By Justin Prince
Adam Blocker has done it again.
The multiple-time Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker champion has won his second triple crown race of the season.
Blocker was able to take home the checkered flag in the ButtKicker U.S. 500 after diving underneath Philip Kraus and Henry Bennett down the final straightaway. Blocker went on to win the race by 0.031 seconds, tied for the 11th-closest finish in series history.
Andrew Kinsella and Connor Harrington completed the top five.
It is Blocker’s eighth victory of the season.
“I don’t think I quite deserve to win it, but I did,” said Blocker from HyperX Victory Lane.
Blocker won the race after a hard-fought battle between Kraus, Bennett and Robert Maleczka III. The three drivers went three-wide several times into the corners with Maleczka III trying hard to hold onto the bottom.
The fight intensified coming to two laps to go. Maleczka III hit a bump coming out of Turn 4, sending his Factory Backed car spinning into the infield grass. Kraus and Bennett then ran side-by-side for a full lap coming to the white flag. Blocker built up a run behind Kraus, but decided to check up going into Turn 1.
Out of Turn 2, the PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype Black car cleared Bennett, blocking him to the white line down the backstretch. Bennett was still able to pull alongside Kraus. Kraus responded by trying to push Bennett further up the track for the entry to Turn 3.
As Kraus and Bennett drove side-by-side through the final corners, Blocker made his move.
The Adrenaline Powerslide driver used the banking as a ramp, arching his car from the top of Turn 3 towards the bottom of the track. As Kraus tried to push Bennett up the track on the corner exit, Blocker was running five MPH quicker than the two cars in front of him. Before Kraus could move down to defend, Blocker dived to the apron and pulled alongside Kraus’s pink and black car. Kraus could not do anything as Blocker pulled past him by the line.
It is the second straight race Kraus has finished behind Blocker.
“Man, it’d be nice to not finish behind Adam. It feels like I finish second in most of the races I do with him,” said Kraus. “It was just a lose-lose situation. If I held it low, I was going to be beat by Henry and I was too focused on him to notice Adam had a huge head of steam.”
The finish also came after a chaotic final 90 laps. On Lap 159, Ryan Otis and Lionel Calisto had tangled together coming out of Turn 2 while battling for a top five, sending Otis spinning. Otis then hit a bump while sliding down to the apron, sending him back across the track into the path of oncoming traffic. Mike Rasimas, A.J. Musselman and Brian Beard all slammed into the side of Otis, sending debris flying across the track. All three cars grouped together along the SAFER barrier as the caution flag waved.
The incident immediately caused a rift through the field. All the cars on the lead lap at the time of the incident decided to top off on fuel. However, making sure they could get to the necessary lap to make it to the end on gas was a difficult situation. Drivers had only been able to make it 40 laps on fuel prior to the caution.
On the ensuing restart, drivers attempted to run as slow as 204 MPH down the straightaways while others attempted to charge straight to the front of the field. On Lap 164, the pace discrepancy was so big, Chris Fowler was able to go from eighth place down the middle of the backstretch to the lead by Turn 4. A couple laps later, Luis Gonzalez Nuñez also charged his way past his competitors to lead laps.
The shuffling for the lead continued until Lap 174. Jason Brophy, who had taken a wave around during the previous caution to move to one lap down, attempted to get his lap back by leading the field around the track.
“The last two stints were crazy,” said Blocker. “The first one, we were having to save so much and the whole field was going slow, like a second off the pace. It was really easy to make that number. I was able to pit at 41 laps to go, so it meant I only had to save for the first half of the stint and then I could push hard. But then, everyone else had the same idea, so I kind of got boxed in. I couldn’t go anywhere.”
Other drivers were not as lucky. Barrett Rolph, who led 27 of the 250 laps, had to pit on Lap 204. Fowler, Adam Frazier and Nuñez also missed their fuel targets. Of those cars, only Frazier went on to finish on the lead lap.
Overall, just 11 drivers finished on the lead lap in the five-caution event.
Next, the Lionheart IndyCar Series travels to Japan for the HyperX Twin Ring 200. Coverage starts at 4 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on Sept. 15.
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