George Sandman fired the opening salvo in the battle for the 2020 Lionheart Retro Series presented by DMLC Racing Channel championship.
The second-year driver scored the second win of his career against a stacked field, edging defending champion Ryan Otis by 0.021 seconds to win the DMLC Racing Channel Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“I knew as long as I was prepared for the last couple laps and holding that inside line, they weren’t going to be able to get around me,” Sandman said from the virtual victory lane.
The road course veteran has now won twice on ovals in his brief career in the Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX. Both victories have come in the Retro cars, behind the wheel of a Lotus 79. Sandman also won at Pocono in 2019.
“I’m starting to learn some of the oval stuff, this is different for me,” Sandman said. “I never really liked the oval stuff. But I’m starting to enjoy it quite a bit.”
After four early cautions, the event ran green to the finish from lap 59. Several leaders encountered pit road issues during green-flag pit stops.
By the final 15 laps, just Sandman, Otis and Finian D’Cunha remained to battle for the win. Otis and D’Cunha both jetted to the outside of Sandman in the final 100 yards, but ran out of time.
“I can’t complain, there was some crazy stuff going on out there,” Otis said. “Car felt good, felt good in traffic. I had my plan for the finish there, but with Finian there I didn’t really risk it on the last lap. That was great driving by everyone, a lot of fun.”
D’Cunha really turned heads, battling from a 29th place starting spot to grab the final podium position.
“Needless to say, I definitely need to start practicing qualifying,” D’Cunha said. “I somehow made it through a massive wreck, it was a miracle. I have no clue what my strategy should have been at the end of the race.”
Trevor Malone and Mike Rigney completed the top five, after a crash with 18 laps remaining eliminated Greg West and caused Lionel Calisto to spin through the backstretch grass. Calisto recovered to finish eighth.
Despite leading just three laps, Otis spent a majority of the race battling for the lead.
Polesitter David Clymer appeared to be the favorite, leading a race-high 36 laps, but contact with the damaged lapped car of Ricky Hardin on lap 55 while exiting turn four caused Clymer to slam the inside wall, ending his race.
Sage Karam led 35 laps but encountered pit road troubles, along with former series runner-up Alex Saunders. Karam, who was leading when he hit pit road, fell two laps down and finished 15th. Saunders finished one lap down in 12th.
A crash on lap 36 changed the entire outlook of the event, at the fault of nobody. Scott McClendon and Bobby Mikes were racing side-by-side for fourth place exiting turn four when a massive net code spin occurred, causing Mikes to slide down into McClendon. The ensuing melee eliminated or caused crippling damage to more than a dozen cars.
Eleven of the 35 starters finished on the lead lap. 17 cars were running at completion of the event. Eight drivers swapped the lead 31 times.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by DMLC Racing Channel next heads to its first road course event in 2020. The SimXperience Grand Prix at The Glen is scheduled for Thursday, April 2, and can be seen live at 10:35 p.m. EST on the iRacing eSports Network, with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action.