Enter Sandman. The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker rookie proved he’s not just a road course ace, leading the final six laps and surviving a green-white-checkers dash to the finish to win the Pocono 250 presented by the DMLC Racing Channel Thursday night
Sandman held off series veteran Ryan Otis in a drag race to the finish, capturing his first win by .030 seconds.
“This isn’t a true oval, it drives a lot like a road course,” said Sandman, who has shown his chops on tracks that turn both left and right this year. “I think that helped tonight.”
Sandman got a great jump on Otis and IndyCar star Sage Karam on the final restart. Otis made a run into turn one on the final lap, nosing ahead on the outside.
But Sandman held the prefered line down low and held off Otis until the duo came off the final corner. Otis tucked in and popped out at the last second, trying to draft past for the win, but ran out of track.
“That was pretty fun,” Otis said. “I wanted to be on the high side and just barely came up short. That was good fun to the end.”
Sandman enjoyed the final shootout.
“I knew that if I could get out in clean air, I was much faster,” Sandman said. “I just wanted to hold the inside. If they could get me on the outside then so be it.”
Karam had to settle for third, unable to get a run around either of the two leaders as the pair battled side-by-side.
“I didn’t expect to finish to be honest with you,” said Karam, who battled from 29th to the podium. “My first lap on the track in this car was in qualifying. I was just happy to finish.”
Lionel Calisto and Chris Lanini rounded out the top five.
Otis, Sandman and Karam opened up a further gap in the standings and firmly established themselves as the trio to beat in Retro action.
Otis leads Sandman by 52 points, with Karam in third, 57 out of the lead.
Pocono pole winner and race sponsor Marc Cohn is fourth, another 40 back of Karam, after finishing 12th in the race following the final crash of the race. Chris Lanini moved up seven spots to fifth in the standings.
The race was slowed by 9 cautions for 26 laps, including the final wreck on lap 94. Cohn and Dean Moll collided in turn one while battling for the lead. Cohn pushed up in front of Moll, who couldn’t lift in time. Moll’s car flipped to the infield, ending his race. Cohn limped his car home a disappointing 12th.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker hits the road for its next race, the Sam Maxwell Customs Grand Prix of Imola. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action, at 10:35 p.m. EST on Thursday, June 27.