Preview: Lionheart Speedway Series goes to Atlanta Motor Speedway for first time
The Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel is heading to iRacing’s virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time.
Atlanta Motor Speedway will be hosting the DMLC Racing Channel 200 on May 3. The 133-lap race is expected to be difficult with the lack of grip the track has, according to Team RaceVerse Red driver Matt Taylor.
“Atlanta can be deceptive. The track really eats the tires and I expect that will play a major role in the race Monday night,” said series points leader Chris Stofer. “I think it's going to come down to who can avoid the early wrecks and also manage their tires. We usually run a lot of green flag laps towards the middle to end of the race so look for tires to play a role on those long green flag runs.”
When the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by HyperX raced with the Dallara DW-12 at the track, each race had no more than four cautions.
As well, three of the four races that took place in that era of the series had double-digit lead changes.
Taylor said managing tire heat will be important to maintain pace in traffic.
“The big thing here will be managing the clean air and being smart in traffic,” said Taylor. “The car loses grip pretty progressively, so I'm hoping that makes for a fairly clean race.”
Stofer of Adrenaline Motorsports said he thinks with the potential high tire wear, the undercut could be very powerful for the race. He and Taylor estimate they can make it about 40 laps on fuel.
“I'm anxious to get in a pack and work on managing the aero wash. Those who are able to master that along with their tires will most likely come out on top,” said Stofer.
Barrett Rolph meanwhile felt the racing will be fast at Atlanta.
“I don't think I lifted once in all the laps I've done so far,” said Rolph. “I just turned my first laps ever here the other night. "Super Texas" was the first thing that came to mind.”
Stofer said while it is a good feeling to be the series points lead, he is still looking back at the second race of the season, the DMLC Racing Channel 200 at Texas, as a missed opportunity for a win.
He leads in the standings by 15 points over Alexis Newsome entering Atlanta.
“I've had some good luck but truth be told I'm still kicking myself for Texas,” said Stofer. “I felt that was one I let slip away because I knew better and should have saved fuel. Looking forward, it will be tough to maintain this lead. I just hope to keep finishing races and put myself in position to keep up the momentum I have built.”
Rolph, who enters the race tied for eighth in the standings, said he felt he was lucky to finish where he did at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rolph was involved in a Turn 1 incident which sent his Ascari Autosport car spinning. He still went on to finish in fourth.
“I was a bit lucky to finish where I did after the wild ride going into Turn 1, it was just unfortunate to get caught out like that.” said Rolph. “I was feeling pretty confident going into Homestead. Qualifying was a bit of a surprise, but I think I could have had a shot at getting into victory lane. The race was hectic all night so to get a top five was a great result.”
Rolph thinks Atlanta’s race will also be a bit wild.
“I wouldn't be shocked if you see three and maybe even four-wide,” said Rolph. “There's a lot of space and judging by the competition so far I'm expecting a spicy race from start to finish.”
For Taylor, his main goal is to continue his top 10 streak. So far, Taylor has finished no worse than 10th in four races.
“The first step will be setting a qualifying time that lands me somewhere in the top 10,” said Taylor. “From that point on it's going to require being really smart and getting lucky with cautions.”
Stofer said Atlanta is one of his favourite tracks. He said he thinks coming away with the victory will take a combination of luck and strategy.
“Many times the fastest car doesn't win here, so avoiding wrecks and being in position late in the race will be very important,” said Stofer. “If I'm there at the end, I certainly feel I have a good shot at winning with my experience here and in this car.
“But, there are some excellent drivers in the field and I think it will be important to remember to look at the big picture and remind myself that a top five when running for a championship is sometimes more important than laying it all on the line for a win this early in the season.”
Race coverage for the DMLC Racing Channel 200 at Atlanta begins at 10:35 p.m. ET on May 3. It can be watched on RaceSpot TV and ESTV.