The Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment returns to Watkins Glen this week for a second consecutive season. The historic road course located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake was one of the most popular stops on the Lionheart calendar last year. Jake Wright surpassed pole-sitter Christian Steele to earn his first career road course victory. It turned out to be the first of many as Wright would earn an additional five road wins on his way to a second league title.
Returning one year later as the obvious favourite to win, Wright currently sits third in the standings just 28 points back of leader Andrew Kinsella. The defending champion has found his groove again after a slow start and already has one road course win under his belt thanks to a dominant performance at Imola. As an additional boost of confidence, Wright is also coming off a thrilling strategic victory last week in the Lionheart Retro Series event at New Hampshire.
Andrew Kinsella won't give up his championship lead without a fight and it's very likely that the rookie from Adrenaline Motorsports will be Wright's biggest challenger this week. A third-place finish at Imola proved that Kinsella can hold his own on the road, even if he wasn't able to catch the leader. That might change at Watkins Glen, one of Kinsella's favourite tracks. If it does, it's entirely possible that the Canadian could follow in Christian Steele's footsteps and earn Adrenaline another pole. Of course, getting ahead of Wright and staying there are two different things. Kinsella has surprised before and the rookie could well have an upset victory up his sleeve this week.
The wildcard this week will be Ryan Otis. Otis, who has proven himself to be a road course ace already in the series, has yet to find a way to outrun Jake Wright – at least, in the Indycar. Otis already has two wins this season in the Lionheart Retro Series, including a dominant victory at Watkins Glen earlier in the season where he finished twenty-two seconds ahead of second-place Wright. If Otis can find that same kind of pace in the Indycar, it could turn into a three-car battle up front and Otis could well emerge with another win at The Glen.
With more road course talent in the series than ever before, there are a long list of championship contenders who will be competing for top spots – and the important points that go along with each position. Brian Yaczik is only 10 points out of the championship lead, while Michael Gray, Dan Geren, James Krahula (who finished third last season), Michael Goodman, Jason Robarge and Jonathan Goke should all expect to be in the upper half of the field. If a battle at the front claims one or more casualties, an unexpected winner could be crowned from the list of names above.
Meanwhile, several other names to keep an eye on include Travis Jegerlehner, who finished second at Imola, along with Dustin Wardlow, who also ran near the front at Imola until an incident took him out of the race. These sim racers have yet to establish themselves on ovals, but should be a solid threat on the road.
Other drivers to watch this week include Pierre Daigle who started sixth last season but was collected in a race-ending incident early in the run. The same fate befell Jason Galvin, who finished twenty-second after starting a solid fourth. Brandon Limkemann had an incident-free race last season and finished tenth. Limkemann has been strong this season but he is looking to rebound from a poor showing at Kentucky. All three sim racers currently sit outside the top ten and could use the points from a solid finish this week.
A solid finish in the Grand Prix at the Glen should be the primary goal for every sim racer in the field because the league's first Triple Crown event of 2017 is just one week away. With double points on the line in next week's Dirtyblinds.com 300 at Pocono Raceway, the standings could shift dramatically in very short order. With the battle for positions tighter than ever, one mistake could have serious consequences for weeks to come.
Regardless of finishing order, Robert Blouin will have reason to celebrate this week as he is slated to make his seventy-fifth career Lionheart Indycar Series start. Blouin becomes just the second sim racer in league history to reach that milestone.
At the other end of the spectrum, Frank Beiser will make his first career start in the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment this week. Beiser has been a regular in the other Lionheart-sanctioned series for some time and hopes to have a solid run in the Dallara DW-12.
The Lionheart Grand Prix at the Glen will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on April 26th beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.