Preview: Lionheart Speedway Series ready to run 500 miles at Brickyard
The Brickyard is a fabled place to race both virtually and in the real world.
This Sunday, the Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel will be heading to iRacing’s virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Sim Racing Studio Indy 500.
The 500-mile event is the second triple crown race of the 2021 season. It is also the longest race on the calendar overall.
“This is going to be a very different race, but I think I can adjust,” said Matt Taylor. “Having a large team of solid drivers certainly helps. I've mentioned before, but my sim racing experience is largely devoid of oval racing so I find myself learning something every race. It's been a fun challenge.”
Last round, Alexander van de Sandt was able to save enough fuel to go for two 45-lap stints to take the win at Kentucky Speedway. After nine rounds, the Team RaceVerse Black driver is heading into IMS with a 27-point deficit to Factory Backed’s Alexis Newsome in the standings. Double points are on the line for this race.
“I never anticipated being this close to the top going into this season,” said van de Sandt. “Right now I'm just taking it race by race, looking for good results, and keeping up momentum.”
Taylor, who drives for Team RaceVerse Red, is also in the championship discussion. Taylor has the most top 10s on the season with eight. He is currently 40 points behind Newsome in the standings.
“I'm very conflicted on how the first part of this season has gone for me,” said Taylor. “I've been really really close to a couple of wins and have been extremely consistent, which provides room for error with the drops.
“That being said, I don't find myself where I want to be in the standings. I need to start scoring more podiums and wins. That has to start this weekend. Double points makes this sort of a resetting point on the season. A good finish here can act as a boost down the stretch while a poor finish can dismantle the season.”
One driver who is making a one-off start is Brian Yaczik. The LPM Thumbs Up team member will be running a throwback to Gordon Johncock’s 1982 Indianapolis 500 entry for the event. Yaczik has three career victories in 101 Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker starts.
Yaczik said he wanted to run because of his love for the track.
“I’ve always loved IMS. It was the 1992 Indianapolis 500 that hooked me on Motorsports at the age of five and because of that it holds a very special place to me,” said Yaczik. “It was a no-brainer to come back to Indy.”
Taylor said that while he has not had much practice so far, he has heard the car will be tight for the first few laps of a run. He suspects going long on fuel will be advantageous as a result. He also said qualifying will be key.
“The primary challenge for this type of race is to be extremely patient,” said Taylor. “This is a long race and being there at the end is the most important thing. The position is not.”
Yaczik has also not had much practice yet. He plans to rely on his experience running in past Indianapolis 500s. He does expect the fuel stints to be around 31-34 laps depending on the weather and the draft. Van de Sandt said he expects the race to be a straightforward six-stop race.
“I have run a few in Lionheart and several fixed Indy 500s. We have some practice races later this week and some practice sessions over the weekend leading up to the race. That’s where my preparation really kicks in,” said Yaczik. “I’ve always found on track in a simulated race session to be a big help and I love that the Lionheart Racing Series does that.”
Van de Sandt thinks there will be a lot of give and take during the race. He has already run more than 20 laps in the series practice sessions and more than 50 on his own.
“The car is set up pretty tight, so combined with how IndyCar races, there will be a lot of give and take,” said van de Sandt. “It will be super important to keep the car clean with how sensitive the Dallara DW-12 is to damage.”
Taylor’s goal is to finish inside the top five. He also said he expects to compete for the win.
“So long as I am able to keep my nose clean and avoid some bad luck I think that should be absolutely doable,” said Taylor.
Van de Sandt had a similar goal.
“My goal for the rest of the races this season is a top five. Indy is no different,” said van de Sandt. “As long as I keep it clean and get a bit of luck, it should be achievable here.”
Yaczik said he was anxious and excited about the race. He plans to break his race down into 50-lap quarters and to try to slowly make his way through the pack to ensure he has a shot in the closing stages.
“It’s five-hundred miles. The challenges await around every corner,” said Yaczik. “It’s hard to say what type of race we will see yet. The Speedway Series puts on great races. Making a one-off start is its own challenge within the race as I haven’t raced with most of those guys. They know each other and what they can and can’t do. I’m going to have to learn that on the fly.”
Race coverage for the Sim Racing Studio Indy 500 begins at 3 p.m. ET. It can be watched live on RaceSpot TV.