But a restart with 7 laps to go changed everything. Adams, on fresher tires than leader Joe Branch and second place Ed Tutwiler, made quick work, taking the lead with four to go.
But a hard-charging Joe Hassert, winless since the season opener at Homestead, stalked Adams. Hassert made a bold move inside Adams entering turn one on the final lap, but it didn’t stick and Adams drove away in the final corner for his first career Lionheart win.
“I can’t begin to say just how amazing this feels,” said an emotional Adams. “I’ve been trying to hard since the first season. I really put my heart into it season two and on, but I can’t even describe it right now.”
It appeared the Birky Trucking 125 at Iowa Speedway was destined to be another case of ‘what if?’ for the Ohio driver. After dominating the middle laps of the race, an ill-timed caution during green flag pit stops trapped Adams and several other quick cars a lap down. Several cautions over the final 40 laps allowed Adams, Hassert and several others to get back on the lead lap and march to the front.
“Luckily we got that one with about ten to go,” Adams said of the final caution. “I said to my team ‘finally’ because it seems like every caution this year has been against us. And that was a great run by Joe Hassert at the end, he ran me hard and that’s exactly how I’d want it.
“My girlfriend sent me a text at the end, saying she was watching, and that meant the world to me,” Adams added.
For Hassert, second was a disappointment. But the Minnesota driver credited Adams, a longtime rival, for closing out the race strong.
“The cautions fell the right way after trapped behind all those lap cars,” Hassert said. “I had the freshest tires, I took tires with about 20 to go. But I had no drive off the bottom lane, and that was all she wrote. He gave me that bottom but I just couldn’t get it.”
Branch ended up third, having stayed out of the pits after the halfway point and nearly taking his second win of the season.
Adams led 63 laps, the most in the race, but the early stages belonged to Dan Geren. After taking the lead from pole sitter and defending race winner Jorge Anzaldo on the opening lap, Geren paced the field for 21 of the first 37 laps. But the Iowa native was one of several fast cars taken out when Jack Bogan squeezed James Krahula into the wall, setting off a chain reaction.
Bogan slid into Tony Showen, and several drivers plowed into the wreck as turn three quickly became blocked. When the smoke cleared, Geren, Showen, Bogan, Krahula, Kenneth McCoy and Chris Stofer were out. Anzaldo spun out of second and had to pit, and several others also had damage.
Another Iowa native, Brandon Limkemann, relinquished the lead with a pit stop, putting Adams out front for the first time.
A lap 76 restart saw Adams take control and pull away, but the second long green flag run saw most of the leaders come to pit road. With 35 laps remaining, Alfred Sheppard spun in turn 4 entering the pits, and Dave Barber could not avoid him, causing a caution and trapping a host of cars a lap or more down.
Joe Branch took command until the final caution, with 14 laps to go, when Sheppard and Robert Blouin touched, sending Sheppard flipping down the front straight, and setting up the exciting finish.
Chris Gutierrez battled from 22nd to 4th, with points leader Jake Wright finishing a quiet 5th. Robert Obrohta and Tutwiler were the final two cars on the lead lap, in 6th and 7th. Tony Lurcock, Pierre Daigle and Vincent Bluthenthal rounded out the top ten.
20 of the 35 starters finished the race, which was slowed by 7 cautions for 36 laps.
Most of the top ten in points remain unchanged. Hassert was the biggest mover, up four spots to 8th. Wright now leads Geren by 194 points.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment hits another tight track next, Dover International Speedway, for the Monster Mile Challenge. The race can be seen live on Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST Wednesday night. For more information on the series, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.