When it comes to predicting road course winners in Lionheart, Jake Wright is usually the safe bet – at least when he's behind the wheel of a Dallara DW-12. It's been a different story so far in the Lionheart Retro Series where Wright had yet to pilot the classic Lotus 79 to a road course victory in three attempts.
Everything changed on Thursday night as Wright found his way to victory lane in the Mid-Ohio Retro 100 presented by dewarscandy.com. Wright, who also earned the pole, led the field of 25 Lotus 79's to the green flag.
However, the victory was far from certain and the series points leader had work hard to earn his first win thanks to hard-charging newcomer Adam Blocker, who, in just his second start in the series, was not intimidated by the road course ace.
Blocker held the outside through the first turn and found himself with the preferred inside line heading into Turn 2. The rookie took full advantage of the situation and snagged the lead – a position he would not relinquish for 28 laps.
“It's really difficult to get a good start on the inside in that final little kink before the start/finish line, so he got ahead of me,” explained Wright.
With on-track passing at a premium, it was the first and only round of pit stops during the 45-lap sim race that finally put the advantage back in Wright's hands. After pitting with 19 laps remaining, Wright returned to the track and waited for Blocker to come in.
“That wasn't when I initially wanted to pit,” said Wright. “I wanted to pit a few laps earlier but the pit entry was blocked for me so I had to abort. I was waiting until there might have been a few cars in front of Adam and then I went down pit road.”
Two laps later, Blocker pitted. He would exit just as Wright went by him on the outside. Despite keeping pace on cold tires, Blocker would be unable to reclaim the lead. Following a late-race off-track, he would collect a cone under his car. The issues would slow his pace and cost him second position as Ryan Otis passed him in the closing laps.
“I took my attention off the race for a second,” said Blocker. “I ran over some cones and got a cone stuck under my right sidepod.”
Despite the disappointment, Blocker was quick to praise the racing between he and Wright.
“It was a really good race. Jake and I were about the same pace in the first stint. It was pretty much a yo-yo. I would stretch it out to 1.3 seconds and then he'd close back in to half-a-second.”
The unexpected runner-up position came as a welcome surprise for Ryan Otis as the two-time race winner needed all the points he could get to keep pace with Wright in the overall standings.
“I'd lost a little bit of pace for some reason today. I just didn't have the speed of Jake or Adam,” explained Otis, who'd spent much of the race battling David Altman. “I was trying to keep David behind me; I knew he had the pace to give me a run for my money if he'd had the opportunity.”
Altman would ultimately finish fourth, followed by Dustin Wardlow, Jason Galvin and Samuel Reiman. For much of the race, Galvin and Reiman put on the best show of the night as they battled for position. The fight continued into the closing laps as the two sim racers diced their way through a string of lapped traffic.
James Paulson, Joe Branch and Bart Workman would round out the top ten. Overall, 22 of 25 sim racers would finish the event.
The win allowed Wright, who now tops the standings in both Lionheart-sanctioned series, to grow his lead over second-place Ryan Otis to 49 points. Jason Galvin remains third overall, while Dustin Wardlow and Travis Jegerlehner round out the top five.
The Lionheart Retro Series takes almost a month off before returning on July 27th for the Grand Prix of Monterey at the legendary Laguna Seca. The event, presented by Dewar's Candy, will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live beginning at 10:35PM ET.
Bob Mikes earned his second career victory in the Lionheart Retro Series on Thursday night following a wild and unpredictable event at the legendary Milwaukee Mile.
After starting ninth, he assumed the lead with 46 laps remaining when most of the leaders pitted under caution. There was just one problem: Mikes had last pitted 30 laps earlier and didn't have enough fuel to finish.
Following a re-start, it was almost certain that Mikes, along with second-place Tony Showen, third-place Samuel Reiman and fourth-place David Altman would need to visit pit lane one more time. Behind them, Chris Stofer, Jake Wright, Andrew Kinsella and Jorge Anzaldo were good on fuel and ready to take over when the lead group was forced to stop.
As luck would have it, those stops never came.
Three additional cautions allowed Mikes to make it to the checkered flag with more than enough gas in the tank. All-told, he ran 76 laps on a single load of fuel.
“If we didn't have those two cautions, I would have run out. Simple as that. It was close,” said Mikes in victory lane.
The Controlled Chaos Racing driver admitted his strategy was a gamble.
“I looked at the fuel and realized there was about 70 laps to go and I know we can make it about 64 on a tank of fuel. Right there, I was hoping for a couple of cautions and some fuel savings and hopefully everyone else would have to pit ahead of me – and they did,” Mikes explained.
