The race lived up to its lofty expectations, a fitting end to a hotly contested season in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment. In the end, the Lionheart Championship 300 at Auto Club Speedway featured a tight battle between the league’s top two points finishers.
Two-time defending series champion Jake Wright dominated the night, but late race cautions allowed second place points finisher Dan Geren, the polesitter, to make his move. The two swapped leads furiously over the final 15 laps, until Wright made his move too early in turn three with 2 laps to go.
The two touched, sending Wright careening into the SAFER barrier, and handing Geren his second win of the season.
“I have no words,” Geren said. “I automatically called it a racing deal, I didn’t know what happened...Jake and I talked immediately, and he took the blame for what happened.”
Geren led 51 laps, with Wright leading 78. The two were in complete control over the course of the 150 lap race.
“I picked up my first ever Triple Crown win, but I wanted it to go green,” Geren said.
The third and final Triple Crown event of the season saw double points dished out, and a few mid-race issues caused a massive shakeup in the back half of the points.
But it was the battle up front that captivated the audience.
“That’s all on me,” Wright said graciously. “I just turned in too early. I’m disappointed, but what a great season. I have so much fun in this league. I look forward to each and every race.”
Wright won eight races en route to his second straight championship. Geren came home second, and Rookie of the Year Jonathan Goke, deployed in Turkey with the United States Air Force, missed the final third of the season, but held onto a podium points finish behind four wins.
“I can’t believe it,” Goke said via satellite from Turkey after the race. “Dan wins the race, I finished third in points. What a day!”
Ian Adams finishes a strong second at Auto Club after the Wright wreck caused the race to finish under caution. Adams started 20th but drove through the field. Chris Stofer finished third, with Michael Goodman and Joe Branch rounding out the top five.
On the points front, Jason Robarge held onto fourth despite missing the first two events of the season and being wrecked in the finale. James Krahula came home fifth.
Several postseason awards were announced after the event, including Patrick Taylor earning the Dan Wheldon Driver of the Year award from First Medical Equipment.
“I’m speechless,” Taylor said. “What an incredible honor. Thank you to everyone in this league.”
Ron Hacker was named the league’s cleanest driver, while Pierre Daigle earned the CART Retro Series Iron Man Award for completing the most laps. No Name Racing earned the team championship and cleanest team awards.
Series sponsor First Medical Equipment announced it would return for Season 5. Series founder Jorge Anzaldo announced next season will be carried once again by Global SimRacing Channel and will start at Homestead-Miami Speedway and end at Auto Club Speedway once again.
The 24 race slate will see the series make a trip to Imola for the first time, while returning to stalwarts like Watkins Glen, Iowa and Pocono.
A new Lionheart Challenge Series was also announced. Free to all official and practice roster members, the series will rotate short seasons in unique cars, starting with the Radical. The league is also in the process of acquiring the CART Retro Series, utilizing the Lotus 79 in a throwback to the glory days of Indy car racing.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the team we have here,” Anzaldo said. “I never thought we’d grow this league this big. It’s amazing. Thank you to Brandon Limkemann and First Medical Equipment for making it all possible. The drivers deserve so much credit, we truly run the best IndyCar league on iRacing and the support we receive and the caliber of drivers we have prove that.”
The 2017 season will begin March 1, 2017 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but an All-Star race will precede the race on February 8 at Daytona International Speedway. GSRC will also carry that event.
For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.