Jason Galvin entered the sixth race of the season in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment feeling confident. The Bakersfield, Calif. driver had finished no worse than sixth on an oval this season, and the league returned to the sight of his first career win, Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.
But a pre-race equipment change found Galvin in the back half of the top ten for most of the event.
Fortunately for Galvin, everything worked out in the end. A late race caution threw strategy to the win, allowing Galvin to take tires and charge to the front of his sponsors race, winning the Global Electronic Technology 200, making Galvin the first repeat winner at Motegi.
“This is incredible,” Galvin said. “I knew early this week in practice that we had one of the cars to beat. But I really thought I blew it when I changed pedals before the race. Thankfully, I found a little bit of a rhythm there late, and the cautions played out for me.
“I’m not really sure why everyone started to pit. We were only about a lap or two short. I don’t think anyone was going to make it (before the final caution on lap 118), but I don’t think pitting 20 laps early just for tires was the best move. I told my teammates that I figured we’d get a late caution, but even if we didn’t, a one second splash-and-go would negate the five seconds it takes to get tires. I’m just glad it worked out. I love this place.”
The No Name Racing driver inherited the lead as others pitted early for fuel and tires, and then pounced when a late-race caution trapped Dan Geren and Joe Hassert, the two best cars on the night, a lap down.
Galvin, along with Chris Stofer and others, hit pit road for tires, then charged to the front on a restart with seven laps to go.
Galvin took the lead on lap 127 from Brandon Limkemann, who spent most of the night in the top five but was one of five cars who stayed out on the final caution.
Stofer followed Galvin around the cars that stayed out, but could not keep up and settled for second.
“Had we not got that caution at the end, it would’ve been interesting,” Stofer said. “I was saving fuel. It was going to be close, but I think I might’ve had enough to make it.”
Stofer’s Adrenaline Motorsports teammate Joe Branch, who had barely cracked the top ten all race, used fresh tires and a few aggressive moves to charge onto the podium in the final laps.
“I was racing hard the entire race, it was fun,” Branch said. “I was going to make it if the caution came out. I was surprised how many guys split the strategy. But when that caution came out, I knew I had to come in and take tires.”
Galvin nearly gave away his track position in the middle of the race, but realized a change was impossible.
“I swapped pedals this week, installed new ones for the first time in my career,” Galvin said. “Halfway through the race I was trying to figure out how I could change them back mid-race. I just didn’t have time. To swap pedals, exit the car, re-calibrate; it would’ve been disaster.”
The win propelled Galvin to second in points, just 15 back of Andrew Kinsella, who was a non-factor in the race after qualifying 24th and speeding during green flag pit stops. The championship leader finished 26th.
Galvin’s good fortune spelled doom for Dan Geren.
The Iowa native captured the pole - his sixth in as many races this season - and led 83 laps. Only Brian Yaczik, who found trouble after contact with Limkemann on lap 87, and Joe Hassert ever appeared to truly challenge Geren.
But when Hassert hit the pits with 20 laps remaining, taking enough fuel to get to the end and fresh tires, Geren followed suit, fearful that Hassert might make up the difference to the lead on fresh tires.
When Pierre Daigle and Ian Adams made contact in turn three with 13 laps remaining, the caution flew, trapping Geren, Hassert and a host of others a lap down.
Geren finished 28th, and despite leading 44 percent of the laps this season, has yet to record a top ten finish. The defending series runner-up is 16th in points. Hassert ended up 21st.
Limkemann held on for fourth on the old tires, and his Synergy Motorsports teammate Jorge Anzaldo stayed out and captured fifth, the first top five of the season for the series founder.
The race was slowed by just three cautions. The first wreck of the night occured on lap 57, when Woody Mahan got into the back of Joe Flanagan in turn three.
The biggest incident occurred in the final corner of the race.
As cars with fresh tires and old tires swapped spots, Yaczik appeared to make slight contact with Tyler Graff exiting turn four. Yaczik’s car moved left, turning Bart Workman. A seven car wreck ensued, resulting in a spectacular moment for Australian Michael Gray, whose car took to the skies like a rocket before crashing into the pits 200 yards down the track.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment will stick around in Japan, and return to Motegi for its next even, on the Twin Ring road course. The RaceCentre Grand Prix of Japan is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23rd, and can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST.
For more on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.