from the second line of the track through Turns 3-4, but it was too late.
“I just needed one more lap man, just one more and we would have had our first win,” said Fowler. “That was just an absolutely crazy and exciting race … Just happy to come home in second and to finish side-by-side with Matt was pretty cool.”
Alexis Newsome of Factory Backed controlled the tempo of the race early after starting from the pole. She and Stofer broke away from the field by several seconds when the caution waved for the first time on Lap 15. Alexander van de Sandt, who won earlier in the season at Kentucky, was battling for seventh position with Joe Branch when he clipped the first line of the track, causing him to spin out down the backstretch. The Team RaceVerse Black driver avoided contact in the incident.
Newsome, Jorge Anzaldo, Taylor, Matt Wagner, Fowler and several others decided to stay out under the yellow flag period.
Their gamble for track position paid off on Lap 44.
Tyler Graaf was clipped in the left rear tire by van de Sandt coming out of Turn 4, spinning him out. His NLR car was then hit by Mike Rigney, crushing his front wing. Graaf came to a rest in the middle of the frontstretch, just 200 feet from the start and finish line.
Factory Backed’s Nick DeGroot was the only driver to not pit during the caution.
Newsome made quick work of her teammate, passing DeGroot at the bottom of Turns 3-4 on Lap 51.
DeGroot was able to stay in second place until he had to pit for fuel on Lap 72. He was pinned a lap down by the caution moments later, when Stofer and Anzaldo made sidepod contact down the backstretch. Stofer was to the inside of Anzaldo when the two got stuck together, squeezing Anzaldo into the wall. Anzaldo’s Synergy Motorsports Blue car then pinballed off the outside wall down the track into the right side of Robert Maleczka III. The contact spun Maleczka III up the track, triggering the yellow flag while Anzaldo slid directly into the inside wall’s tire barriers.
The race stayed green until Lap 94, when Branch was hit from behind by Rigney. Rigney, who drives for Synergy Motorsports Blue, attempted to make a pass to the inside of Branch down the backstretch when he clipped his rear wing, sending Branch into the outside wall. The Adrenaline Motorsports car rode the wall for several feet before coming to a rest along the SAFER barrier in Turn 3.
On Lap 108, the championship battle took a massive turn.
Points leader Tony Showen was running in 10th place when he was hit in the left rear tire by Fowler, sending the Adrenaline Motorsports straight into the Turn 1 wall. Showen’s front nose and rear wing were completely destroyed. The incident put Newsome in prime position to try and take over the championship lead.
Graaf’s rough day continued on the ensuing restart.
He was back inside the top 10 when he and van de Sandt went early, causing a check-up. As Graaf swerved to the left of van de Sandt, he was tapped by Fowler, sending him spinning into the inside wall down the front straightaway and ending his race.
Overall, there were six cautions in the race, a Lionheart Racing Series record low for New Hampshire.
After the restart, Newsome and Taylor broke away from the pack, making it a two-car race for much of the final run. Taylor attempted to use the top line several times to build up momentum to no avail.
Then, Newsome’s dominating day went downward on Lap 136 during the final pit stops.
Taylor and Newsome raced off the pit lane side-by-side heading into Turn 1, nearly touching wheels. Taylor said he attempted to check up for Newsome when she spun into the infield grass. Newsome then nearly came back up into Stofer’s sidepod before rejoining the apron several seconds behind.
Newsome led 127 of the 175 laps.
The pit stop window cycled Fowler to the point until Lap 153, when he had to come down for fuel. He cycled right behind Newsome, half a straightaway behind Taylor and Stofer.
As those drivers sorted out their strategy, others attempted to stay out.
DeGroot led for several laps before he had to come in with 10 laps to go. Charles Teed and A.J. Musselman also attempted to stretch their fuel tanks, but could not make it to the end.
Fowler reeled in Stofer by Lap 168, fighting hard with him for two laps before clearing him on the bottom of the track.
He did not have enough time to fully clear Taylor by the checkered flag.
Next race, the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel heads to Chicagoland Speedway for the HyperX 200 at Chicago on August 23. Coverage will begin at 10:35 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and can be watched on tape delay on ESTV.