The Lionheart IndyCar Series is by far and away the premiere fixed setup league for the IndyCar on iRacing. With races being broadcast by GSRC, and play by play and color commentary from Sean Ambrose and Evan Posocco, it is a spectacle to be seen. So far this season racers have ventured to six different venues across the American continent spanning primarily the oval discipline, but still having visited the road courses already twice in the six weeks so far.
Reigning champion Jesse Vincent took the double points season opener at Michigan International Speedway with Tony Lurcock and Rick Music close behind to finish off the podium. Week Two saw the team visiting the cornfields at Iowa Speedway as Rick Music dominated and ended up with the win. His only challengers were Austin Espitee in second and Ray Kingsbury in third, who was the only other driver to lead a lap. The third stop on the tour saw drivers roar their Dallaras around Chicagoland, the season’s first 1.5 mile oval. Matt A Kingsbury, Austin Espitee, and Ray Kingsbury swept the podium for Last Lap Motorsports. The fourth stop of the season, and the first road course race, was at Sonoma Raceway’s NASCAR Cup configuration which saw the open wheelers tackle some high curbs and lapped traffic. Jesse Vincent persevered over Matt A Kingsbury and Michael Gray as well as 31 other drivers who dared to start the race. Another 1.5 mile was the fifth stop of the season – Homestead-Miami Speedway. Joe Hassert and Matt A Kingsbury came home first and second with Bradley Walters in the third position. Week Six, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, saw another victory for Jesse Vincent with Michael Gray and Ray Kingsbury also revisiting the podium. With six weeks down Vincent enjoyed a comfortable lead the points over Music, M. Kingsbury, R.Kingsbury and Trevor Malone. However, Week Seven would see the teams visit the first flat track on the schedule, the newly repaved Phoenix International Raceway. With plenty of grip to offer this would almost play out as a bit of a bull ring.
Due to the high amount of grip at Phoenix, qualifying position and pit strategy would prove to be paramount. After two weeks of practice sessions it became apparent that the qualifying line at Phoenix would not be on the racing surface in Turns 3 and 4, but rather along the inside wall on the apron. This meant that qualifying would be extremely tricky. From the early goings it looked like Pierre Daigle could be a contender at the front as well as Dan Geren, Trevor Malone, Joe Hassert, and the Kingsbury brothers. However after the dust settled and the times had been set it was Jack Bogan who surprised everyone with the pole position. Matt A Kingsbury tied his time but was relegated to the outside on the start. Tony Lurcock put himself third on the grid with Austin Espitee to his outside. Ray Kingsbury and Joe Hassert comprised the third row. Bogan led the field to the green but quickly found himself swapped as M. Kingsbury and Espitee rushed past with Lurcock and R. Kingsbury taking advantage as well. Hassert would also find his way by in the early running. An incident involving Krysta Nelson and Pierre Daigle saw the field go under caution and the leaders opted not to pit.
Espitee led the field to green after stealing it from Kingsbury; however with just a couple laps under green until Korey Connor made contact with Dan Geren who lost control of his Dallara DW12 upon rejoining the racing surface, ending the race for himself and a few otherd. Krysta Nelson was collected in collateral yet again as her race went from bad to worse. On the next restart the four Last Lap Motorsports drivers opted not to challenge each other and proceeded to break away from the field almost immediately with Jack Bogan proving hard to pass further back, allowing for the leaders to sail off into the sunset. Joe Hassert pushed to put himself ahead of Austin Espitee who fell in line second with Ray Kingsbury third and Matt fourth. Matt would soon challenge for the third spot to shuffle the order a little bit. Jesse Vincent was getting racy in the large pack queued behind Bogan, but unable to make his way through the large quantity of cars. Bradley Walters was the closest to succeeding but aggressive driving from Bogan saw him retain the position for the time being. With the laps running down on the leaders’ fuel window, they caught a break when the caution flew putting them back on strategy with the rest of the field. It was Drew Motz who was forced to tow his car to the garage after Motz lost rear end grip on his Dallara from the sidedraft off of the 888 of Michael Gray.
Hassert won the race off pitlane followed by Espitee, Matt and Ray with Jack Bogan retaining his fifth position off of pitlane. With around 80 laps remaining Hassert put his foot down and his three teammates followed suit as Bogan saw himself push high off of Turn Two and Jesse Vincent and Korey Connor found their way past him on the low side. Meanwhile, Espitee accidentally pushed his pitlimiter with Matt just on his wing. The resulting contact damaged Espitee’s rear wing and Matt’s front wing with both drivers able to carry on at speed despite some performance hindrance. Due to the draft Matt was able to hold onto the lead group and Ray’s wing, but Espitee was forced to push hard with the added drag on the back of his car.
Further back, Jesse Vincent took the lead of the second pack as Bogan held Connor at bay and stayed second in line. Trevor Malone lined himself up for a shot at Bogan only for Connor to pass him. Vincent was pushed wide by Bogan, who was then crossed over by Connor for the lead of the group. That did not last long as Bogan reclaimed the lead of the train and Connor fell back two spots. Malone was now in line to possibly inherit the lead of the group but Vincent forced it three wide with Connor and Malone! The front four cars remained single file with Hassert setting the pace until the caution flag flew on Lap 62 on account of Korey Connor and Jack Bogan getting together in a heavy defensive effort that saw Bogan himself flipping over the catch fence, while Malone and Vincent escaped unharmed.
