July 19th, 2016 by Jason Galvin
The second annual I Race for Gage Indy 500 was full of surprises, except for in victory lane. When the dust settled on the 200 lap online race, iRacing.com fixed IndyCar overall points leader Jonathan Goke’s #08 sat atop the famed pylon, his first virtual Indianapolis 500 win in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
“This is amazing,” Goke said. “The car was so good all day. We nailed our pit stops and that was the difference.”
Goke dominated the race; his 124 laps led were nearly five times as many as the next driver. Despite a competitive event behind him, the United State Air Force veteran pulled away to win by 3.5 seconds over Jason Robarge.
“I’m definitely still sweating. That was a really fun race, working with Dan (Geren, Goke’s Team #NailedIt teammate),” Goke said. “But it seemed like it was pretty chill, me and him didn’t have to do much. I can’t say enough how awesome it is to be a part of this team.”
Robarge, a former Lionheart Indy winner, edged Geren in a photo finish for second, while leading 25 laps.
“My goal was to just have a running car by the end of it, this was my first 500 mile race. Insane,” said Robarge, who won a 250 mile event at Indy two seasons ago. “Dan and I tried to work together to catch Goke at the end there, it didn’t work. I realized with three to go there, I had to make my move for second.”
Geren overcame previous struggles at the Brickyard to lead 13 laps and podium.
“Outstanding run, Goke and I helped each other most of the race. Unfortunately I went a little slower than I wanted to on the last pit stop, but better safe than sorry,” Geren said of losing touch with Goke on the final round of stops. “It was still a great run for us.”
Dylan Lee and Brandon Limkemann crossed in fourth and fifth, also in a photo finish.
Several notable Lionheart and virtual Indy 500 drivers were missing from the front of the pack.
Series point leader Jake Wright and defending Lionheart champion was involved in a multi-car wreck on lap 46, ending his race. Wright was pinched below Ian Adam exiting Turn One, and then drifted back into the racing line while losing momentum. Chris Stofer, himself an accomplished sim racer at Indy, could not slow quick enough and the two touched, setting off a crash that ended the race for former Lionheart Indy winner Michael Gray, Drew Motz, Brian Neff, and Kenneth McCoy. Former iRacing fixed champion Joe Hassert sustained serious damage and finished several laps down in 18th.
Polesitter Tony Lurcock and 16th Street Racing League Indy 500 champion Joe Branch were eliminated when Lurcock suffered internet connection problem and made contact with Branch under yellow on lap 55. Jason Galvin also battled connection issues and retired on lap 91.
A lap 156 crash took Bob Mikes out and effectively ended Pierre Daigle’s day as well. Seven cautions slowed the race for 22 laps. Eleven drivers swapped the lead 47 times. 10 of the 35 cars to start completed all 200 laps.
Ian Adams, Joe Flanagan, Ron Hacker, Matthew Mercer and James Krahula rounded out the top ten.
Goke looks to gain even more ground on Wright in the points at the series next stop in the rolling hills of wine country, at Sonoma Raceway in the Napa Valley of northern California. Wright is undefeated on road courses this season, winning all three events. The defending series champion leads Goke by 90 points, with Dan Geren, Jason Robarge and James Krahula the top five.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads to Sonoma for the GSRC Sonoma 100 on Wednesday, July 27. The race can be seen live on Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST. For more information, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.