July 22nd, 2020 by Jason Galvin
If there’s a better fixed setup IndyCar racer in the world, please stand up and make yourself known.
Until then, that title firmly belongs to Sage Karam.
The NTT IndyCar Series veteran capped off a perfect year at the Brickyard, dominating the final stages of the Lionheart HyperX Indianapolis 500 with a win in the biggest event for iRacing’s top fixed setup Indy Car series.
“We had a great strategy going,” Karam said. “I think without the final yellow we probably still would have won. We had great pace, and would’ve had fresher tires. We had the right strategy. It was a good run.”
Karam, who also won the top-split broadcasted fixed Indy 500 hosted by iRacing.com one month ago, had to be having deja vu as he looked in the mirrors and found Nathan Lewis closing in.
But Lewis got caught in the aero turbulence and with older tires, had to settle for second in an identical result to the official series Indy 500.
“It’s been a great year so far,” Karam said. “I think once the tires started to wear off 10 laps into a stint, it was really hard to get close, nearly impossible. I think that’s why you saw people going so hard on restarts.”
It was the fourth win of the season for Karam in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
Lewis led his teammate, Connor Harrington, across the stripe after rallying from a 23rd place starting position.
“I didn’t think about finishing top three when we started this race,” Lewis said. “I didn’t qualify very well. I was stuck in 18th or 19th early. I gambled on a caution for track position. Kinda a little mad because I lost to Sage again, I lost to him in the Indy fixed 500, but it is what it is.”
Harrington, who won the Lionheart Indy GP on the road course two weeks earlier, closed out the podium by leapfrogging former Lionheart Indy 500 champions Adam Blocker and Andrew Kinsella on the final green flag run.
“I didn’t have high expectations,” Harrington said. “I wanted to just run 200 laps and get a good finish. We got a lucky break with a caution and capitalized on that with fresher tires and track position. It ended up being a good day for us.”
Despite missing the season opener, Karam now leads the championship battle by 96 points over Harrington. Kinsella sits third, with Blocker, a two-time defending series champion, fourth.
Kinsella and Blocker appeared poised to steal the win on strategy after staying out on a caution just past the halfway point. But the duo, along with Jason Galvin, were doomed when a final caution flew with just over 40 laps remaining.
As a result, the off-strategy group were forced to take full fuel on the final green flag stop, while the rest of the field was able to take advantage of a short-pit scenario.
As has been the norm for the Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX, the race ran incredibly clean.
Just five cautions slowed the action for 15 total laps.
The most impactful incident came on the final lap, as Arjuna Kankipati tried to limp his car home while running on fumes. Adrian Fernandez, a veteran of four Indianapolis 500’s, was closing in fast, trying to snag a top 10 in his first virtual running of the race.
Coming off turn four with the checkers in sight, Fernandez got into Kankipati, sending both into the wall while also collecting Chris Lanini.
This allowed Jake Wright to slip into the top 10, followed by teammates Jason Galvin and Lanini, while Kankipati and Fernandez fell to 17th and 18th respectively.
Another incident that went without caution but could have severely impacted the outcome of the race involved Josh Chin, who led 30 laps early. Karam’s teammate slapped the wall running in fifth midway through the event, leaving the eventual winner without a partner for the end of the race against Blocker and Kinsella.
39 drivers started the event. Big Joe Hassert, a perennial contender, was the first car out after a lap three incident with Mike Rigney. Rigney got into the wall exiting turn one, and slid down into Hassert, who was catapulted into the inside wall.
21 drivers finished the race.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment takes a much needed month-long break, and returns on Wednesday, July 29 for the Turn Racing Grand Prix of Sonoma.
The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with Global SimRacing Channel producing the show at 10:35 p.m. EST.