Ironically, Mikes was involved in the final caution of the night when he and Tony Showen tangled while battling for the lead. Showen spun while making a move to the inside and made light contact with the eventual winner. Mikes was unscathed but Showen suffered damage and ultimately finished tenth.
Samuel Reiman was following the same strategy as Showen and would successfully complete the race with just one fuel stop. The second-place result was a career-best for Reiman and his third-consecutive top ten finish.
“How do you like that?” said Reiman after the race. “Once I made the stop I was surprised no one else had done the same thing until Tony Showen did and he passed me. Of course, Showen had that unfortunate end to the race. I wasn't expecting Mikes to be up front leading the race with enough fuel to make it to the end. He did a great job; I had nothing for him.”
It was a good night for Controlled Chaos Racing as Mikes' teammate Scott Bolster rounded out the podium with a third-place result.
“We had a very interesting run from pretty far back in the field,” said Bolster, who'd successfully dodged several incidents during the night. “One of the big things on these short tracks is simply: survive. That's pretty much what you're trying to accomplish and hopefully you can do some pit strategy and different calls like that to get you up front.”
Overall, there were twelve cautions for 47 laps. In an unusual twist, many of the incidents happened right at the front of the field and claimed several race leaders.
Polesitter Ryan Otis was the first victim after a self-spin on Lap 6 caused major damage to both his and second-place Joe Hassert's Lotus 79s. Jason Galvin, sitting third, was poised to take the lead but fell victim to connection issues before the race re-started and handed the lead to his AGR Motorsports teammate Jorge Anzaldo.
Anzaldo was one of the lucky few who survived their time in the front. He would go on to lead a race-high 48 laps before losing the lead during a pit cycle. Anzaldo ultimately finished fourth.
Additional leaders to run into bad luck included recent Indianapolis 500 champion Jonathan Goke, who would also suffer a self-spin while leading. Newcomer Adam Blocker would also suffer damage after making contact with Chris Stofer in a close battle for the lead.
Bart Workman, David Altman, Robert Blouin and Patrick Taylor claimed positions five through eight while the damaged Lotus 79s of Joe Hassert and Tony Showen rounded out the top ten.
The Lionheart Retro Series returns in two weeks with a trip to Lexington, Ohio and the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course on June 29. The sim race will be broadcast live on the Global Sim Racing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live beginning at 10:35PM ET.
It will go down as one of the most spectacular races in Lionheart Racing Series history, unquestionably the best in the short history of the Lionheart Retro Series. And in the end, the candy man from Bakersfield, Calif., with a damaged car and buried in fifth coming to a restart and the white flag, slipped through an opening as carnage filled the iconic front straight at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to pick up his first career win.
It’s not how Dustin Wardlow envisioned his first Lionheart victory in any series. A road course ace, sipping the milk and celebrating an unlikely win, leading the race for just 300 feet - the most important 300 feet - to win the biggest race of the season, the I Race for Gage Indy 250.
“I really felt good coming off of turn three,” Wardlow said. “The car felt really good, it was better on older tires and I was light on fuel. I am so sorry to see that happen though, (Jason) Galvin had that won. But I’m still shaking, this is hard to believe.”
The final 2.5 miles around the Brickyard were exhilarating. After a caution with 5 laps to go for a wreck between Dylan McKenna and Ron Hacker, Joe Branch appeared to have the race won. Branch had just passed Galvin, who dominated the event while leading a race-high 40 laps. But track stewards were able to clean things up in time for a one-lap shootout.
On the restart, Branch pulled away from Galvin, with Joe Hassert and Chris Stofer in tow. Out of turn two, Branch defended low. Galvin pulled to his outside, and Hassert used a huge run to go to the top into turn three. As the cars hit the north chute, Branch drifted up, touching wheels with Galvin. Hassert, forced to lift or be put into the wall by the sliding Galvin, pulled in behind the two leaders as they exited turn four for the final time.
Just past the pit entrance wall, with Galvin streaking ahead of Branch, Hassert appeared to shoot for the middle.
“I thought there was some room,” Hassert said after the race.
There was not enough room, Hassert clipped Galvin, turned into Branch and back up the track. Stofer, with a huge run, plowed into the trio, sending Galvin airborne.
“I can’t settle for third. Branch opened the door a little,” Hassert said. “It just wasn’t enough. I feel awful.”
A dejected Galvin, who took the lead on lap one from pole sitter Tony Showen and rarely turned a lap outside the top two, was disappointed a win at Indy got away.
