A new championship contender has officially arrived.
Two weeks after securing his first career victory in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker, Marc Cohn backed it up with a thrilling win over league veteran Dustin Wardlow in the Sinbad Vapors 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
The pair were wheel-to-wheel when the final caution came out with two laps remaining, with Cohn roughly a half-car length ahead.
“Oh my gosh, thank you to Dustin,” Cohn said after jumping out of the virtual Lotus L79. “That was some of the best racing I’ve had in a long time.”
Cohn and Wardlow battled throughout the final stint in the event, swapping the lead on several occasions.
“I have no idea how I got in front of him,” Cohn said. “I was struggling so much on the bottom. I thought it was going to end up being a photo finish to the line.”
Wardlow appeared poised to break through for his first win of 2019, after being wrecked out of the top five in three consecutive events.
But the Raven Motorsports driver had to settle for second as the final yellow flew for a wreck in turn four, when David Altman spun and collected two others.
“After the season I’ve had thus far, I’m totally thrilled with this,” said Wardlow, who led a race-high 49 laps. “Marc ran a really good, clean, hard race and that’s all anyone is asking for.”
Justin Kirby came home with a somewhat controversial third place finish, after contact with Joe Hassert on lap 141 sent the Motegi winner flying into the wall in turn two.
“I feel terrible about that,” Kirby said. “I thought it was a racing deal but I still feel bad about it.
“Hopefully we can keep running up front though. It was fun.”
Kirby was not penalized after race control ruled the duo made corresponding moves towards each other.
Points leader Ryan Otis came home fourth, with Mike Rigney completing the top five.
The race was slowed by eleven cautions for 40 laps, and the action started early.
Lionel Calisto didn’t make it out of turn two on the opening lap, after starting at the rear of the field. Calisto attempted to pass the slower Robert Blouin on the outside, but cut it too close and contact sent the man they call Little Train careening off the wall.
Sage Karam entered the race looking to rebound from an early crash at Motegi and reclaim the points lead, but contact with the wall exiting turn two led to a spin and Ken Hacker could not miss the wreck.
Both drivers retired after just 28 laps.
Karam maintained second in points, 50 back of Otis. George Sandman sits third, with Cohn up eight spots to the fourth position in points, 73 out of the lead.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker now gets a month break, before gearing up for the first Triple Crown event of the year.
The Pocono 250 presented by DMLC Racing Channel is scheduled for Thursday, June 13. The broadcast is set to begin at 10:35 p.m. EST on the iRacing eSports Network, with Global SimRacing Channel handling production.
The drought is over. Big Joe Hassert returned to victory lane for the first time since 2017, edging Dean Moll to the finish in the SimXperience 175 at Twin Ring Motegi.
It was the first win for Hassert since the Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker season finale at Auto Club Speedway in November of 2017.
“It’s been way too long,” Hassert said. “It was a tough one, holy cow. I was on the edge of my seat.”
Hassert led a race-high 26 laps and recaptured the lead for the final time on a restart with six laps to go.
“I hope I lived up to my name tonight,” said Hassert, whose self-appointed moniker ‘The Big Joe Show’ has long indicated moments of spectacular passing on oval tracks. “I was able to - I don’t know how, I was sideways a few times - I was able to get to the front in three and four. I made sure I had the lane I wanted in three. It was a tough one.”
Moll had a career night, leading 18 laps. But he was unable to hold off the determined and experience Hassert on the final restart.
“That was an intense race,” Moll said. “Congrats to Joe on the win. Hopefully we put on a good show. It was entertaining in the car. I had the situation I wanted. I wanted the inside in three and Joe just stuck it on the outside and made it work.”
Taft Baldwin continued his stellar rookie campaign with a third place finish. Baldwin led 19 laps and dominated a stretch along with teammate Lionel Calisto, who wrecked out late in the race.
“I was about half a car width from taking the lead and Joe took my line going into three,” Baldwin said. “Joe knew what I was doing and took the line from me. It was a lot of fun.”
Points leader Ryan Otis and Paul Jenkins rounded out the top five.
10 drivers officially exchanged the lead 27 times, with numerous more passes up front throughout the race, in what turned into an action-packed battle. The lead pack routinely raced three and four wide down the back straight.
Eight cautions slowed the race for 32 laps, and the calamity started early.
Points leader Sage Karam caught the wall on lap six as the pack exited the final turn. Miraculously, only four other cars were involved.
