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.