“I’m not mad at Joe, just disappointed at the situation,” Galvin said after exiting his wrecked car. He finished eleventh. “I felt all week that I was the car to beat. I think we showed that today. I’m disappointed about the championship, and I’m sad I didn’t win at Indy. This race meant everything to me.
“But I can’t be mad at Joe. I’m teammates with him on the NASCAR side. Joe Hassert wouldn’t wreck anyone. He made a mistake. It’s just unfortunate that it happened there. We’ll regroup and try to get back after it at Milwaukee.”
Through it all, Wardlow kept the throttle down. Just as he arrived to the crash, a path opened and the Dewar’s Candy driver sailed on for his first victory.
Ryan Otis and Jake Wright avoided the carnage to finish second and third.
“I was coming off the corner and I saw the guys moving around and jockeying for position,” Otis said. “I saw someone scrape the wall and I went to the bottom. Then everything exploded and I just tried to shoot the gap.”
Wright admitted his good fortune.
“I got lucky, I wasn’t expecting to finish third,” Wright said. “I was just hanging back, things were pretty jumbled. I was just fortunate to get through it all.”
Scott Johnson picked up a career-best third, and Travis Jegerlehner rallied from outside the top ten most of the event to finish fifth.
The first 99 laps featured some of the most unpredictable racing ever seen at IMS. Car after car lined up to take a shot at Galvin, often running several laps side-by-side, swapping the lead as they cross the yard of bricks.
Wright, Hassert and Branch all made moves. Each would edge ahead, only to see Galvin pull back in front. After a restart with 25 laps left, Galvin and Hassert resumed command, until Branch made a three-wide pass for the lead with five laps to go, just before the final caution flag flew.
In total, the lead changed a series-record 41 times. Nine drivers led a lap, with Hassert leading 24, Branch leading 15 and Wright pacing the field eleven times.
Five cautions slowed the action for 15 laps, and two big wrecks early thinned the field.
On lap three Dan Geren, making a rare appearance in the Retro series, drifted high out of turn four while running ninth. The Iowa native scraped the wall, then lost control and slid across the track, leaving Brandon Limkemann with nowhere to go. Jack Bogan was also collected, along with Matthew Mercer.
Following the restart, on lap nine, Mitchell Moehler was clipped by James Paulson entering turn one. Paulson continued, but Moehler could not hang on and collected Vincent Bluthenthal and Bart Workman.
The field then settled in, working to green flag pit stops until lap 40. Frank Bieser, damaged on lap two after touching the wall and then clipping Pierre Daigle, lost the car exiting turn four as the leaders passed him. Bieser spun to the inside, collecting Showen, who had just peeled off to pit.
The fourth caution came on lap 71, when contact between a group of leaders on an alternate fuel strategy nearly ended the race for the eventual winner.
David Altman, just behind Branch in a battle for the lead, rubbed tires with Stofer, who was also battling for the lead. As the two came down the front straight, Altman lost control bouncing off the wall and back down into Wardlow. But the Dragonfly Racing driver was able to come in and the pit crew did enough to keep his car competitive.
A series of late race events took McKenna from serious contender, to the cause of the final caution.
With eight laps to go, McKenna bounced off the wall exiting turn four. He’d been running third. One lap later, McKenna pushed up in turn two, touching Hassert. McKenna harmlessly spun into the grass, completing a 360-degree spin and continuing on. But the third time was not a charm.
Caught by the next pack of cars, McKenna entered turn three in the middle of a three wide battle. The car bobbled on entry, touching Johnson before ricocheting back into Ron Hacker, bringing out the fifth and final yellow with five laps remaining, and setting up a finish that will be remembered for ages.
34 cars took the green flag at Indy. 18 saw the checkered flag, 14 on the lead lap.
The last lap chaos had massive points implications. Wright’s lead over Otis shrunk to 29, but it was Galvin who took the biggest hit. Primed to close in on Otis and Wright, the other Bakersfield, Calif., driver instead finds himself 75 points back of the championship leader. Jegerlehner, Galvin’s teammate at AGR Motorsports, used his good fortune at the finish to move up to fourth in points, 107 out of the lead. Wardlow was the biggest mover, up five spots to fifth, 125 back of Wright.
The Lionheart Retro Series takes a few weeks off before heading to the famed Milwaukee Mile for the Milwaukee 150. The race can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST on Thursday, June 15.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, the flagship league in the Lionheart Racing Series, is set to tackle its biggest event, the I Race for Gage Indianapolis 500. As many as 42 DW12 IndyCar’s will take the virtual green flag on Sunday, June 11, at 4:00 p.m. EST. That race can also be seen live on GSRC.
For more information on either Lionheart series, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.