ISM Raceway winner Marc Cohn was unable to avoid Karam, ending the race for both drivers. Dustin Wardlow was turned around but somehow missed the wall. The spin, however, relegated a strong Wardlow to the back of the pack.
Wardlow was able to battle all the way back to second, behind Stefan Schlacher - who used fuel strategy to get out front - but with two laps left in the tank, the light L79 caught went around entering turn three.
Wardlow had nowhere to go, in a wreck mirroring one at ISM Raceway one week earlier. The multi-time Retro race winner was left to wonder what might have been for a second consecutive race.
Joshua Gayman, Chris Lanini, Pat Dotson and others were also involved.
The final caution came with eleven laps remaining, when David Altman drifted up into Calisto. Jorge Anzaldo was on the outside of a three-wide battle, and all three cars careened into the wall in turn three.
Otis catapulted over Karam into the points lead. The pair are separated by 14 points. George Sandman is third, 38 points out of the lead.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker heads to Gateway Motorsports Park Thursday night for the Sinbad Vapors 200. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with presentation by Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST.
The tracks may look very similar, but they couldn’t be more different in how they drive. Last week, the Lionheart Retro Series was at Motegi; an egg-shaped oval, where a thrilling finish saw Big Joe Hassert hold off a charging Dean Moll for the win. This week the are at the also egg-shaped Gateway Motorsports Park for the Sinbad Vapors 200.
The two tracks however, similar the track map might look, are very different. Gateway is smaller, narrower, tighter and bumpier. Where last week saw 3 for 4 and even 5 wide moments. This week anything more then 2 wide will be a crowd. The track is also flipped in comparison to Motegi. Turns 1 and 2 are the tight ones here, meaning that drivers have a long flat-out section between the exit of turn 2 and the finish line where they will be going flat out to try and beat their opponent to the line. The banking to is less pronounced, especially in turns 3 and 4. The driver who wins this one will be the driver who matches patience with aggression and opportunism. It won’t be easy.
Last week Joe Hassert made the last few laps lot a lot easier than they were in reality. Dean Moll, Taft Baldwin, Ryan Otis and Paul Jenkins all tried, but none could get by the veteran Lionheart driver, as Hassert captured his first win in any Lionheart series since 2017. Moll made it close at the line, but ultimately had to settle for 2nd while Baldwin managed to get around Otis for 3rd. Both Hassert and Moll moved up 10 spots in the championship into 7th and 8th respectively, and both will be looking to continue that momentum.
Despite missing the podium, Otis managed to take over the championship lead from Sage Karam as the Coanda SimSport driver had another rough race, this time of his own doing. Karam pushed wide coming out of 4 and caught the wall, spinning back into traffic and collecting a number of drivers including the previous rounds winner Marc Cohn. Dustin Wardlow was caught by a spinning car while running up front for the 2nd week in a row. All 3 drivers will be looking to bounce back at Gateway.
George Sandman had a quietly consistent run at Motegi, and found himself 6th when all the dust settled. This performance saw the road course veteran tighten his hold on 3rd in the championship. With more consistent finishes like this on ovals, neither Otis nor Karam should discount Sandman’s push towards the championship.
Newcomers Taft Baldwin and Chad Dalton are 2 rookies who have really shown some speed this season. Baldwin already has a poll, while Dalton has shown himself to be adept at driving through the field. These are 2 rookies to keep an eye on.
Speaking of rookies, this season saw a record number of rookies take the grid, and it shows in the results column. 31 of 45 drivers have already recorded at least 1 top 10 this season through 5 races. These races are truly anybody’s to win, and although a few drivers have run consistently at the front, no one has finished consistently there yet. We have a long way to go, and everything still to race for this season.
The Sinbad Vapours 200 will fire off this Thursday, May 16th, 2019 at 10:35pm eastern. Tune in to the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC to catch all the action.
The Watchman's time to shine
Timing was everything at ISM Raceway last Thursday for the Sam Maxwell Customs 175. When to push? When to lay back? When to pit? For Marc “the Watchman” Cohn, the timing was perfect, as the rookie scored his first Lionheart Retro Series win. Cohn even picked the perfect race to win, as his personal sponsor, Sam Maxwell Customs, was also the title sponsor of the event. The moment was not lost on Cohn: “To win at Sam’s race, when Sam has done so much for me, I’m just trying not to cry right now, because this is the pinnacle of my racing career.”
