With a slow car blocking the racing line, Jake Wright squeezed past Jason Robarge in the final 200 feet to win the Unacceptable Racing 125 at Phoenix International Raceway on Wednesday night. The margin of victory, .038-seconds, is the second closest in Lionheart IndyCar Series history.
“I was just trying to keep my second place,” Wright said after claiming his second victory of the season. “I wanted to keep my points after being taken out last week. But there in turn four, (Jason Robarge) got caught up by a lapped car and I was able to go outside of him and take the win. It sucks for him that he didn’t get the win but I’m happy to be back in victory lane.
“I just wish it could’ve been under different circumstances.”
The final quarter-mile of the race will go down as the most controversial in series history.
Krystya Nelson, well off the pace after brining out the last caution with nine laps remaining, was trying to limp her car to the finish. Heavily damaged, she remained in the middle of the racing groove as the top six cars approached with the checkered flag waving.
With Nelson well off the pace, Robarge had to lift to avoid her car. With more time to react, Wright was able to keep his foot in the throttle, inching by Robarge on the high side at the stripe.
Robarge’s teammate, Jason Galvin, was third, .118 seconds back of Wright after going around James Krahula in the final corner.
Robarge declined comment after the race.
“We all have our opinions on what happened at the end,” Galvin said while trying to smile, despite taking home his career-best finish. “My teammate had that in the bag. I’m more mad, and shaking for him, than anything. Our No Chance cars were so good tonight.”
Krahula echoed those sentiments.
“That was a crazy race, it sure was a heck of a lot of fun, though,” said Krahula, who started 19th. “I think we were three-wide on the white flag, and I was hoping those guys would chicken out, and they didn’t. And then that fun little mess happened in three and four, and Galvin was able to get around me there at the end. Glad we didn’t wreck from that.”
Joe Hassert, who was trapped a lap down with Galvin during green flag pit stops midway through the race, rallied to finish fifth.
After the race, Nelson said she “felt terrible” and owed Robarge, and several others an apology. Nelson said she thought she’d get to the white flag before the leaders reached her.
The incident is under review by league officials.
The win expands Wright’s points lead with just four races remaining. He now leads Krahula by 129. Hassert is third, with Pierre Daigle and Ricky Hardin fifth. Robarge moved up four spots to sixth.
Tommy Rhyne finished sixth in the race, still within half a second of Wright. Daigle, Michael Gray, Hardin and Drew Motz rounded out the top ten.
Wright led the most laps at 43, although most of those came in the middle stages of the event. Robarge led 34, with Hassert leading 30. Seven drivers exchanged the lead 12 times.
The race was marred by eight cautions for 32 laps. The back half of the race was heavily painted with wrecks.
Eight of the 28 starters failed to finish, with four others falling off the lead lap due to damage.
The series next heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, November 25 for the Cart Retro Series 200. The race can be seen live on Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST.
Robert Blouin made 13 gallons of fuel last 41 laps to win the Big Joe Cam Anniversary 150 at Chicagoland Speedway, his first win in the Lionheart IndyCar Series. Blouin led just one lap, but it was the most important lap, as he passed Michel de Jonge’s slowing car in turn one on the final circuit and stretched his fuel all the way to victory lane.
“I have no idea what I was thinking,” Blouin said. “The second to last caution, we pitted and filled it up with fuel and put on some tires, just hoping we’d have enough to go until the end. The last caution helped us out, and our team there we just had a good strategy and it played out for us.”
de Jonge’s car began sputtering at the stripe with the white flag waving. He finished 12th, the last car on the lead lap.
“The call was, if Michel pitted on that final yellow, we would’ve come in, because there were about 12 cars between us that would’ve gotten their lap back,” Blouin said. “But Michel stayed out, so we stayed out because those cars all had to drop back.”
Tony Lurcock finished second, with Big Joe Hassert hot on his trail in third. The two fell victim to the fuel game, as all but three cars short pitted around lap 75 for tires and fuel. That left de Jonge, Blouin his teammate, Krysta Nelson, as the only three cars on the lead lap.
Nelson’s night ended when Michael Gray collided with her as he was trying to re-enter the track on the back straight. That brought out the final caution with 13 laps to go, and allowed Blouin to save enough to get the win.
“I learned that if you kept the car up high, you could ramp it down off the corner and it would give the car a good run down the straight,” Lurcock said, disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to race for the win.
“The second half of the race I felt like my tires went away a lot more than they did sitting in the middle of the field,” Hassert said. “Getting caught a lap down, I knew that de Jonge was going to stay out because he’s done it before. He ran out on the apron on the last lap so he almost had it, but it was just a puzzling night.”
Several accidents impacted the points. Series leader Jake Wright was taken out by polesitter Korey Connor on lap 38. Connor tagged the outside wall, and came across the track into Wright, who retired in 23rd.
That wreck brought out the second caution, with Connor also playing a role in the third yellow on lap 56. Connor and Vincent Bluthenthal came together off turn four, with Connor rolling down the front straight, ending his night.
The first yellow came on lap 10, when Ian Adams slid up into Jason Galvin in a battle for sixth. Galvin’s teammate, Jason Robarge, was caught up in the ensuing crash, and Tommy Rhyne also ended up in the wall. Only Adams continued.
James Krahula and Tony Showen rounded out the top five. Adams, Ricky Hardin, Dylan Lee, Chris Stofer and Brandon Limkemann were the back half of the top 10.
Hassert led a race-high 33 laps. There were 25 lead changes amongst 12 drivers, and four cautions for 16 laps. 19 of the 27 starters finished the race.
Wright’s points lead fell to 108 over James Krahula, with Pierre Daigle, Hassert and Hardin rounding out the top five.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series next heads to the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix, for the Unacceptable 125 on Wednesday, November 18. The race can be seen live on Global SimRacing Channel at 9:40 p.m. EST.