Despite a record number of rookies in the field, it was 2 wily veterans of the Lionheart Retro series who were battling wheel to wheel for the win last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Alex Saunders and Ryan Otis, the two most decorated Retro Series presented by ButtKicker drivers in the field, found themselves at the pointy end of the field in the closing stages. Wheel to wheel they raced for laps on end, until, with just 5 laps to go, they touched wheels and Otis was spinning down into the apron. For a minute it looked like the race would stay green, however the caution did fly, and Alex Saunders started the 2019 season exactly where he ended the 2018 season; in victory lane. 2nd went to rookie Nathan Lewis, a very strong debut for the 10-50 Barbanera Racing driver, while Lionheart founder Jorge Anzaldo go his season off to the right start with his first ever Retro podium in 3rd. Ken Hacker and Sage Karam rounded out the top 5.
It’s a short turn around for the Retro drivers, as round 2 comes just one week later. From last weeks high speed oval, the Retro series now travel to one of the fastest road courses on the schedule; Watkins Glen. The SimXperience Grand Prix at the Glen sees Alex Saunders return to the scene of his maiden Retro victory one year ago.
This year might be tougher sledding for the road course ace, however. True, arch nemesis Adam Blocker is no longer in the series, however there are no shortage of strong road course drivers waiting to take his place.
We have already witnessed what Sage Karam can do on a road courses as he beat both Blocker and Saunders on the streets of Montreal. The glen is much different beast, however, as the tight chicanes are replaced by fast sweeping corners. Similarly, the Charlotte roval, site of Karam’s all-star domination is a tight slow course. Will Sage be able to build on his top 5 in Round 1 and his All-Star race victory, or will the nature of the course play into the hands of others?
Some of the drivers looking to hit the reset button early in the season are Justin Kirby, Josh Gayman and George Sandman. All 3 finished outside the top 20 in Homestead, however all 3 also know that they can do much better, particularly as the series shift to the first road course race of the season. Noted road racers all, they know that one race won’t define their season, however an improvement this round is vital to keep the championship in arms reach.
Veterens Ryan Otis, Travis Jegerlehner and Dustin Wardlow will also be looking to the Glen to re-affirm that just because the Retro series has a lot of talented rookies doesn’t mean that the old guard will be going anywhere. Look for these 3 to be fighting for the top 5, and possibly even the win.
Then there is Marc Cohn. Cohn fell victim to a poor pit strategy call at Homestead after spending the majority of the race at or near the front. The 2019 Challenge Series winner, Cohn has demonstrated himself a steady road course driver, who is able to hit his marks when it counts. With calamity on the first lap a definite possibility, look for the NLR Sim Racing driver to be at the sharp end of the finishing order this week.
The real question coming into week 2 for the Retro Series is, with all the rookies, will we have another veterne winner, or will one of these rookies break through and notify the established drivers that this season belongs to the rookies?
Tune in on Thursday March 21st to find out. The SimXperience Grand Prix at the Glen will go live at 10:35pm eastern, only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.