By Justin Prince
After stretching his fuel tank to run 45 laps twice in the final stages of the SimXperience Kentucky 200, Alexander van de Sandt has won his first race of the 2021 season.
Van de Sandt pulled off the victory after being able to save more than three laps of fuel per stint in a fully green flag Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel race. The Team RaceVerse Black driver led just 10 of the 134 laps on the way to the win.
Robert Maleczka III, Alexis Newsome, Nick DeGroot and Chris Stofer rounded out the top five.
“It was so close, especially at the end when everyone had much fresher tires than I did those last few laps, so I couldn’t stay with them,” said van de Sandt in HyperX Victory Lane. “Once Matt (Wagner) pit, I had no help, so I had to try to make sure I had enough to have a buffer there and it was just enough.”
Van de Sandt made the decision to try the strategy after his fastest qualifying lap did not count, relegating him to 27th starting position. He had gone to the apron on his qualifying run, which is known to be difficult to avoid clipping the grass at Kentucky Speedway.
“I was like, ‘okay, I’m going to be marred in traffic, I’m going to be second-to-last, it’s going to be hard to pass. Might as well just see what I can do in these first few laps to see what numbers I can hit,’” said van de Sandt. “Then I realized this might be possible. When it started going green the whole way, which shocked me, I just had to commit to it.”
Maleczka III, who led a race-high 74 laps and finished more than three seconds behind Van de Sandt, said he knew it was going to be close with the fuel save strategy. He said since he and Newsome were both out front by several seconds, they did not want to risk it.
“Man, if this race was one lap longer, I would have been golden,” said Maleczka III.
Factory Backed had a strong day from the green flag, immediately seeing both Maleczka III and Newsome pull away by two seconds within the first 15 laps. DeGroot, who started 14th, also slowly made his way through the pack to charge his way to the head of a three-car pack in the closing stages. The Factory Backed cars at one point had a possible 1-2-3 finish with Maleczka III and Newsome having a 10-second advantage.
“We knew we had this all-out pace with Alexis just riding one-two,” said Maleczka III. “We just put our heads down and kept hot-lapping.”
Overall, just one car did not finish the 200-mile race.
Next, the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel will be going to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Sim Racing Studio Indy 500 Presented by Chris Fowler Racing. It can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on July 18th at 10:35 p.m. EST.