At this point, Dustin Wardlow should run for Governor of New Hampshire. The man practically owns the state.
The driver known as The Candy Man became the first driver in Lionheart Retro Series presented by DMLC Racing Channel history to three-peat at a track Thursday night, rocketing to the lead on the final pit stop and never looking back in the Dewar’s 150.
“I love this place,” Wardlow said. “I enjoy riding around behind folks, saving fuel, and seeing how everyone else is shaping up. This car just always rotates a little better on older tires at the end, and I like how it feels at the end of the race here.”
Wardlow, whose moniker comes from employer Dewar’s Candy’s world famous taffy chews, has made a habit of taking the lead late at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
In 2018, Wardlow shot to the front passing Michael Goodman and Alex Saunders in the final 50 laps. In 2019, it was Marc Cohn who fell victim to Wardlow’s mastery of the Magic Mile. This time, defending series champion Ryan Otis was left to sit back and watch as Wardlow overcut him during green flag pit stops and ran away.
“My whole pit strategy was to short fuel the first time and jump Jason Bosse,” Otis said of the early portion of the race. “That second run I caught traffic that was just fast enough to where I couldn’t get around them, and I should’ve been putting in fliers there. It just didn’t work out.”
The race featured only one caution, on the opening lap, when rookie Matt Taylor drifted up into Paul Jenkins while battling for third. The two spun to the inside of the back straightaway, with Taylor hammering the tires, ending his race. Jenkins continued, but damaged, and finished eleventh.
The green flag runs allowed Wardlow to focus on fuel saving behind Otis, waiting for the leader to catch lapped traffic and then staying out an extra three laps. Those three laps, the fastest of the race for any car to that point, allowed the Bakersifeld, Calif., native to jump his teammate and control the remainder of the race.
“I didn’t know where I’d come out,” Wardlow said. “I was happy to get some clean laps after Ryan came in, I didn’t have any traffic, and I think that was the difference. Ryan was hot all race.”
Jason Bosse appeared to be the car to beat early on, capturing his first Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX pole and leading the first 60 laps.
But Bosse saw his race come undone on the first green flag pit stop, when he dropped a tire onto the racing surface on pit exit. The ensuing penalty for unsafe pit exit buried him two laps down, and with no ensuing cautions, caused him to finish a dissipating 21st.
Only eight cars finished on the lead lap, with rookie Mike Rasimas continuing his incredible run to start his Lionheart career. The third place finish at NHMS gave Rasimas four top five finishes in five career starts.
“I really love New Hampshire, it was fun to drive here in this car,” Rasimas said. “I’m getting kinda tired of not winning one of these things, but it’s sure fun to be on the podium every week.”
Lionel Calisto and Aaron Morgan rounded out the top five, with Jorge Anzaldo, Chris Fowler and David Clymer also on the lead lap.
Championship hopeful Sage Karam missed the event while preparing for the Indianapolis 500, allowing Otis to open up his lead to 141 points. Calisto closed in, just two points behind Karam now in third.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by DMLC Racing Channel will stick with the short track theme, heading to Iowa Speedway for the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 150 on Thursday, August 27. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network at 10:35 p.m. EST.