If you believe in fate, or are even the least bit superstitious, Wednesday night’s Lionheart All-Star Race presented by Von Hanson’s Meats at Darlington Raceway should not have surprised you.
After 77 regular season starts without a win, Canadian Pierre Daigle avoided a chaotic wreck with two laps remaining and captured the win for the first time in his Lionheart career.
“Words can’t describe how I feel right now,” Daigle said. “I’ve been waiting so long to finally win one. I’ve been close several times, but it feels really, really good to win it.”
The Lionheart series is named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon. The All-Star event marked the end of the DW-12 era for Lionheart, a car named after Wheldon. Wheldon was behind the wheel of the 77 car on that fateful day in 2011 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 77 adorns the badge of the Lionheart logo, the most prominent tribute from a league dedicated to remembering the larger-than-life driver.
“Technically it won’t count in the official stats, but this win means just as much to me, if not more,” Daigle said. “To win the final race in the DW-12...it sure felt like some forces were at work.”
Daigle’s win capped off a banner night for a revamped No Name Racing team. James Krahula followed his teammate through the madness of the final three laps to finish second, while Jason Galvin rebounded after getting caught in an earlier wreck to finish third in his team debut.
“This track you have to absolutely drive it, and I had to take away every single instinct I had when it comes to Darlington, because this car is not a stock car,” Krahula said. “This was awesome, a fun way to get the season started.”
Daigle and Krahula both narrowly avoided disaster, twice. With three laps remaining, Brandon Limkemann and Brian Yaczik - both also searching for their first Lionheart win - made contact on the back straightaway. As the two careened out of control, Daigle and Krahula squeezed through before Joe Branch was collected, paving the way for Galvin’s unlikely recovery and podium finish.
Enthralled in a five-car battle for the lead on lap 61, Galvin was collected when contact between the leaders took out several of the pre-race favorites. With the front running cars on various tire cycles, Tony Showen made contact with Limkemann in turn one. While Limkemann slid through the contact undamaged, Showen was hit by Jake Wright and Chris Stofer, the two dominant cars for most of the event. Galvin was clipped by a spinning Stofer, with Adam Blocker and Chris Lanini also getting collected.
“I’m so pumped for Pierre,” Galvin said. “From day one he’s been one of my best friends in the league. That wreck at the end, I just felt fortunate to weave through. I thought that wreck on lap 61 I was clear of, and the track just closed up. I’m proud of the podium.”
The caution allowed some drivers to stay out, while others pitted for tires, leading to the dramatic finish.
A third major crash occurred early, on lap 4. Michael Goodman and championship favorite Dan Geren came together down the back straightaway. Joe Hassert and Ian Adams were swept up in the collision, ending the race for all four.
Daigle becomes the fifth different winner in as many All-Star events for the Lionheart IndyCar Series. Previous winners include Adams (2017), Korey Conner (‘16), Joe Hassert (‘15) and Jesse Vincent (‘15).
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment will now retire the DW-12 from full-time competition.
The new IR-18 will debut for the season opener, the First Medical Equipment 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
That race can be viewed live on the Global SimRacing Channel on Wednesday, March 28, at 10:35 p.m. EST. The First Medical Equipment 200 is the first of 24 races spread across nine months.
For more information on the Lionheart Racing Series, including the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment and the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.