The leaders pitted under this caution at around the half way mark and the running order after pit stops was Hassert, Espitee, R.Kingsbury, Vincent, M.Kingsbury, and Malone. Matt had lost a few positions in the process of replacing his front wing. Van Hartung, Michael Gray, and Carl Burk neglected to pit in hopes that caution flags would fly before their pistops.
Van Hartung led the field out but the action started as Ray slipped by Espitee’s handicapped Dallara. Trevor Malone, Jesse Vincent, and Matt A Kingsbury went three wide with all drivers surviving, however Vincent put four tires below the apron in Turn Three and decided to relinquish the positions. Kingsbury was able to slide on through and easily pass the damaged Espitee. Hassert and Ray Kingsbury worked their way by Carl Burk and Vincent Blumenthal but were unable to catch Van Hartung and Gray who would pit in the following few laps. Espitee’s Dallara fell behind Malone as he tried to use the draft as a brace. Jason Robarge was the center of attention as he battled with Vincent and Walters at the back of the field, which at this point had spread out significantly. Van Hartung and Gray had to come down for fuel as Hassert and the Kingsbury brothers lined up to break away from the rest of the lead lap cars.
With 42 laps remaining Malone had reached the back of the three leading Last Lap Motorsports cars. Malone had started near the rear of the grid but proved to have the focus to make his way through traffic and towards the front. This train continued as cars in the back half of the field continued to engage in smaller battles. Malone did challenge Matt but was unable to do anything with it as the Last Lap Motorsports driver got some help from his teammates down the straight aways. Similarly, Vincent and Laxton worked together at the head of the second pack in an attempt to run down the leading pack. At this point, Espitee pulled onto pit road and retired his Dallara due to lack of pace resulting the rear wing damage. Green flag racing continued until Jorge Anzaldo found himself spun around on Lap 98. Anzaldo threw his car under Laxton in Turn One, tagged the apron and slowed down in front of the following Robarge, resulting in contact and a caution.
All the leaders dove down pit road with Hassert followed by the Kingsbury brothers and Malone. Hassert and Ray opted for no tires and fuel only with Ray taking six gallons and Joe seven gallons. This lead Ray Kingsbury to take over the lead for the first time that night with just 25 laps remaining. Hassert would be second, Matt third with fresh tires, followed by Trevor Malone. Many drivers opted to take the wave around to get their lap back.
On Lap 103 the field came back around for the green flag with Ray out in front followed by his teammates and rivals Malone and Vincent. Ray and Joe got away but before Ray could lead the lap Big Joe pushed through for the lead. It was a top three breakaway again as Malone and Vincent battled for the fourth spot. Ray didn’t wait to retake the lead as he weaved his way between both Hassert and Matt. Ray couldn’t clear Hassert immediately and Joe found himself shuffled back to fourth behind Malone. Matt made his way to second while Hassert fought his way on the outside of Malone only to slide in behind him. Laxton had a go at Hassert but was not successful as Matt was busy fending-off Malone. Ray continued to lead with 15 laps to go and Hassert continued to look to get his nose under Malone only for Vincent to do the same to him. Hassert defended cleanly on the high side and held onto fourth. The caution flag flew with 13 laps to go as Joshua Borje-Bonkowski rolled down the start finish straight as a result of being T-boned by a spinning Carl Burk.
Ray led the field to the green with just nine laps remaining with his brother situated on his wing. A poor start by Malone enabled Hassert to get inside of and clear the other driver before making it to the dogleg. On Lap 117 the caution flag flew again as Rudy Avalon lost his Dallara on the apron just after the restart and spun in front of traffic, luckily no cars were involved and Avalon escaped with just a damaged front wing. Now, it was Ray Kingsbury, Matt A Kingsbury, Joe Hassert, Trevor Malone, and Jesse Vincent leading the field to the green flag. Ray again brought the field to green for a Green-White-Checkered finish. He got a good start leaving Matt just a little behind this time and allowing Hassert a shot at it as Joe threw it in under Matt in Turn Three.
“Bad news for the 021, good news for the 52 as here comes Big Joe Hassert.” – Evan Posocco
Matt returned the favor on the white flag and this allowed for Malone to make it three wide on the exit of Two. Hassert and Matt were neck and neck into the last corner with Matt throwing it on the apron to try and beat his teammate to the line. Joe held the higher arch and won the drag race to the line for second. Ray was able to take home the checkered flag with teammates Hassert and Matt A Kingsbury finishing out the podium. Trevor Malone was the darkhorse and brought his no. 69 Dallara to the fourth position just ahead of the Team #nailedit machine of Jesse Vincent and the OverdriveGraphics machine of Justin Laxton. Jason T Robarge came home in seventh followed by Bradley Walters and Robert Blouin. Krysta Nelson overcame adversity and brought her colorfully represented no.25 to the tenth position.