Goke (08) was flying at Michigan! Here he takes the lead from Branch early in the Autism Awareness 200.

Round 8 of the Lionheart IndyCar Series brought the best sim racers in the world to Michigan International Raceway for the Autism Awareness 200. The third trip to a superspeedway for the iRacing-based IndyCar league resulted in the cleanest race of the season, as United Stated Air Force airman Jonathan Goke picked-up his first win of the year in a caution-free affair.

“To go caution-free with these guys, and all the lapped cars giving way, and that amazing battle I had with Joe (Hassert), it’s the perfect way to end this season with Lionheart,” said Goke, whose impending deployment will strip him of a chance to run for the championship.  “It’s outstanding.”

iRacing.com Season 3 Fixed IndyCar champion Joe Hassert finished second, 1.606 seconds behind Goke. The two dominated the ‘laps led’ column, with Goke pacing the field for 42 laps and Hassert leading 36. The only other driver with double digit laps led was Korey Conner, with 12, mostly during green flag pit stops.

Branch (28) and Hassert battle for the lead in opening laps of the Autism Awareness 200.

As is often the case in races with a minimal number of incidents, this race came down to pit strategy. Twice Goke came in second and beat Hassert off pit road. On the final round of stops, Goke pitted early, taking advantage of the fresh tires and stretching his fuel to the finish.

“On that very last run I knew, I did my calculations, I knew 28, 29 laps was a far as I could go,” Goke said from the virtual victory lane. “We were coming up on a huge pack of lapped cars, so I knew I didn’t want to go one more lap, so I came in real quick.”

“It’s the perfect way to end this season with Lionheart.” – Jonathan Goke

The early stop doomed Hassert, who wasn’t as clean as Goke getting on to pit road all night.

“I slid through my pits twice, skidded in a couple times, got caught behind lapped cars pretty much every time I came in,” Hassert said. “A little bit of bad luck, a little bit of mistakes and it cost me two seconds.”

Despite heavy pack racing for most of the race, the Autism Awareness 200 ran caution-free.

Polesitter Tony Lurcock finished third, with Conner and Joe Branch rounding out the top five.

Chris Stofer drove from 18th to sixth, with James Krahula, Dan Geren, Pierre Daigle and Ian Adams rounding out the top ten.

Series point leader Jake Wright started 29th and lost a lap in the pits. He finished outside the top ten for just the second time, in 22nd. Wright’s points lead over Hassert shrunk to 52, with Joe Branch 90 back of Wright in third, despite missing a race earlier in the year.

Going out in style: Goke earned his first win of the season in the Lionheart IndyCar Series at MIS and will sit the rest of the season out while deployed with the United States Air Force.

28 of the 29 starters finished the race, with 16 cars completing all 200 miles. Six drivers exchanged the lead 16 times.

The Lionheart IndyCar Series gets a 10-day break before its biggest race of the year: the iRace for Gage Indianapolis 500, the second triple crown race and a double points event. The green flag drops for 200 laps of fixed IndyCar sim racing action on Sunday, October 4, at 4:00 p.m. EST.  You can watch the race live on Global SimRacing Channel.

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