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.