By Justin Prince
In what is the closest finish in the history of ButtKicker Indy 250, Marc Cohn has won his second Triple Crown race of the 2021 Lionheart Retro Series Presented by SimXperience season.
Cohn edged out Aero-X Racing’s Chris Fowler for the win by 0.005 seconds to take the checkered flag at iRacing’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Cohn led 17 laps on the way to his second victory of the 2021 season.
Sage Karam, Paul Jenkins and Ken Hacker completed the top five.
“This was all I ever wanted was to win a big league race of any sort at Indianapolis. Today has been my whole life,” said Cohn from HyperX Victory Lane. “I can’t believe it.”
Cohn had to defend the lead in a seven-lap shootout after a crash at the back of the main pack between D.J. Clark and Ariel Alaniz. The GRAAFix LC Motorsports driver did so by trying to hug the bottom of the track throughout the final stages.
“I just knew that if I didn’t hug the inside, I was going to be forced three-wide,” said Cohn. “Then, I tried the outside on Fowler, but that just made it worse. I was just hoping somehow, some way I would be able to pull it out in the end.”
The victory came as several drivers, including Ricky Hardin, were sent spinning and crashing behind Cohn and Fowler after contact from Sage Karam. Karam gave a bump to the back end of Cohn in the incident, giving The Watchman a big speed boost for the final few hundred feet to the line.
“That bump from Sage, I owe him big time because that’s what got me through that. Otherwise, I don’t think it would have happened,” said Cohn.
Fowler said he was bummed about finishing second in the race. It was Fowler’s best finish of the season. It was also his best career finish in the series.
“I wanted to win this race so badly,” said Fowler. “I thought I had it. I just missed it … Marc needs to send Sage a little care package for that bump for the win. I’ve definitely had a rough season this year and lots of bad luck. I really needed that win to gain some momentum, but even a second is great. That was such a fun race.”
Karam was in third place for much of the final run. He said he knew that was the place he needed to be to position himself for the win.
“I was doing everything I could to stay in third going into the last lap,” said Karam. “I ended up getting a bit of understeer into Turn 3 and I had a car to the outside of me. I kind of knew my chances of winning went down quite significantly.
“Then on the frontstretch, those guys left kind of a hole, so I was like ‘alright, I’m gonna go through the hole.’ Then it closed quite quickly when I tried to go through it. Ended up having contact with Marc and I think I pushed him to the win. I mean, he’s The Watchman, so maybe he’ll send me a watch or something. That’d be pretty nice.”
The race went green for the first 77 laps, with the lead pack being trimmed down from 23 cars to as little as 13.
Several drivers swapped back-and-forth for the race lead at the end of the first and second fuel runs, including Jorge Anzaldo, Fowler and Tyler Graaf. Others such as Ken Hacker, Matt Taylor and Mike Rasimas attempted to use strategy to cut their way through the field to get to the front.
Karam looked to be in a strong position strategy-wise after the final pit stops of the race when he broke the draft by 1.9 seconds from the rest of the leaders on Lap 76.
“I think my strategy was spot on,” said Karam. “I pretty much saved fuel right from the beginning. I could have led many laps. I just decided that saving fuel was more important than leading the most laps at that point of the race. Saved a lot of fuel and we had a really good last stop.”
That changed when the caution flew in the second pack.
Graaf tried to get to the front of his group by running the high line in Turn 3. David Sirois pushed up the track into the left-side tires of the NLR driver, sending him head first into the outside wall.
Chris Ragan just avoided the spinning car by inches before slamming tires with Trevor Malone in Turn 4, spinning him into the grass.
Karam, Taylor and Fowler traded the lead several times on the ensuing restart, continuously swapping spots down the frontstretch into Turn 1. Then, on Lap 86, Cohn made his big move, taking Karam and Fowler three-wide to move himself to the point. That is when Cohn started to defend to the bottom of the track. Overall, 10 cars were shuffling positions in the main pack.
On Lap 90, the caution would fly for a second and final time as Alaniz and Clark touched wheels heading into Turn 1. The second group of cars piled into the spinning Lotus 79s in the corner. Caleb Benci, who took the hardest of the hits, flipped several times in the grass, landing on top of Adam Young’s car. Chris Lanini also received damage at the same time after driving into the inside wall trying to go for a four-wide move just moments before the Turn 1 crash.
Overall, 19 cars finished on the lead lap.
Next race, the Lionheart Retro Series visits Sonoma Raceway for the HyperX Grand Prix of Sonoma on July 8. Coverage starts at 10:35 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and ESTV.