The king of Lionheart has returned.
Adam Blocker found victory lane for the first time in 2020 Wednesday night, capturing the checkered flag in the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 200 at the virtual Phoenix Raceway.
“We just made the right pit calls,” said Blocker, the two-time defending Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment champion. “I knew the strategy would probably work out no matter what happened with yellows, and once we got through the round of green stops I felt good about being out front, even on old tires. It worked out.”
Blocker missed the season opener while attending what was supposed to be the NTT IndyCar Series season opening in St. Petersburg, Fla. He returned for his first start in either Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX series last week at Watkins Glen, finishing third.
But at Phoenix, there was no questioning Blocker is still the driver to beat when he shows up.
Blocker set quick time in qualifying, led the most laps and won by a commanding 10.813 seconds over teammate Bryan Carey.
“I was really happy to get the pole,” Blocker said. “I knew getting out front would be the key, it was hard to pass.”
Carey started fourth and also ran near the front for most of the event, coming home just over a second ahead of James Brant.
“I did not have high hopes for this race,” Carey said. “It’s my second oval podium, which I’m very excited about. I had higher hopes at Homestead and Watkins (Glen), so I’m super excited.”
Brant picked up his career-best finish, driving from 37th to a podium spot while avoiding wrecks and playing the fuel game correctly.
“I had good pace all week, and then I decided to hit the wall in qualifying,” Brant jokingly said. “If you’re going to move up from the back like that, you have to have some luck, and I was able to avoid the wrecks and get good fuel mileage.”
The first-half of the race was slowed by 6 cautions for 24 laps, but the final 101 laps were run caution-free. Richard Hollyday led 37 laps but had to pit with five laps remaining, coming up just short on fuel. Hollyday finished 13th, one lap down, while Tony Showen also had to pit before the finish for fuel and ended up in 14th.
Only eight cars finished on the lead lap, with James Krahula and Stephen Laarkamp rounding out the top five. 20 of the 38 drivers who stated the event made it to the end.
The first caution flew early, on lap 6, when Justin Weaver spun on his own in turn four. The ensuing melee eliminated or severely damaged several strong cars, including Weaver, Big Joe Hassert, Dustin Wardlow, Brian Yaczik and Tyler Graaf.
15 laps later, another massive pileup occured coming out of turn four. Jason Galvin had been aggressively moving through the field, when he and Darin Gangi made contact inside the top ten.
Ken Hacker, Nathan Lewis and Adam Frazier were also caught up in the crash.
Connor Harrington entered the event as the points leader, but was caught up in a lap 67 crash when Damon Martinez caught the damaged car of Yaczik in turn two. Martinez and Yaczik touched, sending Martinez into the wall and back into Harrington.
As a result, Joshua Chin moved around Harrington by 4 points. Blocker skyrocketed to third, despite missing an event.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads to its second speedway event of the year for its next event.
Oma’s Kentucky 200, in honor of league member Marc Aumick’s late mother-in-law Shari Boggs, is set for Wednesday, April 7 at Kentucky Speedway.
The race can be seen live at 10:35 p.m. EST on the iRacing eSports Network, with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action.