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KARAM COMES UP CLUTCH AT BARBER

The final five laps went against every instinct Sage Karam has developed in his career in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Less throttle, slower laps, pressing the clutch and watching lapped cars drive away.

But it all paid off in the end. The Coanda Sim Sport driver managed an astonishing 28 laps on the final fuel stint and held off a hard-charging Adam Blocker to win the Minus 273 Grand Prix of Barber Thursday night.

It was Karam’s league-leading third win of 2019 in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker.

“I did 28 laps that last stint, I had to make up three or four laps,” Karam said. “I had to commit pretty early to push that fuel saving. Definitely a tough race, but we had to do what we had to do and thankfully I knew how to save fuel at the right times and got it done.”

Karam paced Blocker, the defending series champion making his season debut, over the opening stint of what many expected to be a two stop race. That seemed even more true when Karam hit pit road coming to lap 26 in the 53 lap event.

But it was soon evident Blocker would be able to make the race on one stop – especially after serving a drive-through penalty with no service allowed for avoidable contact, a penalty resulting from contact while lapping Cody Edlred in the final two corners on lap 20.

When Blocker exited his fuel stop on lap 27 still within 20 seconds of Karam, despite making contact with the wall on pit entry, Karam knew he had to find a way to make it to the end or give up the win to the champion.

Karam spent the final five laps pushing in the clutch in nearly every corner, gliding the car through the first section of the track and keeping an eye on Blocker as the Clemson student closed the gap to less than three seconds on the final lap.

“You can make a lot of mistakes when you’re trying to fuel save,” Karam said. “I’ve never had to push in the clutch. There were a few times where I’d go down into turn three and let out the clutch and it would try to spin on me and that was difficult.”

Karam ran out of fuel as the car crossed the finish line.

Blocker was adamant he had the fuel to make it even without the penalty, pushing to the max over the final 5 laps to try and catch Karam or force a mistake.

“That penalty didn’t help me at all,” Blocker said. “I was going to be able to go 26 laps no matter what…I thought I had a good shot at it. I actually saved too much fuel. Had I started pushing three or four laps earlier, maybe I could’ve got to him. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to pass him, but it was fun.”

While Blocker didn’t disagree that his contact with Eldred was a bit forced, he did say he felt Eldred did a poor job of letting the leaders around in an already difficult section.

“He did something really awkward,” Blocker said. “You either have to let someone go middle of the corner or on the straight. I got into him, but we both got out of it fine with no damage.”

Series points leader Ryan Otis also found himself in an intense battle over the final 10 laps, battling a heavily damaged car – the result of also catching the wall during his sole pit stop – and holding off rookie George Sandman by .317 seconds at the stripe.

“I had about 40 seconds of optional repairs that I didn’t take after that mistake,” Otis said. “I was struggling with the car after that. George was faster, but I knew it would be hard to pass. This is a difficult place to pass.”

Aaron Morgan continued his strong run of late with a fifth place finish, passing an out of fuel J.P. Windschitl by inches at the finish.

25 of the 31 starters finished the race. Eight cars finished on the lead lap. James Paulson and David Altman both retired after big incidents, the only two major crashes in the event.

Otis now leads Karam by 91 points. Dustin Wardlow, who finished 10th after needing a second fuel stop, is 24 points behind Karam in third.

The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker takes a month off to prepare for its biggest race of the season. The ButtKicker Indy 250 is scheduled for Thursday, August 29 at 10:35 p.m. EST. Defending race winner Alex Saunders and Blocker have both indicated their intentions of running, adding to the already strong field. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action.

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CANDYMAN VICTORIOUS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire Motor Speedway might as well be renamed Candyland.

Dustin Wardlow took the lead with 20 laps to go and held off early race favorite Marc Cohn to win the Tower Rentals 175 Thursday night.

It was the second consecutive win for Wardlow at NHMS in the Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker.

“Cross your fingers and stay off the wall,” Wardlow joked when asked why he’s been so good at the Magic Mile. “I don’t know, but I’m liking it, whatever it is.”

Known as the Candy Man – after his longtime sponsor Dewar’s Candy – the Bakersfield, Calif. driver spent most of the race chasing Cohn, who led a race-high 118 laps from the pole.

