The final five laps went against every instinct Sage Karam has developed in his career in the NTT IndyCar Series.
Less throttle, slower laps, pressing the clutch and watching lapped cars drive away.
But it all paid off in the end. The Coanda Sim Sport driver managed an astonishing 28 laps on the final fuel stint and held off a hard-charging Adam Blocker to win the Minus 273 Grand Prix of Barber Thursday night.
It was Karam’s league-leading third win of 2019 in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker.
“I did 28 laps that last stint, I had to make up three or four laps,” Karam said. “I had to commit pretty early to push that fuel saving. Definitely a tough race, but we had to do what we had to do and thankfully I knew how to save fuel at the right times and got it done.”
Karam paced Blocker, the defending series champion making his season debut, over the opening stint of what many expected to be a two stop race. That seemed even more true when Karam hit pit road coming to lap 26 in the 53 lap event.
But it was soon evident Blocker would be able to make the race on one stop - especially after serving a drive-through penalty with no service allowed for avoidable contact, a penalty resulting from contact while lapping Cody Edlred in the final two corners on lap 20.
When Blocker exited his fuel stop on lap 27 still within 20 seconds of Karam, despite making contact with the wall on pit entry, Karam knew he had to find a way to make it to the end or give up the win to the champion.
Karam spent the final five laps pushing in the clutch in nearly every corner, gliding the car through the first section of the track and keeping an eye on Blocker as the Clemson student closed the gap to less than three seconds on the final lap.
“You can make a lot of mistakes when you’re trying to fuel save,” Karam said. “I’ve never had to push in the clutch. There were a few times where I’d go down into turn three and let out the clutch and it would try to spin on me and that was difficult.”
Karam ran out of fuel as the car crossed the finish line.
Blocker was adamant he had the fuel to make it even without the penalty, pushing to the max over the final 5 laps to try and catch Karam or force a mistake.
“That penalty didn’t help me at all,” Blocker said. “I was going to be able to go 26 laps no matter what...I thought I had a good shot at it. I actually saved too much fuel. Had I started pushing three or four laps earlier, maybe I could’ve got to him. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to pass him, but it was fun.”
While Blocker didn’t disagree that his contact with Eldred was a bit forced, he did say he felt Eldred did a poor job of letting the leaders around in an already difficult section.
“He did something really awkward,” Blocker said. “You either have to let someone go middle of the corner or on the straight. I got into him, but we both got out of it fine with no damage.”
Series points leader Ryan Otis also found himself in an intense battle over the final 10 laps, battling a heavily damaged car - the result of also catching the wall during his sole pit stop - and holding off rookie George Sandman by .317 seconds at the stripe.
“I had about 40 seconds of optional repairs that I didn’t take after that mistake,” Otis said. “I was struggling with the car after that. George was faster, but I knew it would be hard to pass. This is a difficult place to pass.”
Aaron Morgan continued his strong run of late with a fifth place finish, passing an out of fuel J.P. Windschitl by inches at the finish.
25 of the 31 starters finished the race. Eight cars finished on the lead lap. James Paulson and David Altman both retired after big incidents, the only two major crashes in the event.
Otis now leads Karam by 91 points. Dustin Wardlow, who finished 10th after needing a second fuel stop, is 24 points behind Karam in third.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker takes a month off to prepare for its biggest race of the season. The ButtKicker Indy 250 is scheduled for Thursday, August 29 at 10:35 p.m. EST. Defending race winner Alex Saunders and Blocker have both indicated their intentions of running, adding to the already strong field. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway might as well be renamed Candyland.
Dustin Wardlow took the lead with 20 laps to go and held off early race favorite Marc Cohn to win the Tower Rentals 175 Thursday night.
It was the second consecutive win for Wardlow at NHMS in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker.
“Cross your fingers and stay off the wall,” Wardlow joked when asked why he’s been so good at the Magic Mile. “I don’t know, but I’m liking it, whatever it is.”
Known as the Candy Man - after his longtime sponsor Dewar’s Candy - the Bakersfield, Calif. driver spent most of the race chasing Cohn, who led a race-high 118 laps from the pole.
But after green flag stops, and while battling back through off-strategy cars, Wardlow took advantage of Cohn’s mistake exiting turn two and rocketed past on lap 138. Wardlow inherited the lead when the caution flew with 21 laps remaining and the leaders hit pit lane for fuel.
“That whole race was about trying to stay within half a second,” Wardlow said. “And then everything just kinda broke my way again with the traffic.”
Cohn couldn’t help but feel dejected despite his second-place finish and strong points night.
“I did everything I could with lapped traffic,” Cohn said. “I got held up for a while and it was costing me time, I made a mistake forcing the move and went high and that ultimately cost me the lead. Driver error.”
Big Joe Hassert sliced his way through the field over the final 40 laps, moving up from outside the top five to the podium in the final 40 laps.
“I got a little happy on the loud pedal (on the final restart),” Hassert said. “I tried to time out Dustin and swung and missed. All the sudden, there was Aaron. It was a good battle.”
Aaron Morgan and Scott Holmes rounded out the top five.
The race saw the caution flag fly seven times for 25 laps, including the final yellow with three laps remaining. The race-ending wreck had major championship implications.
