Simon Sikes almost had to race his way into the Speed51 Elite IndyCar opener at Indianapolis Motor Speedway three weeks ago before he convinced Elite Racing League owner Chad Frankenfield to let him into the show automatically. On Friday night, the F1600 driver proved he belonged with the top real-life IndyCar drivers by winning the Lucas Oil 150 at Iowa Speedway.
The 19-year-old Georgia driver had the fastest car throughout the race, leading 76 of the 150 laps ran. However, a pit road speeding penalty sent him to the tail with less than 50 laps to go, forcing him to get bold with pit strategy late to give him a chance at the win.
“That was simply an error on my part, I had someone behind me and coming into the pits I was admittedly slightly worried about getting run into from behind. No fault to the person behind me, I just misjudged the point of entry,” Sikes said on the broadcast. “Up until everyone pitted and I made a last-minute decision to stay out I was pretty down in the dumps after leading most of that race.
A caution with less than 20 to go saw most of the field head pit side for fresh tires for the final run to the checkered. Sikes was one of three drivers who stayed out and took the risk with older tires. He quickly took the lead from RC Enerson after the restart and was able to build a big enough gap between he and the drivers with fresh tires to give him a buffer for the remaining laps.
“Coming towards the end it did come down to those tires. I was on slightly old tires but they were still fairly fresh in my mind, so that’s why I made that last decision to stay out under caution and go for the win. I was able to get past RC (Enerson) on the start because he had older tires, then the gap between me and the cars behind on fresh tires, I was able to manage it just because of the tire falloff before they were able to get past RC.”
Sikes was followed across the line by James Davison and reigning IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Felix Rosenqvist. IMSA racer Matheus Leist and Santino Ferrucci rounded out the top five.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3