Cohn came steadily through the field from an 8th starting spot, and was in just the right position when leader Dylan McKenna spun on lap 146 entering turn 1. Collected McKenna’s wreck were 2 of the fastest cars on the day in Dustin Wardlow and Sage Karam. Cohn, running just behind the pair was able to squeak through and inherited the lead. “Honestly I don’t know (how I got through that wreck) because I had been trying for laps and laps to try and get by Dustin and Sage.” But get through he did, and from there it was a matter of playing defence as Cohn managed to keep the cars David Altman and Ryan Otis at bay. The win saw Cohn rise a whopping 15 spots in the championship standings to 7th place. Otis meanwhile cut Karam’s lead in half to just 20 points.
Rounding out the top 5 were solid drivers from Dean Moll and Chad Dalton. Dalton especially had a solid drive from 23rd on the starting grid, and is the main reason the iRacing Today Motorports driver finds himself 4th in points behind Karam, Otis and George Sandman.
In the team championship, Firefly Motorports, lead by strong finishes from David Altman and Frank Bieser carried the day with 117 points, 3 points better than NLR Sim Racing lead by race winner Marc Cohn. Overall, Raven Motorsports Black still leads the way by 85 points over NLR, but they can’t afford to many stumbles.
This was a race of attrition as only 11 of 33 starters finished on the lead lap. It started off with an unfortunate netcode incident involving series founder Jorge Anzaldo and ended with a caution involving Joshua Gayman and George Sandman. Between those 2 events 11 cautions slowed the race for 43 laps.
If the drivers are hoping for relief however, the schedule makers at Lionheart have other ideas, as the series travels to Japan for their annual visit to Twin Ring Motegi, which is famous for it’s 4-wide action down the straights at speeds approaching 180mph.
Tune in this Thursday, May 9th, 2019 for the SimXperience 175 from Twin Ring Moteig, only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.
After a long night in Phoenix last week, the sun is rising on a new day this week in Japan as the Retro Series visits Twin Ring Motegi for the SimXperience 175. If you have yet to see a Retro Series race at the famous egg-shaped Japanese oval, then boy have you missed out. The Cosworth Engines, 70’s ground effects chassis and flat, smooth racing surface combine for some can’t miss viewing, with 4 and some times 5 wide racing down the back stretch before it all funnels down into 2 lanes at the tight turns 3 and 4. If there is one race other then Indy you can’t miss this season, it would be Motegi.
Last week at ISM Raceway, it was the Watchman, Marc Cohn taking home his maiden Lionheart Retro Series victory. The NLR driver avoided some late race carnage to come home with the win over veterans David Altman and Ryan Otis. Dean Moll and Chad Dalton rounded out the top 5. This result vaulted Cohn up 15 spots in the championship into 7th place. Otis meanwhile cut into Sage Karam’s early championship lead, pulling within 25 points.
Form a short, narrow 1 mile oval, the Retro drivers now travel to a wide open 1.5 mile oval with high banks and even higher speed. Draft will be in full effect for the first time this season, with the drivers expecting regular 3 wide racing down the back straight.
Marc Cohn will certainly be looking to continue his momentum from last week into the Motegi race, and while Cohn is a rookie in the Retro series, he is no stranger to the Motegi Oval, having piloted a Nissan GTP to victory in the offseason Challenge Series here. Cohn has shown he is no slouch in the draft, and will certainly be considered one of the favourites for this week.
Few drivers remain from last years race who have experienced this before, but one of those is the defending race winner Alex Saunders. Saunders, however, has real life commitments that may or may not allow him to race for the 2nd straight week. One driver from that race last year who will be there and knows his way around the draft is Big Joe Hassert. Hassert finished 3rd last season and was challenging for the lead when the caution came out with 3 to go. Look for Hassert to use his draft expertise to be at the front again this week.
Draft racing can often produce unconventional winners, and Lionheart has a history of strong debuts from talented rookies. Both of these factors could work in rookie Pat Dotson’s favour. Dotson is an experienced sim racer and the creator of the GS-5 racing seat from SimXperience, who also happen to be sponsoring the event. No pressure Pat! Pat will be joining HolGan Racing for the remainder of the season. With Daren Gangi and Scott Holmes.
Last week may have been a dream for Marc Cohn, but it was a nightmare for Sage Karam and Dustin Wardlow. The pair were up front for nearly the entire race, until with just under 30 laps to go a spin by then-leader Dylan McKenna took out both contenders. Both will be looking for better luck at Motegi.
Catch all the action from the SimXperience 175 this Thursday, May 9th at 10:35pm Eastern, only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.