Ryan Otis, the points leader and on a run of seven consecutive top five finishes, went tumbling down the front straight after Holmes pushed up the track and into him in a battle for fifth.
Otis finished 19th, his worst effort of the season.
As a result, the championship battle tightened up.
Otis leads Wardlow by 100 points. Sage Karam, who missed the event while racing in the NTT IndyCar Series event in Toronto, sits third, just four points behind Wardlow. Cohn jumped up to fourth, another five behind Karam.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker heads back to the road and a doubleheader week with its sister series, the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, in the rolling hills of Alabama.
The Minus 273 Grand Prix of Barber is scheduled for Thursday, July 25 and can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network at 10:35 p.m. EST, with Global SimRacing Channel on the call.
After a gripping finish last time out at New Hampshire, the Lionheart Retro Series roars back into action this week for the Minus 273 Grand Prix of Barber. Minus 273 are the makers of some of the finest karting gloves. If you want to look as good as you drive, you are going to want a pair of Minus 273 gloves when you hit the track.
Last time out at New Hampshire, it was a new year, but a familiar result. 2 years in a row, a driver not named Dustin Wardlow lead the most laps, and, for a second year in a row, Dustin Wardlow took the lead in the waning moments of the race to steal a win. This year it was Marc Cohn who fell victim to Wardlow’s New Hampshire wizardry. Cohn, won the pole, lead the most laps, and had the fastest lap of the race, but ultimately had to settle for 2nd place. Big Joe Hassert finished 3rd, while Aaron Morgan and Scott Holmes has season high finishes in 4th and 5th respectively. With points leader Ryan Otis finishing 2 laps down in 19th and Sage Karam missing the race for real life driving duties, Dustin Wardlow improves to 2nd place in the championship exactly 100 points behind Ryan Otis, With Karam, Cohn and Travis Jegerlehner all within shouting distance of the Candyman.
Now the league travels to Barber. A twisty, undulating road course near Birmingham Alabama, the Barber Motosports Park presents a tough challenge for the L79 drivers. With many of the corner exits off camber, the already difficult Cosworth power curve will present an even greater challenge for these drivers. A light tough and great car control could be what wins the day here.
So far, the 2 cars to beat are Ryan Otis and Sage Karam on the road courses. They have dominated so far, but with Karam’s status for this week’s race uncertain with his continuing IndyCar commitments, Otis is the prohibitive favourite going into the race.
If there is one driver who could potentially challenge Otis, it is Dave Oisin Walsh. Walsh was leading at the last road course at Imola before making a mistake and ceding the lead to Otis.
George Sandman is another driver never to be counted out. While the oval tracks haven’t exactly been kind to Sandman so far this year, the road courses are where he can really stretch his legs and put up a good fight.
On the rookie side of thinfs, 2 drivers making a run up the standings are Dean “Mardi-Gras” Moll and Paul Jenkins. Both have been quietly consistent over the last several races, and that consistency has been rewarded in the standings.
In the team standings, there are no changes as Raven Motorsports Black continues to lead over NLR Sim Racing by 155 points.
Tune in on Thursday, July 25th at 10:35pm eastern for the Minus 273 Grand Prix of Barber, only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.
The Lotus 79 is a revolutionary Formula 1 car the Lionheart Retro Series has been using to re-create the glories of 1980’s IndyCar action. For one night, however, the L79 is going back to it’s roots as the Lionheart Retro Series invades Italy for the Sam Maxwell Customs Grand Prix of Imola.
Last time out at Pocono it was George Sandman breaking through for his first Lionheart win in either series. That it came on the big oval at Pocono was a surprise to many, given Sandman’s road course prowess. But Sandman out-duel veteran Ryan Otis to win by a scant 0.03 seconds in a thrilling finish. Sage Karam shook off his recent heartbreaks with a bounce back 3rd place, while Lionel Calisto and Chris Lanini also had solid race to round out the top 5. In the points, Otis maintains is spot atop the points over Sandman and Karam, but, after 7 race, the points are still wide open.
The Imola circuit has changed in the years since the L79 last ran in anger around the circuit. Tamburello and Villenueve has been replaced by chicanes, Aqua Minerale has been reconfigured and the Variente Bassa chicane has been straightened out. But the essence of the track remains. Fast straights, large elevation changes and tough breaking zones. This race will be a race of car control, where theer will be no room for error.
For those expecting the results to look very different on the road course at Imola, you have not been watching the series this season. Sandman, Otis, and Karam have shown that they are bound to be at the top of any race on a road course.
Other drivers to watch out for this week include Mac Cohn, Dustin Wardlow, and Chad Dalron, all 3 of which have shown speed on the road courses thus far.
In the team standings Raven Motorsports Black maintained their lead over NLR sim racing. Firefly Racing moved into 3rd position over Raven Motorsports Silver, while Ridin’ Shotgun Motorsports moved up to 5th on the back of Calisto’s top 5.
The rookie standings are a close match between Karam and Sandman who are separated by just 5 points. Marc Cohn is 40 points back of Karam with Paul Jenkins and Dean Moll close behind as well.
Tune in on Thursday June 27th at 10:35pm eastern for all the action from the Sam Maxwell Customs Grand Prix of Imola, only on the iRacing eSports Network present by GSRC.