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.