The tracks may look very similar, but they couldn’t be more different in how they drive. Last week, the Lionheart Retro Series was at Motegi; an egg-shaped oval, where a thrilling finish saw Big Joe Hassert hold off a charging Dean Moll for the win. This week the are at the also egg-shaped Gateway Motorsports Park for the Sinbad Vapors 200.
The two tracks however, similar the track map might look, are very different. Gateway is smaller, narrower, tighter and bumpier. Where last week saw 3 for 4 and even 5 wide moments. This week anything more then 2 wide will be a crowd. The track is also flipped in comparison to Motegi. Turns 1 and 2 are the tight ones here, meaning that drivers have a long flat-out section between the exit of turn 2 and the finish line where they will be going flat out to try and beat their opponent to the line. The banking to is less pronounced, especially in turns 3 and 4. The driver who wins this one will be the driver who matches patience with aggression and opportunism. It won’t be easy.
Last week Joe Hassert made the last few laps lot a lot easier than they were in reality. Dean Moll, Taft Baldwin, Ryan Otis and Paul Jenkins all tried, but none could get by the veteran Lionheart driver, as Hassert captured his first win in any Lionheart series since 2017. Moll made it close at the line, but ultimately had to settle for 2nd while Baldwin managed to get around Otis for 3rd. Both Hassert and Moll moved up 10 spots in the championship into 7th and 8th respectively, and both will be looking to continue that momentum.
Despite missing the podium, Otis managed to take over the championship lead from Sage Karam as the Coanda SimSport driver had another rough race, this time of his own doing. Karam pushed wide coming out of 4 and caught the wall, spinning back into traffic and collecting a number of drivers including the previous rounds winner Marc Cohn. Dustin Wardlow was caught by a spinning car while running up front for the 2nd week in a row. All 3 drivers will be looking to bounce back at Gateway.
George Sandman had a quietly consistent run at Motegi, and found himself 6th when all the dust settled. This performance saw the road course veteran tighten his hold on 3rd in the championship. With more consistent finishes like this on ovals, neither Otis nor Karam should discount Sandman’s push towards the championship.
Newcomers Taft Baldwin and Chad Dalton are 2 rookies who have really shown some speed this season. Baldwin already has a poll, while Dalton has shown himself to be adept at driving through the field. These are 2 rookies to keep an eye on.
Speaking of rookies, this season saw a record number of rookies take the grid, and it shows in the results column. 31 of 45 drivers have already recorded at least 1 top 10 this season through 5 races. These races are truly anybody’s to win, and although a few drivers have run consistently at the front, no one has finished consistently there yet. We have a long way to go, and everything still to race for this season.
The Sinbad Vapours 200 will fire off this Thursday, May 16th, 2019 at 10:35pm eastern. Tune in to the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC to catch all the action.