Once again, the combination of the Lotus 79, a high-banked oval and some of the best open-wheel fixed setup drivers using the iRacing.com simulator delivered a fantastic finish.
Adam Blocker firmly planted his seed in the field of championship contenders, holding off Dustin Wardlow over the final seven laps to win the season opening ButtKicker 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The win was the fifth of Blocker’s career in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation. No other driver has won more than three races in the series.
“I found something on the bottom, a little past halfway in the race,” Blocker said. “It just worked. In general you wanted to be where clean air was...but Andrew (Kinsella) was telling me how good the bottom was, and when I got to the lead in the middle of the race, I was able to practice my line with no pressure, and that was a big key at the end.”
Wardlow looked poised to earn his second-career Retro victory before a caution with 14 laps remaining closed up the field.
On the restart with 10 laps remaining, 2017 series runner-up Ryan Otis used the draft to take the lead. Wardlow quickly took it back, but Blocker used the tow off the dueling cars to slip past and hold on for the win.
Wardlow - who was battling a damaged car from an incident early in the race - spent the final five laps on the outside of Blocker, but couldn’t draw even in the final corner, settling for second in his debut for the new Raven Motorsports team.
“Anytime you finish up front, you need to have some breaks,” Wardlow said. “We had that tonight...I realized I could have also made the bottom work earlier in the race, but on the last stint, I didn’t have tires and I felt the car wanting to come around, so I left the bottom open trying not to spin it.”
Andrew Kinsella worked his way around Otis in the closing laps to earn the final spot on the podium, and complete a strong day for Adrenaline Motorsports, with all four cars finishing in the top eleven.
“I knew that Adam and I had the right tire and fuel strategy, and our tires were peaking at the right time,” Kinsella said. “He managed to get that little bit of a lead and broke the draft so I couldn’t catch him, and that was the difference at the end.”
The 133-lap race was slowed by five cautions for 18 laps. Nine leaders swapped the lead 23 times. Otis lead a race-high 64 laps from the pole. Blocker led 23, with Wardlow pacing 21 laps.
The most impactful wreck occurred on lap 66, when an upstart Brian Greenlee shot to the lead for the first time, only to lose control 600 feet later as he entered turn one. As Greenlee spun, Bob Mikes - running in fifth at the time - was catapulted over the front of Greenlee’s car, ending the race for both drivers.
Beyond the podium, the top ten was littered with potential championship contenders. Otis came home fourth, with former Lionheart IndyCar Series champion Jesse Vincent racing from 38th starting position to fifth.
Woody Mahan finished sixth, followed by Lionheart IndyCar Series All-Star winner Pierre Daigle, defending Retro and IndyCar champion Jake Wright, James Krahula and Joe Branch, all of whom figure to be in the mix all season.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation heads to the road for its next event, the Clipping the Apex Grand Prix at The Glen. In holding true to its core value of paying homage to the glory days of open-wheel racing in America, the race will take place on the Classic Boot layout, without the bus stop section.
You can catch all the action from the historic Watkins Glen International live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST, Thursday, April 5.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment will host its season opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Wednesday, March 28. The First Medical Equipment 200 can also be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST.
Everyone knew who the dominant car was Thursday night, but as is often the case in racing, the fastest car doesn’t always win.
Ryan Otis looked untouchable, leading the frist 26 laps from the pole. But Adam Blocker made up two seconds on pit entrance - even making contact with Otis at the pit entry speed line - and then beat Otis off pit road by not taking tires.
A desperate charge on the final two laps by Otis came up a half-car short, as Blocker held on for the win by .03 seconds in the inaugural Lionheart Retro All-Star Race presented by Dewar’s Candy on the roval at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I would say over the course of the race Ryan definitely had a little edge on pace,” Blocker said. “I was surprised at how relatively slow he was on pit entrance. I got crossed up not trying to completely wreck him. Had I known I’d be that close to him I might’ve taken tires, but I didn’t. We had to scrap it out those last few laps.”
