The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pole winner Sage Karam dominated the SimXperience Grand Prix at the Glen Thursday night, capturing his first win of the season in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker.
“This car is never easy to drive,” Karam said. “I got caught out a little on the start and nearly lost it…from there, I just saved fuel to make it to halfway, and then I could just run flat out qualifying times.”
Despite the race featuring 29 rookies vying for their first wins, the event featured a nearly identical script to the first two Retro events at the Glen. In 2017, Ryan Otis led every lap from pole position. Last season, Alex Saunders completed the same feat.
Karam made sure history would repeat itself.
“In this car, it’s easier to run 110 percent than it is to run 90 percent,” Karam said. “I felt comfortable, it was a perfect race, no incident points. But I know not every night will be like this.”
Otis finished a distant second, 24 seconds back of Karam. But he did lead the race, even if just for 300 feet on the first lap.
“I didn’t think I’d get that good of a run up the esses,” Otis said. “I didn’t quite have the confidence going into the carousel on the outside, and Sage had a wheel on me so I just let him go.”
Rookie George Sandman held off veteran Dustin Wardlow by three seconds to claim the final podium spot.
“Once the top three checked out, I just focused on maintaining the gap behind me,” Sandman said. “I just wanted to run a mistake-free race.”
Chad Dalton completed the top five.
Ten drivers finished on the lead lap, with 25 of the 34 starters finishing the event.
Saunders – the series runner-up in 2018 – took a big hit to his championship hopes so early on. After winning the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Nighthawk Motorsports driver retired on lap 31.
While running in second, and with Otis breathing down his rear wing, Saunders got up on the curb exiting turn one. The car bottomed out over the curb, causing it to twitch and then spin hard into the wall, and forcing the defending event winner to retire.
Karam jumps to the points lead, 21 ahead of Otis. Dustin Wardlow sits third, with Jorge Anzaldo and Saunders completing the top five.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker takes a long break before round three, the Plasma-Tracks Grand Prix of Sebring.
You can catch that race live on the iRacing eSports Network with the presentation from Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST.