By Justin Prince
After a dominating performance, Henry Bennett has won his first career Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker race.
The Adrenaline Motorsports Red driver took the checkered flag in the HyperX Twin Ring 200 on Sept. 15 after leading 87 of the 134 laps.
Jason Brophy, Connor Harrington, Joshua Chin and Tyler Graaf completed the top five.
The win came as series points leader, Adam Blocker, had to miss the race due to real-world work commitments.
“It’s pretty unexpected to be honest,” said Bennett from HyperX Victory Lane. “I wasn’t expecting a win this season. The competition in the series is so fierce. But, I did speak with the team before the race and they told me it was one of Adam’s away weeks, so it was fair game for anyone else. I didn’t expect to be the one to take the win.”
Series rookie Robert Maleczka III led more than 20 laps to begin the race after starting from the pole. However, on Lap 21, Jay Brant changed the complexion of the race lead by spinning down the frontstretch into the inside wall, destroying his front wing.
That caution, Matt Huston and Paul Jenkins decided to stay out for track position.
Bennett was able to take advantage of their decisions on Lap 26.
Maleczka III started to struggle in the dirty air of Jenkins, falling behind by more than 10 car lengths. As he pushed up the track out of Turn 4, Bennett dived as low as he could to pass him, clearing him before the start and finish line. The Factory Backed car of Maleczka III then attempted to pass him back by going to his inside in Turn 1. The two drivers remained side-by-side down the backstretch, but it was not enough. Bennett was able to clear him by Turn 4 that lap.
Once Huston and Jenkins came in for fuel, Bennett was able to retain the lead the rest of the race.
Behind him, attrition was setting the tone for the rest of the running order.
On Lap 54, Bryan Carey was running in 11th place when he decided to come down for a pit stop. Drivers had been told prior to the race it was up to the competitors to decide where they wanted to pull off the track under green flag conditions.
As Carey slowed down coming out of Turn 4, he was rammed from behind by Thumbs Up Cancer Down LPM’s Jason Galvin. The contact sent him spinning across the track at the start of the straightaway. Surprisingly, Carey was not hit during the spin itself. Galvin’s hit did damage his right rear tire, causing him to spin a second time in Turn 1 under caution, ending his race.
While coming to Lap 90, Galvin then crashed on his own coming out of Turn 4. He started to slide to the left of the track coming out of the corner before overcorrecting towards the outside wall. The overcorrection snapped his car hard into the wall, instantly demolishing his right side pod.
Galvin had been running in ninth place at the time of the crash.
A few laps later, Ryan Otis helped trigger what was the fourth caution of the race by making a similar mistake to Galvin. Like Galvin, Otis started sliding to the left before snapping back to the outside wall, destroying his Dallara IR-18. Right behind him, Ron Hacker turned hard to the left, sending him near full-throttle into the inside wall, scattering debris across the circuit. Hacker then slammed his brakes, stopping his car just a few feet shy of the flagstand to bring out the yellow.
After the restart, Luis Gonzalez Nuñez was attempting to pass Chris Lanini to his inside down the backstretch when he pushed up the track entering Turn 3. Nuñez and Lanini quickly hooked together, locking side pods and tires as both of them slammed into the SAFER barrier.
Under that caution period, Ricky Hardin stuffered a technical issue with his steering wheel. His wheel had become disconnected from the sim while pacing in Turn 2, immediately cutting his wheel in iRacing hard to the left. The issue caused Hardin’s car to turn itself nose-first into the inside wall, forcing him to tow his car back to the pits.
On Lap 119, Dustin Wardlow became the next victim to attrition.
Like Galvin and Otis, he snapped loose exiting Turn 4. This time, the slide was right in the path of Scott Holmes, hooking them together. The two were then run into from behind by Philip Kraus, causing a shower of car parts to go flying from the scene of the incident.
As a result of the crash, Wardlow now has the highest incident points per race average in the series with 5.75.
The final caution of the day came out on Lap 127 when Brant, just moments after setting his fastest lap of the event, plowed into the outside wall coming out of Turn 2. Brant was sent sliding into the inside wall at more than 140 MPH, instantly smashing his front wing into several pieces.
Overall, the race had seven cautions with 22 of the 35 starters finishing the lead lap.
Next, the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker travels to Iowa Speedway for the Midwest Simulations Iowa 200. Coverage starts at 4 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on Sept. 22.