Michel de Jonge led wire-to-wire Wednesday night en route to his third Lionheart IndyCar Series win of the season, this time at the legendary Road America circuit in the No Chance Racing Rocks 101. But the man of the night was second-place finisher Jake Wright, who clinched his first series championship with two rounds of racing still to go.
“It’s been a great season,” a relieved and humble Wright said after the race. “Now I want to go out and win the last two races.”
de Jonge started from the pole and opened up a 10-plus second lead over Wright by the end of the 25-lap race, mostly due to a spin in turn eight by the eventual champion. That allowed de Jonge to cruise to the win.
“First I have to congratulate Jake on his championship, it’s well deserved across the whole season,” de Jonge said. “I just knew that if I stayed ahead and didn’t make a mistake, I could probably beat him. Unfortunately for him he had trouble at there otherwise I think we could’ve had a great battle at the end. But I’m just happy to win, this is one of my all-time favorite tracks.”
Ricky Hardin took advantage of a Jason Robarge spin with four laps to go to take home third.
“I just caught the right breaks tonight with (Jason Robarge) and (Dan) Geren,” Hardin said of cars that had off-track incidents. “I just got lucky.”
Robarge finished fourth with Geren fifth.
The race saw several incidents, especially in turn eight. That started on the first lap, when Joe Branch, Ian Adams, Korey Connor and Chris Stofer all came together. Pierre Daigle also picked up damage in the wreck. Stofer and Adams were unable to continue, victims of the initial spin by Branch and the chain reaction.
29 cars started, but only eight completed all 25 laps. No car made it through the race clean, as everyone had at least one off-track encounter while adapting to a new rules package in place from iRacing this week.
James Krahula missed the event due to a personal issue, allowing Wright to clinch the championship two events early. Wright leads Krahula by 185 points. Big Joe Hassert, Hardin and Tommy Rhyne round out the top five in the standings.
The series next heads to Atlanta for the penultimate events of the season. The Deadzone 150 goes green live on Global SimRacing Channel at 10:50 est on January 6, 2016.
After a string of close finishes in the Lionheart IndyCar Series, Joe Hassert left little doubt as to who had the dominant car on his way to his first win of the season in the Cart Retro Series 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Finally. 15 races. 15 races is a long time to go between wins, but we finally got one,” Hassert said from the virtual victory lane.
Hassert had opened up a two second lead after the final pit stops with 12 laps left. The race ended under caution after a multi-car crash with two to go.
“I knew I was going to have to run up front to do anything tonight,” said Hassert, who led a race-high 66 laps. “Cautions finally fell the right way, and then that last green flag stop just blew everyone out of the water.”
Two major accidents took several contenders out. Tight pack conditions played a role in the first crash.
On lap three, Michael Gray got a run on Jason Robarge down the back straight. Gray didn’t turn into the corner quick enough, making contact with Robarge and setting off a chain reaction that ended the night for Pierre Daigle and Ian Adams, as well as Robarge. Jack Bogan was also damaged, but continued along with Gray.
Four more cautions slowed things in the middle of the race, most for minor accidents at the back of the pack.
But after the first green flag pit stops of the night, the biggest crash ended the race under yellow.
Jason Galvin went with a no tire stop, but his pit crew took too long putting fuel in the car. With two laps remaining, Galvin slipped out of the top five. A pack of four cars, led by Dan Geren, approached into turn one. Galvin held his line low, but as Geren went around him, he lost the air on his rear wing.
Geren spun down into Galvin, and the rest of the pack plowed into the two. Ronald Hacker tumbled down the back straight, and Chris Lanini, Joe Branch and Gray also suffered damage.
Galvin and Branch continued.
Tommy Rhyne came home second after starting 16th, with a great final pit stop propelling him onto the podium.
“This is my first podium, my teammates are usually better at this stuff than I am,” Rhyne said. “There were a couple of wrecks in front of me, and the seas kinda parted as I got to it. A lot of this is luck man, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time or right place at the right time.”
Jorge Anzaldo took third after starting 29th. He and his teammate, Galvin, chose to start at the back to avoid the anticipated accidents.
“I couldn’t be happier getting a podium,” Anzaldo said. “What a battle with Trevor at the end there.”
Trevor Malone returned to the series after a three month break to finish fourth, and pole-sitter Jake Wright finished fifth.
Galvin, Branch, Vincent Bluthenthal, Alfred Shepperd and Ricky Hardin rounded out the top 10.
Wright extended his point lead over James Krahula to 145 with three races remaining. Krahula chose to start from the pits to avoid the wrecks, but lost a lap before the first yellow and never got back on the lead lap. He finished 14th.
Hassert’s win propelled him to third in points, with Daigle and Rhyne the top five.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series takes a week off before returning for the final three race stretch of the year. It’s also the last road race, the America 101 at Road America. That race can be seen live on Global SimRacing Channel on Wednesday, December 9 at 10:45 p.m. EST.