The Classic IndyCar Series in iRacing knows how to put on a show. The recent race at Chicagoland shook everything up for the championship hunt.
CIS is also known for its down to the wire fight for its championship crown, did you honestly think this season would be any different? Every race at CIS is like a title fight, and this one at Chicagoland was a bare knuckle brawl.
With Lionheart Racing Series sponsoring the event (another great league) we have a quote “The Lionheart Racing Series competes across 3 eras of open wheel racing while honoring the spirit of the late Dan Wheldon. Competition. Commitment. Excitement. This is Lionheart.“
On race report duties is the 2020 CIS Champion and racer Lucas Laville.
Round 9 of the 2021 Classic IndyCar Series was quite an action packed event. Chicagoland Speedway brought the best of what the car can offer on an oval, close racing throughout the whole race, as well as some strategic decision making, all happening at average speeds of 210+ mph.
Being the penultimate oval race of the season, many of the discipline specialists wanted to have a last strong show and result before the Indianapolis 500, which should be anyone’s race to take.
We got lots of action from the initial drop of the green flag. The penalized drivers of Josh Baird (#23), Logan Simmons (#92) or Lucas Laville (#1) wanted to waste absolutely zero time to get to the front of the field.
All three of them managed to crack the top half of the 22 car field at some point during the first 50 laps, with the defending series champion being the most aggressive of the rear starters.
He managed to force the issue on several occasions, going for 3 or even 4 wide moves in the early going, to be able to catch the lead battles.
Even with all the crazy action, the race stayed very clean.
Only minor incidents occurred until lap 24, where newcomer Karl Bogle had issues in the pack with his pit limiter.
Almost everyone managed to avoid the stricken Aero-X machine, except Stefan Schlacher (#89, Butter-Pal Motorsport), who didn’t, and maybe couldn’t react in time and collided Bogle at the exit of Turn 2, sending the defenseless #76 spinning down the apron of the back straight with terminal rear damage.
The Austrian managed to escape the scuffle with only minor front wing issues that he could solve under the ensuing yellow flag.
The following restart divided the pack into several small groups. The fastest car could show themselves more clearly, and a long run of a full fuel stint could develop. During this run, Andrew Aitken (#27) led the field with what seemed to be the best car on track at that moment.
He was closely followed by his teammate Randy Shewmake (#3). The Team Chimera duo of Andrew Wood (#64) and Joshua Chin (#93) was able to put on a fight for a good part of the run, but dropped off slightly towards the end.
The rest of the field was gapped by more than 3 seconds coming to the green flag pit stop cycle. The Vortex SimRacing contingent of Marshall Stanley (#25), Jan Hoffmann (#05) and Lucas Laville.
Further back, the rest of the runners were distanced by at least 4 seconds from this group and were running to save their equipment and make a bigger push for the end of the race.
The pit cycle opened on lap 82 with Chin for the front runners, followed by Stanley, Franz-Josef Stumm (#34 Aero-X), Jamie Wilson (#87, Team Chimera) and Stefan Schlacher for the midpack.
However, havoc got deployed on the racetrack when the #34 Aero-X car of Stumm spun on the apron in turn 3 during his pit entry, triggering the second (and ultimately final) caution of the day.
Cars already in pit lane at the time of caution could take their service, but lots of cars had to go around the track one time. A lot had to take emergency service, which dropped them at the back of the field.
However, the biggest story here was Joshua Chin would be in the pits for the drop of the caution, but did not stop in his box. He then ran out of fuel on the racetrack, forcing him to take the tow, causing the #93 a total of 3 laps and completely ending his chances at a good result.
With the running order completely shuffled, the ensuing restart granted plenty of action. The top 2 run away from the rest of the field, Wood and Laville were the last 2 cars to pit, having saved the most during this first long stint.
They managed to get to a lead of almost 3 seconds. Behind them, cars that were at the back suddenly were a part of the lead group, and previous leaders ended up having to fight their way up front.
Lots of battling and passing happened during a 40-lap period in the very tight peloton. Leaders like Andrew Aitken and Randy Shewmake had to fight back from deep in the field. Others like Logan Simmons managed to sneak away up front early in the run, and follow Aitken back to the front.
At the end of the stint, Aitken managed to take back the sole lead of the field from Wood, Laville, Simmons and Stanley, the 2 latter escaping the pack late in the run.
After the green flag pit cycle between 58 and 56 laps to go, a leading group of 4 cars formed with Andrew Wood, Lucas Laville, Andrew Aitken and Logan Simmons. A very important point however, is that the pit stops happened right on the window to make it to the end of this tank of fuel.
Laville pitted the latest and was sure to make it. However, Aitken, Wood and Simmons were either running in clean air or pushing hard for most of the previous stint and pitted earlier than the Frenchman.
Wood was 1 lap shorter, whereas Aitken and Simmons were 2 laps behind on fuel, and had to save hard. All this led to a very calm early part of the stint, where no one wanted to lead and give an advantage to the competition.
Behind the lead group, most other drivers were running by themselves trying to make their fuel number to the end. Even though the lead pack was not pushing by any measure, the effect of the draft still kept them faster than any other driver, except maybe Jan Hoffmann, who pitted on lap 146 and was guaranteed to make it to the end.
He was however 13 seconds back after the cycle, too far away to make any damage.
The intensity picked up out of nowhere with 15 laps to go. Aitken and Simmons started to race each other, which then triggered Laville to take the lead and push. Others had to respond and hope the fuel saved to this point was going to suffice.
A fierce battle then followed between the four contenders, with lots of 2 by 2 or 3 wide action.
Hell broke loose with 7 laps to go, with Aitken leading into turn 1 and Simmons, Wood and Laville fighting 3 wide for the second spot.
All seemed to go fine bar the aggressiveness, but suddenly the Vortex SimRacing car bumped right into the wall following heartbreaking netcode contact.
The Frenchman then came back towards the racing line and collected an innocent Julien Altena, who was then running 3 laps down (#71, Velocity Online Racing).
At the same time, Simmons, who was on the inside of this 3 wide action, slightly came up the track and made contact with Wood. The Team Chimera driver ended up damaged from the incident, although he managed to stay in control of his Dallara IR-05.
He ended up dropping out of contention for the win, and crazily enough, the caution was never thrown for these incidents. All this meant the battle for the lead now was a 2 way affair between Aitken and Simmons.
Racing was hard but fuel saving ended up prevailing. The Iconic Motorsports driver ran out of fuel in turn 3, giving the win to Andrew Aitken after an exhilarating last stint.
The podium was completed by Simmons and Wood, with an impressive comeback from Hoffmann all the way to 4th place, being the only one truly wide open for the last 55 laps. Rounding out the top 5 for Vortex SimRacing was Marshall Stanley.
In the battle for the championship, Ethan Agan salvaged a 7th place finish after struggling for pace most of the afternoon. Chin was never able to recover from the pit lane issues and crossed the line 3 laps down in 15th.
Laville ended up retiring after the netcode incident and contact from Altena was classified in 18th position.
Agan’s lead now grows to 23 points over Laville coming into the last 2 road course races of the season, and momentum is clearly on his side. Joshua Chin falls 59 points behind the leader. Drop weeks have yet to come into play, however, and all is still to play for in the top 3.
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