Joe Branch stole the win from his Adrenaline Motorsports teammate Chris Stofer Wednesday night in the plastidipgarage.com 150 by managing to go an incredible 38 green flag laps on a tank of fuel. 2 laps further than anyone thought possible. It had otherwise been a dominant night for Chris Stofer who sat on pole and led for over 100 laps of the 120 lap event. Michael Goodman, using the same strategy as Branch ran out of fuel crossing the finish line to finish in 2nd place 5.5 seconds back of the winner, with Stofer 3rd, Rory Collins 4th and Pierre Daigle rounding out the top 5. The top 3 in points all met with misfortune on the same lap, finishing 28th through 30th. This left the top of the standings fairly unchanged. Due to a better drop week, Jake Wright stretched his lead slightly over Dan Geren to 57 points. Kinsella a further to 70 points behind Geren. The big beneficiary was 4th in points – Michael Goodman closed to within 56 points of Kinsella for Rookie of the Year honours. James Krahula rounds out the top 5, 88 points back of Goodman, and 271 back of points leader Wright.
Adrenaline Motorsports dominate qualifying, taking 4 of the top 5 positions. Stofer started on pole ahead of AGR Motorsport’s Jason Robarge. Joe Branch, Tony Showen and Adam Blocker rounded out the top 5. Dan Geren, normally a lock for the front row, qualified in 6th. Wright qualified back in 10th, while Kinsella qualified back in 16th position.
Chris Stofer led from the pole for the first portion of the race. The first laps saw battles throughout the top 5. Tony Showen caused some chaos with a poor internet connection that took several laps to settle down. The first yellow was brought out by an incident on lap 14 between George Adams and Big Joe Hassert. Adams lifted due to traffic infront of him into turn 1 which seemed to catch Big Joe off guard. Hassert tagged the left rear of Adam’s car spinning the rookie into the fence. On the ensuing caution, Michael Goodman and Vince Bluthenthal stayed out, while the rest of the field pitted for fresh rubber.
When the green flag flew, Stofer made quick work of Bluthenthal, but could not find a way around Goodman. Bluthenthal would fall back through the top 5 before, on lap 23, he was forced to lift as his car pushed on the exit of 2. This caused a domino effect as Joe Branch was forced to lift as well in order to avoid him. Dan Geren was left with nowhere to go, and got into the rear of Joe Branch before contacting the wall. As Geren rebounded across the track, Woody Mahan, James Krahula and Andrew Kinsella were all collected. Only Branch would be able to continue after replacing his rear wing. After the incident, Jake Wright would lose power at his home and not be able to continue, leaving the top 3 in the championship all out of the race on the same lap.
The caution would fly once again on lap 30 as Joe Hassert spun exiting 2 and collected Bark Workman. As the green flag flew again, Stofer had cycled back to the lead followed by Robarge, Blocker, Showen and Brandon Limkeman, who had moved up from a 27th starting position. Ed Tutwiler would spin on lap 38, but would stay low enough to keep things green.
The final caution of the race flew on lap 42 for an incident between Brian Greenlee and Vincent Blutenthal as they made contact exiting 2. Greenlee’s night was over, however Bluthenthal was able to continue. On the ensuing caution flag everyone except for Peter Edwins and Jack Bogan stayed out while the rest of the field pitted. This would be the last caution period for the rest of the race.
Chris Stofer would move past Bogan and Edwins and quickly open up a 1.5 second lead as Blocker and Robarge had considerably more difficulty passing the duo on older tires. Blocker, Robarge, Limkemann and Showen would spend much of the next stint battling with each other, allowing Stofer to open up a 4 second lead before the first round of green flag stops of the evening.
Pierre Daigle would be the first to pit from 8th place on lap 72. The rest of the leaders would be down on laps 80 and 81. This would leave them 2-4 laps short on fuel with no caution. A few drivers, such as Joe Branch, Michael Goodman, and Justin Weaver were able to stretch their fuel to lap 82. This would prove key later in the race.
Once the pitstops had cycled through, it was Pierre Daigle who benefitted the most, using his fresh tires to jump from 8th to 2nd and close to within 3 seconds of Stofer. Daigle would pit for the final time lap 92, hoping to once again use fresh tires to his advantage. Stofer and the rest of the leaders, however, were all praying for a caution that never flew. With 10 laps to go cars began to peel off for that needed splash of fuel. Stofer would end up stretching the lead to over 7 seconds in front of teammate Adam Blocker. He peeled off with only 3 laps left in the race, needing only a gallon of fuel to make it to the finish. His short pit stop would allow him to exit in front of Daigle’s fresh tire run.
There were 3 drivers, however, who ended up not needing a final stop. Joe Branch was the best at going fast and saving fuel, and was duly rewarded with the victory. Michael Goodman was able to coast home in 2nd and Rory Collins made it home 4th. Splitting Stofer and Daigle, who were the first carss who did need to stop.
This concludes the Lionheart IndyCar Series’ Midwest swing. The next stop is across the pond at Donnington Raceway for the Big Joe Show Anniversary Spectacular. Tune in on Wednesday November 8th at 10:30 Eastern on GSRC and iRacing Live.