But after green flag stops, and while battling back through off-strategy cars, Wardlow took advantage of Cohn’s mistake exiting turn two and rocketed past on lap 138. Wardlow inherited the lead when the caution flew with 21 laps remaining and the leaders hit pit lane for fuel.

“That whole race was about trying to stay within half a second,” Wardlow said. “And then everything just kinda broke my way again with the traffic.”

Cohn couldn’t help but feel dejected despite his second-place finish and strong points night.

“I did everything I could with lapped traffic,” Cohn said. “I got held up for a while and it was costing me time, I made a mistake forcing the move and went high and that ultimately cost me the lead. Driver error.”

Big Joe Hassert sliced his way through the field over the final 40 laps, moving up from outside the top five to the podium in the final 40 laps.

“I got a little happy on the loud pedal (on the final restart),” Hassert said. “I tried to time out Dustin and swung and missed. All the sudden, there was Aaron. It was a good battle.”

Aaron Morgan and Scott Holmes rounded out the top five.

The race saw the caution flag fly seven times for 25 laps, including the final yellow with three laps remaining. The race-ending wreck had major championship implications.

Ryan Otis, the points leader and on a run of seven consecutive top five finishes, went tumbling down the front straight after Holmes pushed up the track and into him in a battle for fifth.

Otis finished 19th, his worst effort of the season.

As a result, the championship battle tightened up.

Otis leads Wardlow by 100 points. Sage Karam, who missed the event while racing in the NTT IndyCar Series event in Toronto, sits third, just four points behind Wardlow. Cohn jumped up to fourth, another five behind Karam.

The Lionheart Retro Series presented by ButtKicker heads back to the road and a doubleheader week with its sister series, the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, in the rolling hills of Alabama.

The Minus 273 Grand Prix of Barber is scheduled for Thursday, July 25 and can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network at 10:35 p.m. EST, with Global SimRacing Channel on the call.

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LIONHEART ROLLS INTO BARBER FOR THE MINUS 273 GRAND PRIX

The Milk has been drunk. Andrew Kinsella is a Lionheart Indy 500 champion. The Brats have been cooked. The annual Lionheart meetup at the real-life Iowa IndyCar race produced some amazing memories. Now it is time to drive once again. The Minus 273 Grand Prix of Barber is the next challenge for the warriors of the Lionheart IndyCar Series.

Last time at the Indy 500, it all came down to a 3-lap shootout. Points leader Adam Blocker, who started the race in 28th, but worked his way into the lead, and looked to hold off the gaggle of cars behind him. Michael Goodman, Justin Weaver and Tony Showen all took runs at him. Blocker hugged the white line and held them off, but Andrew Kinsella, restarting 4th, shadowed Blocker for 2 laps before making his move. Using Blocker’s draft off of turn 4 with 1 lap to go, Kinsella lead at the line and went side-by-side with his teammate through the first 2 turns. Entering 3, Blocker edged ahead and Kinsella fell in behind again. It turns out that was exactly what Kinsella hoped for. Just like the lap before, Kinsella used Blockers draft to sling shot passed Blocker to take the win at the line by a scant 0.021 seconds. Weaver held off a charging Big Joe Hassert for 4th, while Tony Showen rounded out the top 5. Some early hopefuls met with an early end to their days. Dan Geren was strong for the first half of the race, but some caution flags shuffled him back in the order and as he was moving back through the field, he got tangled with Joe Branch, who had also been strong all day long. Chris Stofer brought out the final caution of the race after leading 27 laps. Stofer was recovering from a penalty when a check-up saw Stofer and Greenlee get together on the front stretch in a spectacular crash.

In other news, this past weekend saw Lionheart’s Iowa meetup at the IndyCar race. Between 45-50 Lionheart drivers, friends and family members all gathered at the IndyCar race to watch Lionheart regular Sage Karam take on the best the NTT IndyCar Series had to offer, and create memories to last a life time.

Now the IndyCar Series drivers shift focus to a brand-new challenge. Barber is back on the IndyCar schedule after it was last run back in season 3. The tight and technical track will be a challenge for all the drivers this week. Precise braking combined with the right mix of bravery and caution will be needed as sweeping multi apex corners give way to tight hairpins.

Coming off his first win in more then a season Andrew Kinsella will be looking to keep the momentum going with a strong showing at Barber. While the Canadian has never been the fastest driver on a road course full stop, he has proven time and again to be able to get a car home in one piece. The adrenaline driver’s foible, however, always seems to be his qualifying run. With passing notoriously difficult at Barber, this will have to change if Kinsella is to have a shot at the podium or a win.

