New season, new drivers, same results. Dan Geren, picked up right where he left off at Auto Club; in victory lane for the First Medical Equipment 200 at Homestead. Despite a long offseason with new drivers arriving in the series such as George Sandman and Sage Karam, last year’s top 4 in points, namely Geren, Adam Blocker, Andrew Kinsella and Michael Goodman, occupied 4 of the top 5 positions at the end of Round 1, with the 5th belong to Chris Stofer, last year’s Turning Point award winner for best 2nd half in comparison to their first. Needless to say, all of these drivers are very familiar to Lionheart viewers.
But the oval drivers in Lionheart have long been considered the best oval IndyCar drivers in iRacing, and it was bound to take the rookies a few races to get up to speed. But for now, the series shifts to the road course at Watkins Glen for the Minus 273 Grand Prix at the Glen. This is where the rookies might start to show their teeth.
Sage Karam has been dominating the Retro road races this year, comfortably clearing Ryan Otis and Alex Saunders in the L79 last week. The big question, though, will be if that translates over to the IndyCar. With more horsepower then grip, the L79 rewards the brave, which Karam has demonstrated he is, however, the IndyCar has a completely different style altogether. Will Sage be able to adapt quickly to the demands of the modern car after practising so much for the old style of racing last week?
George Sandman had a quiet Lionheart debut to 16th at Homestead, being a rookie not only to Lionheart but to oval racing in general. Sandman has had far more experience over the years on the road courses and has shown himself to be fast in practice leading up to the race.
Another driver who is more experienced on the road then on ovals is Adrenaline’s rookie Bryan Carey. Carey has also shown that Watkins Glen could just be his breakout party for Lionheart.
But these 3 rookies will have to go through a host of veterans if they are going to win. Adam Blocker dominated the road courses in 2018, winning 7 of 8 to demonstrate himself to be the fastest road driver in Lionheart. He is not going to go down without a fight.
Dan Geren was Blocker’s constant foil, always shadowing the Carolina driver, but never quite managing to come out on top. Dustin Wardlow managed to win the race at the Motegi Road Circuit, Andrew Kinsella took 4 podiums en-route to finishing in the top 5 at all 8 road course rounds in 2018. Justin Weaver and Stephen Laarkamp spent a good portion of each road race battling each other for top 5’s, and Michael Goodman and Brian Yaczik were constant top 5 threats.
If you are looking for a dark horse candidate, however, the names Tyler Graaf and Marc Cohn might be the best places to look. Cohn, although he is a rookie, won the winter Challenge series Lionheart puts on and demonstrated he could be a force on the road this season. Graaf meanwhile has put in the most testing miles so far of any driver in the series, and so far the results are paying off on the practice timesheets. The key for Graaf will be eliminating the mistakes that cost him so many times in 2018.
Then there is the track. The high-speed winding road course will present some series of challenges for all drivers, rookies and veterans alike. The off-camber corners waiting to spin out the driver who gets too greedy with the gas, while the curbs in the bus stop are ever-present, waiting to bite the driver who gets a little too brave. 42 drivers will go in, but how many will remain unscathed?
Tune in to watch the drivers of Lionheart Indycar Series present by First Medical Equipment do battle at the Minus 273 Grand Prix at the Glen, Wednesday, March 27th, 2019 at 10:35 pm EDT only on the iRacing eSports Network presented by GSRC.