If there was ever a flawless debut in a series, Alex Saunders accomplished it Thursday night in his first start in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation.
Saunders led every lap - from the pole - on his way to the win in the Clipping That Apex Grand Prix at the Glen.
“This is my favorite car,” Saunders said after the race, noting that he let the gap to Otis close up to allow cars on the tail end of the lead lap to battle. “I was just holding back at the end, I told the cars in front I wouldn’t lap them. That way, everyone had fun out there.”
Saunders established himself as the race favorite in practice events leading up to Thursday’s second round for the Retro Series.
When the race came around, he didn’t disappoint, setting fast time over defending event winner Ryan Otis. Saunders then held a steady gap through the one pit stop race, beating Otis by 1.138 seconds for the win.
“I’m really happy with the finish,” Otis said. “I knew this would be an epic battle. We were both driving the wheels off the thing.”
The rest of the field saw a shakeup from the normal Retro Series front runners. Adam Blocker, Jason Galvin, Andrew Kinsella, Travis Jegerlehner and Dustin Wardlow all experienced contact that eliminated them from contention.
Defending series champion Jake Wright lacked his normal pace throughout the event.
As a result, Justin Weaver scored a career-best third place, his first podium in the Retro Series, edging his teammate, Michael Goodman, in the newly formed 8 Ball Motorsports.
“I just tried to keep it on the track,” Weaver said. “It turned out to be a good finish for us. I didn’t have anything for those top two guys there.”
Wright settled for fifth. James Krahula, Brian Yaczik, Scott Johnson, Samuel Reiman and Chris Lanini rounded out the top ten.
Just nine cars finished on the lead lap, and 13 of the 37 starters failed to finish in a race that featured an unusually high attrition rate, especially at a track as well known to the drivers as Watkins Glen International.
As a result, Ryan Otis grabbed the points lead - the only driver to finish in the top five of both races this year - leading Jake Wright by 22. Krahula sits third, followed by Woody Mahan and Goodman.
After a week off, the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation returns to the oval side of racing, tackling the historic Phoenix International Raceway on its original layout.
The Indy Elite Grand Prix of Phoenix can be seen in its entirety on April 19, live on the Global SimRacing Channel, at 10:35 p.m. EST.
For more information on the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.