The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker kicked off its 2019 season with a celebratory feel and a true all-star in victory lane.
Sage Karam dominated the event, leading all 34 laps of the Lionheart Retro All-Star Race presented by ButtKicker, the new title sponsor for the Lotus L79 series.
“I got out to a comfortable lead, but for some reason, I never told myself to slow down,” Karam said. “I’m a competitor, I just wanted to keep going faster.”
Karam – a five-time Indianapolis 500 starter – took the lead from pole winner Ryan Otis on the start, using a crossover move in the final chicane at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval course and out breaking the former series runner-up into turn one.
By the end of lap one, Karam had opened up nearly a second advantage, breaking the draft of the other cars. He never looked back.
“On the start, I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Karam said. “I knew he’d get on it before the chicane, and he did. It looked like he might’ve clipped the chicane a bit and got loose, and I kinda over-under him and got on the inside.
Otis bobbled entering turn one and dropped back to fifth before recovering to finish third.
“Talk about all-time worst starts,” Otis said. “I felt like I was lucky to keep it out of the wall. Sage got a great start on me. I got a little lose on the curb, and we got side-by-side and I got in the dust. That was pretty much it for me.”
Newcomer George Sandman earned a spot in the main event with a dominating win in the All-Star Open, a sprint race that saw 12 cars transfer to the main event. He then manoeuvred his way into second early on and held the spot for the rest of the race.
“I think they need to check Sage’s car for rocket fuel or something,” Sandman said jokingly. “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes, kept my laps nice and clean.”
The event was marred by issue for some of the top Lionheart drivers.
Richie Hearn – himself an Indy Racing League race winner, and analyst for the Lionheart IndyCar Series race broadcast – was running in third when connection issues caused him to pull over and retire.
Lionheart winner Justin Weaver was in position to earn a podium when he lost control in the first part of the infield road course, collecting the wall and ending his race.
Dustin Wardlow, a winner in both IndyCar and Retro events last season, started sixth but crashed in the bus stop on the opening lap.
As a result, the field thinned out, with just five cars finishing on the lead lap, capped by Andrew Kinsella and rookie Stefan Schlacher.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker now prepares for the races that count. The season kicks off at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Homestead 200. The event, like all Lionheart Racing Series events, can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with presentation from Global SimRacing Channel, on Thursday, March 14 at 10:35 p.m. EST.