By Justin Prince
In one of the closest finishes of the season, Connor Harrington has won his second race of the Lionheart IndyCar Series Presented by ButtKicker season.
The PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype driver took the checkered flag in the Minus 273 Texas 200 Presented by SimRace247 by 0.031 seconds, the 11th closest margin of victory in series history. Harrington did so by holding off the advances of Barrett Rolph and the fresher tires of Jason Brophy on a late-race restart.
It was the Lionheart Racing Series’ first trip to iRacing’s current version of Texas Motor Speedway.
Harrington led 41 of the 133 laps on the way to the victory.
Rolph, Brophy, Adam Blocker and Mike Rasimas completed the top five finishing positions.
“These Lionheart races are never easy to win and Barrett certainly did not make it an easy one tonight,” said Harrington from HyperX Victory Lane. “A great finish for us tonight. Our PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype machine was just fantastic and I’m just really thrilled to have a break go our way and we were able to take advantage of it. That’s kind of what we need for the rest of the season.”
That break came on Lap 86 after Jay Brant spun out while trying to enter the pit lane. Harrington had been running behind Chris Fowler, Robert Maleczka III, Brant and Tony Showen prior to the caution. Of those drivers, only Showen had not attempted to pit before the yellow flag came out. Only Showen went on to finish inside the top 10.
Following the restart, Harrington made the pass for the lead quickly on Showen. On Lap 94, Harrington built up a run coming out of Turn 2 and down the backstretch. While most drivers throughout the race had been trying to run in the middle line to defend, Showen did not, giving Harrington a lot of space to make the pass in Turn 3.
The battle for the race win came down to a six-lap shootout after a series of late-race incidents. With 15 laps to go, Brant spun out again, this time coming out of Turn 2. Brant smashed his front wing into the inside SAFER barrier before sliding back up the track, triggering the caution.
Several competitors, including Brophy, Rasimas and Andrew Kinsella, decided to pit for tires.
On the ensuing restart, the drivers on fresh tires quickly attempted to overtake their fellow competitors.
Brophy and Rasimas quickly drove to the inside of the Alkentech Simulations NHR e-Sports cars of Matt Taylor and Stephen Laarkamp. Taylor attempted to pass his teammate entering Turn 3 with Rasimas still alongside him. The two teammates then collided in the corner, sending Laarkamp spinning into the outside wall.
After the restart, Rolph attempted to make the pass on the high side of the track through the corners, but could not carry enough momentum to clear Harrington.
Then, with two laps to go, the fight came close to ending with a crash. Rolph built up his best run of the race off of Turn 2, using the banking as a ramp. Harrington then blocked Rolph nearly all the way to the apron down the backstretch. Harrington narrowly avoided the front wing of Rolph when arching into Turn 3. Rolph did not get alongside Harrington until it was too late.
“I have nothing against him because I probably would have done the same thing to him. I figured it was better to back out than to throw it away that late,” said Rolph. “I’m still super excited with the finish either way. I think I probably could have been closer. I tried a few different things and had a look up the inside a couple different times. I gave it everything to try and get around him there at the end and he just got the better of me at the line.”
Behind them, Brophy was making his way through the pack very quickly. The PRIVATE LABEL Team Hype driver was able to move up from 10th position to third during the final six laps. He ended up finishing just under two-tenths of a second behind Harrington.
“I obviously wish there wouldn’t have been that last caution,” said Brophy. “I made the call to pit and I hadn’t really run up front the whole race, so it was just ‘hey, let’s take a shot at maybe getting back to fifth or maybe win it.’”
Next, the Lionheart IndyCar Series travels to Australia for the KARNOX Grand Prix of Phillip Island. Coverage starts at 10:35 p.m. ET on RaceSpot TV and ESTV on August 25th.