Adam Blocker will be the one he will need to go through, however. Blocker is having a season for the ages, which is saying something with the stacks of talent in Lionheart this year. Karam, Geren, Kinsella, Goodman, Weaver, and Hassert have all shown speed, but the remarkable consistency the Carolina driver has shown simply hasn’t been matched. 11 finishes of 4th or better in 12 races says all that needs to be said. It will take some mistakes and some bad luck for anyone but Blocker to win the title as the season swings to the 2nd half this week.

Speaking of Karam, the Pennsylvania driver has been away from Lionheart the past 2 weeks while driving a real IndyCar. His status for this Wednesday’s race is unknown, but if he is able to make it, look for Karam to be a driver to seriously challenge Blocker for the win.

For another epic Lionheart race, tune into the Minus273 Grand Prix of Barber this Wednesday, July 24th at 10:35pm eastern only on the iRacing eSports Network present by GSRC.

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​Dan Geren was not going to be denied.

The Iowa native took on all challengers and never backed down – rarely even giving up a lap – leading a race-high 102 laps from the pole and capturing the LPM 200 at Texas Motor Speedway Wednesday night.

It was the third win of the season for the Synergy Motorsports driver in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.

“Clean air was king,” Geren said after leading 102 of 134 laps. “If you could hold the bottom, after about 15 laps the aero wash behind was too hard to deal with.”

Geren held off challenges all race long. Lap after lap, drivers lined up to stake a shot at Geren: Brian Beard, Sage Karam, Connor Harrington, Jason Galvin, Brandon Limkemann, Brian Yaczik and more. Only twice did Geren truly get passed for the lead, and he rocketed back to the front shortly after each time.

“I knew I had to do something after Adam Blocker had issues,” Geren said. “We’re trying to make a move in the points.”

Karam survived a scramble to the finish to hang on for second. A caution with two laps remaining prevent Galvin from making a late charge.

“I knew clean air was everything, so I wanted to be first or second knowing you could run both lanes here,” Karam said. “Happy to come home in second. I just didn’t have the tire to get under Dan at the end.”

Galvin captured third, after nearly wrecking when Damon Martinez forced the Milwaukee winner onto the apron in turn three. The Loud Pedal Motorsports driver charged back to a podium spot using the outside lane late in the race.

“I backed off at one point,” Galvin said. “I had zero faith the front cars were going to make it to the end. I got lucky I was able to battle back to third at the end. That race was insane.”

Joe Branch and Joe Hassert completed the top five.

The race ended under caution when Harrington squeezed four wide entering turn three. The lapped car of Bart Workman was up against the wall, and Harrington came down to make slight contact with Hassert.

While gathering the car, Isaiah Dupree attempted to pass Harrington. Contact between the two shoved Harrington back up into Workman, who hit the wall to bring out the race ending caution.

Dupree held on for seventh, just behind Michael Goodman. Harrington slipped to tenth.

The championship battle regained some intrigue with Geren’s maximum points night (pole, most laps led and no incident points combined with a win).

Defending series champion Adam Blocker was twice swept up in crashes not of his doing.

First, on lap 20, Karam pushed up the hill exiting turn two. Chris Stofer was making his move on the high side and ended up in the wall, with Brandon Limkemann left with nowhere to go.

As Limkemann spun down the track, Blocker plowed into him. Limkemann and Stofer were both unable to continue. Blocker’s pit crew went to work replacing the front wing and trying to salvage a good points finish.

Then, on lap 58, the big one struck. Tyler Graaf pushed exiting turn two, tagging the wall. The ensuing crash took out Blocker, George Sandman, Dustin Wardlow and Marc Cohn.

As a result, Blocker’s lead over Geren shrunk to 122 points. That’s even more important with the double points Indy 500 up next.

The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down Indianapolis 500 presented by Dewar’s Candy is set for Saturday, July 13 at 4:00 p.m. EST. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with presentation by Global SimRacing Channel.

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 JASON GALVIN WINS THRILLER AFTER BIZARRE NIGHT AT MILWAUKEE

In the end, it all worked out like it should. At least, that’s what Jason Galvin thought. The Bakersfield, Calif. driver led the most laps in a mostly dominating victory in the Simpit 200 at the virtual Milwaukee Mile Wednesday night.

