It took two laps for Connor Harrington to rocket to the front at Twin Ring Motegi. Once he did, hardly anyone could touch him.
Harrington held off challenges from a half-dozen drivers throughout the race to win the Global Electronic Technology 200, after a thrilling two-lap sprint to the finish and fierce charge from Sage Karam in the final corner.
“The late race yellow I really didn’t want to see,” whose 0.013 second margin of victory was the third closest in series history. “I was content up front, my teammate Nathan (Lewis) and (Jason) Galvin were controlling the pace. When the yellow came out, the chips kinda fall on the table and it works out how it works out. Just thrilled to get it done here at Motegi.”
The Alkentech Simulation NHR e-Sports driver led 112 of the 130 laps en route to his first Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment victory at the famed Japanese oval.
“Sage made a hell of a move going into turn three,” Harrington said. “Hats off to him, to not have us end up in the barriers. That was a great move.”
Karam, who leads the points in both Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX campaigns, was part of a group that took an extra pit stop, hoping fresher tires on the final run would allow a path around the otherwise unpassable Harrington.
The plan appeared to be on the ropes, as the group that also included Adam Blocker and Andrew Kinsella, among others, were two seconds behind the trio of Harrington, two-time Motegi winner Jason Galvin and rookie Nathan Lewis when the final caution flew with seven laps remaining.
That setup a furious dash for the trio with roughly 15 less laps on their tires.
“I think if we had one more corner or 100 feet longer we would have won that thing,” Karam said. “I’m very happy with second, and a good points day. It was good.”
Kinsella and Blocker were able to take advantage of a three-wide situation and get around Galvin in the final corner.
“I didn’t think I could get there unless I got the draft,” Kinsella said of the final lap. “If I had one more lap, I might’ve got there, but it was a great run, very happy with a third place finish.”
Lewis fell to sixth during the final scramble, with Brian Yaczik, Big Joe Hassert, early race contender Chris Stofer and James Krahula rounding out the top 10.
The race saw four cautions fly for 16 laps, but the biggest moment came during contact that did not result in the yellow laundry flying.
Damon Martinez made contact with his SKM teammate Josh Chin early on, sending Chin into the wall and out of the race on lap 45. Martinez - who captured his first Lionheart pole earlier in the day - was penalized for avoidable contact, and finished a lap down in 27th, while Chin was the second car out in 37th.
As a result, Chin plummeted three more spots in the standings to ninth, after appearing to be one of Karam’s biggest challengers for the championship early on.
As is, Karam holds a 70 point advantage over Kinsella, with Harrington and Blocker tied for third, 77 points out of the lead.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment takes three weeks off before ramping up for its Month of May, June edition, starting with the Minus 273 Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course on Wednesday, June 17. The race can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with Global SimRacing Channel producing the action at 10:35 p.m. EST.
One week later, on June 24, Lionheart plays host to the first ever HyperX Indianapolis 500 Race for the Pole, featuring authentic Indy 500-style qualifying, all to set the grid for the annual HyperX Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, June 28. That race, the crown jewel of the Lionheart season, can be seen live at 4 p.m. EST on the iRacing eSports Network.