Michel de Jonge kept his nose clean in the opening 30 laps and settled in to dominate the inaugural iRace for Gage Indianapolis 500 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
de Jonge led a race-high 91 laps on his way to his first career victory in the iRacing.com-based Lionheart IndyCar Series.
“It means a lot,” de Jonge said in the virtual victory lane. “I’ve had some really bad luck in this series so far. It’s a great series, I’ve had a lot of fun, but finally today things went my way.”
de Jonge held off a late race charge by polesitter Ricky Hardin, who took the lead with six laps to go. But just two laps later, Hardin got into the outside wall, damaging his Dallara DW12. Hardin fell to ninth.
“My arms are hurting, my legs are hurting, but it was all worth it,” de Jonge said.
Series point leader Jake Wright ran a conservative race, but came home second. Wright leads third place finisher Joe Branch by 100 points.
The battle between de Jonge and Hardin followed 150 laps of back-and-forth action between de Jonge and Bradley Walters. Walters led 73 laps but overshot his pit stall late in the race and fell to 13th.
Hardin then set his sights on de Jonge, but after taking the lead in the closing laps, miscalculated his entry to turn three, ending his shot at a win.
“I got up too high going into three,” Hardin said. “I was just going to let Michel go and get behind him. I tried to let off and let him go and I think I got in a little too high on entry, and it just pushed and pushed and pushed until I hit the wall. I really felt like I was in the right spot and him and I were going to have a great battle to the end.”
Michael Gray rallied from midpack to finish fourth, with Chris Stofer rounding out the top five.
The opening 30 laps eliminated several race favorites.
On lap three, Ian Adams turned Jorge Anzaldo, damaging the Iowa winner’s car. Anzaldo finished six laps down in 19th.
The first yellow would fly on the next lap, as Tommy Rhyne pushed coming out of turn one, forcing Joe Hassert into the wall. Hassert couldn’t hold the car high, and the resulting spin collected Jason Galvin. Hassert and Galvin would finish 25th and 26th.
On lap 13, Korey Conner got into the wall, ending his day. Lap 22 saw leader Tony Lurcock hit the inside wall on the front straight while trying to break the draft. 15 laps later, Lurcock lost control of his damaged car, ending his day.
The race had just two yellows for six laps. Eight drivers swapped the lead 36 times.
Jason Robarge, James Karhula, Dan Geren, Hardin and Rhyne rounded out the top 10.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday, October 14, for the RaceCentre 93 on the IMS road course. The 36 lap event will be broadcast live on Global SimRacing Channel at 10:45 p.m. EST.