September 27th, 2016 by Patrick Taylor
It’s been a while since Miles the Monster has seen an Indycar. The mascot for Dover International Speedway will finally get the chance to enjoy open wheel racing again when the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment stops at Iracing’s virtual re-creation of the 1-mile oval, affectionately known as the “Monster Mile.”
Open-wheel racing at Dover actually dates back to 1969 – the first year of operation for the iconic track. Stars such as A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Gary Bettenhausen were among the 22 USAC drivers who tried to tame the high-banked oval, although Art Pollard eventually won the race in a Plymouth-powered Gerhardt chassis. Only 10 cars finished, and Dover would not return to the USAC calendar again, primarily due to safety concerns.
Twenty-nine years later, open-wheeled cars would return to Dover – this time as part of the upstart Indy Racing League’s 1998 schedule. Appropriately, 22 cars would once again start the race, and only 10 would finish. Scott Sharp took the win, with Buddy Lazier and Marco Greco rounding out the podium. The Indy Racing League returned for an encore in 1999 with Greg Ray winning the race. This would be the final Indycar event that Dover has hosted to this day.
For Lionheart, Dover is the second short oval the series has visited in as many weeks. Team #NailedIt had plenty to celebrate last week at Iowa as Ian Adams earned his first career win and fifth overall for the team this season. Unfortunately teammate Dan Geren’s championship hopes were dealt a harsh blow when he was collected in a major incident on Lap 37 while leading the race. Geren would finish 32nd, while championship leader Jake Wright survived Iowa unscathed in fifth place, extending his lead over Geren to 194 points.
Dover will be one of five races remaining in the 2016 Lionheart season and Geren still has a shot at the title. However, he no longer controls his own destiny. If Geren wins every remaining race, he still needs Wright to suffer some uncharacteristic misfortune along the way in order to close the gap. Even modest finishes will likely secure Wright a second-consecutive sim racing championship.
Dover could well be the most chaotic event of the season. While Iowa was unpredictable, Dover is a complete unknown. Lionheart has never raced here before, and the track rarely plays host to any Indycar racing on the iRacing service. In fact, several league members have just recently purchased the track to prepare for the race. Wright’s lead over Geren may be secure no matter what transpires, but the same cannot be said for many other positions in the standings.
A solid performance from Jason Robarge could move him ahead of currently-deployed Jonathan Goke for third place overall in the standings. Robarge has never finished higher than sixth, so earning a plaque this season would certainly be a major source of motivation for the AGR Motorsports simracer. Just behind him, the No Name Racing duo of James Krahula and Pierre Daigle are vying for fifth overall. With just 40 points between them, either driver could claim a top-five (or better) by the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Joe Flanagan and Ron Hacker are both eyeing the Dan Wheldon Rookie of the Year Award. It’s an unusual situation because Jonathan Goke leads the race by a dominant 151 points over second-place Flanagan. However, Goke’s service with the United States Air Force will keep him from competing for the remainder of 2016. Goke could still hang on if both Hacker and Flanagan fall on hard times, but with double points on the line in the season finale, it’s very likely one of the two will claim the title that Jake Wright earned last season.
Should the usual front-runners fall victim to the “Monster Mile,” there are countless underdogs who could find themselves in victory lane this week. Ed Tutwiler finished seventh at Iowa, gaining twenty spots during the race. Jorge Anzaldo earned his first career pole last week and proved with last seasons win at Iowa that he can survive a battle of attrition. Meanwhile, Tony Lurcock returned strongly at Iowa after a short hiatus due to computer issues and could be a factor once again this week. Finally, Brandon Limkemann qualified a solid third at Iowa and led 16 laps in his hometown race. Limkemann will look to build on the momentum this week and perhaps score his first-career win.
The first-ever Lionheart Monster Mile Challenge will be broadcast live on the Global SimRacing Channel (GSRC) and Iracing Live on Wednesday, September 28th, beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.
The first-ever Lionheart Monster Mile Challenge will be broadcast live on the Global SimRacing Channel (GSRC) and iRacing Live on Wednesday, September 28th, beginning at 10:35PM ET. For more information about the Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, please visit www.lionheartracingseries.com.