But the race was not without its oddball moments and featured a thrilling finish on the tight one-mile oval.

“The last ten laps were like hold on for dear life,” Galvin said. “The car was light on fuel, the track was hot, the tires were old. I thought I was wrecked in turn one on the final lap. But it all worked out.”

The win was the fifth of his career for Galvin in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.

After capturing his first career pole, Galvin jumped out to an early lead before the race was red flagged following the opening caution on lap five. A race session error caused officials to call for a complete restart, including qualifying.

Over the final 15 laps, Blocker closed the gap to Galvin and made multiple attempts to complete a pass on the outside to no avail.

On the final lap, Galvin’s car pushed wide in turn two, allowing Blocker to get a run down the back straight. After popping to the outside and even taking the lead by a nose in the final corner, Galvin powered back in front on the bottom and won by a half-car length.

The final margin of victory: 0.062 seconds.

“Adam and I have had our moments in the past,” Galvin said. “But we’ve raced so well together this year in the few times we’ve been able to. I respect him so much. He ran clean all night.”

Blocker said he did everything he could to get around Galvin, but ran out of laps.

“As Jason said, I kinda screwed up the strategy a little bit,” Blocker said. “I guess it could’ve gone either way depending on how cautions went. Then we had a incident on the next pit stop, there was a checkup and I hit (Dustin) Wardlow. It was enough to give him a rear wing change and me a front. That put me back.

“Just slowly over the green runs made up track position, taking advantage of others’ mistakes in traffic. The last stint, I knew Jason would pit early. I figured he would come out in front of me but I’m not in a position to risk short-pitting because of the points. It worked out because Galvin caught some traffic and I had much better tires, and it really allowed me to attack. Good race to Galvin, that was fun. We raced clean.”

Galvin said he didn’t disagree with the call to form a new session, but was nonetheless selfishly disappointed. In the second session, Galvin qualified third behind championship leader Adam Blocker and Justin Weaver.

Blocker’s decision to pit on a lap 27 caution ultimately may have been the difference in the race.

Galvin stayed out – along with several other top ten cars – and inherited a lead that he would only lose during pit cycles.

“I knew track position was important, I wanted to be out front,” Galvin said. “I don’t think I was the fastest car. I think Adam and Justin and even Mike were all better than me honestly. But track position was everything.”

Michael Goodman came home third, having run in the top five the entire race.

“I had a great night,” Goodman said. “I made a mistake early on and lost some confidence. Then I almost lost the car. I wanna apologize to Justin, it probably ruined his race. But it just feels good to have all the hard work, and see some good results.”

Goodman was part of the biggest scare amongst contenders. On lap 132, the top four of Galvin, Goodman, Weaver and Blocker overtook then-leader Samuel Reiman, who was on the tail end of his fuel run.

As Goodman exited turn two, behind the dirty air of Galvin, the car stepped out. Justin Weaver nearly clobbered Goodman, and Blocker made an evasive move to the inside to jump from fourth to second.

Weaver would pit under a caution two laps later, banking on more wrecks that would allow the Nashville driver to get to the end on fuel.

But the lap 134 caution for Isaiah Dupree’s spin proved to be the final of seven yellow flags.

Weaver inherited the lead for a few laps late in the event, but had to hit pit road with 10 laps remaining for a splash of fuel. Weaver settled for fifth, right behind Dan Geren. Big Joe Hassert was sixth after starting 25th, the biggest mover in the race.

Weaver’s fuel stop setup the dramatic dash to the end between Galvin and Blocker, leading to the closest finish in Milwaukee history in the Lionheart series.

The 2019 running of the Simpit 200 was much cleaner than last year’s event. After a record 17 cautions in 2018, the seven yellow flags this year were seen as a surprise.

19 of the 34 starters finished the race. 12 cars finished on the lead lap.

Blocker’s points lead improved to 172 over Geren. Andrew Kinsella missed the event, falling to eighth in points. As a result, Michael Goodman jumped to third, a stark 71 points behind Geren.

The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment returns this week. The LPM 200 at Texas Motor Speedway is set for Wednesday, July 3 at 10:35 p.m. EST. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action. Justin Weaver is the defending winner of the event.

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