Otis was disappointed he could not close in the first all-star event for the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation.
“I was trying, that was fun,” Otis said. “Adam drove great, that was a blast. I never really got a lot of practice in traffic, and I made the bad strategic choice of taking tires. Then I over-slowed on pit entry. I thought if I take tires I could get a good tow and get around him, and I was surprised at how tough it was to get a big run.”
Brian Yaczik was able to pull away for third, after an early race battle with Dustin Wardlow and Michael Goodman. Those two finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
“I feel like the green beans at steak and potatoes dinner,” Yaczik said. “Everyone shows up for the steak and potatoes and they get the green beans on the side. Otis and Blocker were the steak and potatoes, they put on a heck of a show.”
James Krahula, Woody Mahan, Ron Hacker, Pierre Daigle and Samuel Reiman rounded out the top ten in the invite-only event, which featured drivers who had won a race, earned a pole or finished in the top ten in points in the Retro Series in 2017. Three drivers also raced their way into the event through a series of shootout events.
Outside polesitter Justin Weaver and three-time race winner Jason Galvin both ran into troubles, with Galvin collecting Bob Mikes and Chris Stofer in the first turn.
“I went in on the outside of Goodman, and that was the first time I’d ever taken an off line into one,” Galvin said. “The thing bottomed out, and I was out of control after that. I had the brakes locked up, but when the car turned back towards the track I just let it roll straight hoping nobody would hit me.I didn’t want the tires to grab and turn me sideways and block the track. I’m sorry to everyone involved.”
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation kicks off its second season Thursday, March 15 with the ButtKicker 200 on Homestead-Miami Speedway’s oval.
That race can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST.
Can you hear that? It is the sweet sound of a Cosworth DFV slowly warming up. One of the most iconic engines roars back to life this week as the Lionheart Retro Series kicks of it’s second season in style with it’s All-Star festivities.
This off season has seen numerous changes come about for a series steeped in history. HPP, makers of the finest sim-racing pedals on the planet, have come on board as the title sponsor, and with it, the prize pool for the retro series reaches unheard of heights. In addition to a record $450 prize pool, the champion of the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation will receive a set of HPP 3P-PRX-SE pedals, valued at $1395. But it’s not just the man at the top who will receive a princely prize; ButtKicker has also come on board in the offseason, offering the Rookie of the Year their choice of a ButtKicker Gamer 2 or a ButtKicker Simulation Kit. 19 drivers to start the season will compete for this prize, with the possibility of more joining during the season, which have lead some to speculate this might be the most competitive prize in the series.
But for one week, we pause, because this week is not about new drivers or new sponsors, but about celebrating the greatness of last season. The Inaugural Lionheart Retro Series All-Star Race presented by Dewar’s Candy fires off on Thursday, March 8th at 9:50 pm CST. The race itself will be at Homestead Miami Speedway, site of the first race of the championship in just one week’s time on the famous oval, but this race will be held on the infield road course. The master of this course will have to exhibit both road and oval skills, a fitting test for the best the Retro Series has to offer.
The event will consist of an 11 lap transfer race for those not yet in the main event, followed by a 33 lap shootout. 15 Drivers are locked in to the main event, while a further 20 drivers will be looking to transfer in through placing on the podium of the transfer race. Those locked in to the main event are last years polesitters, winners, and top 10 in points. A few of whom will surely be looking to start out 2018 on the right foot.
Speaking of Wright feet, Jake Wright is your defending series champion for both the Lionheart Indycar and Retro Series. Wright, who won 3 times in 2017 has retired from IndyCar competition to focus on the Retro Series this year. The champ will be looking for early returns on that decision as the season kicks off.
Wright’s stiffest competition may come from sophomore driver Adam Blocker. Despite participating in just 10 races last season, the Adrenaline Motorsports driver lead the series with 4 wins. With a full season planned this year, Blocker is the odds-on favourite to dethrone Wright as champion.