Connor Harrington had a third-place race car.
That didn’t keep him from victory lane.
Harrington won the Minus 273 Grand Prix of Indianapolis with a thrilling pass of a damaged Sage Karam as the pair streaked towards the checkered flag on the final lap.
It was the first road course victory for Harrington, and his third of 2020 in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
“I’m in shock,” Harrington said. “I don’t know what happened, I don’t know if I’m dreaming. I can’t believe I won a road course race in the Lionheart series.”
Harrington was comfortably in third, several seconds behind Karam - who dominated the race - and defending series champion Adam Blocker.
But everything unraveled with 6 laps remaining.
As Karam lapped Lionheart debutante and eleven-time Formula 1 race winner Rubens Barrichello on the front straight, more lapped traffic loomed.
Karam collided with the slower Brandon Limkemann, who was also slowing down for cars in front of him. The contact caused Limkemann to flip, and broke the left side of Karam’s wing off.
By the time he got to turn three, Karam’s 1.7 second lead was gone and Blocker was wheel-to-wheel for the lead.
Remarkably, Karam fought back to the lead down the infield straight, leading to another overtake attempt by Blocker on the pit straight.
This time, Karam blocked hard to the pit wall, causing Blocker to lift or crash and jolt back to the left. The duo again fought wheel-to-wheel until turn 7, when Blocker lost control under power and spun out.
Barrichello arrived with nowhere to go, plowing Blocker and sending him flipping into the grass to a DNF.
That’s when Harrington began to smell blood.
“I was kinda just out riding in no man’s land, and things just happened,” Harrington said. “It was a crazy finish. I had two push to passes left, and used the first one coming to the white and couldn’t get him.”
Seven second back when the initial crash occurred, Harrington caught Karam on the penultimate lap but was unable to clear Karam on the front straight.
But Harrintgon kept the pressure on and as the duo exited the infield section for the final run to the line, Karam slipped wide and clipped the grass.
That was all Harrington needed. The Syracuse, New York native darted to the outside of Karam in the oval turn 1, and won the drag race back to the checkers.
“I was on the wrong side to make a move into one on the white flag lap,” Harrington said. “I think Karam was out of button presses on the last lap. I don’t even know how much I won by.”
Karam discussed the hard move on Blocker while battling in the chaotic final laps.
“Unfortunate, we had a great race going,” Karam said. “There was a damaged car and I thought they left a lane, and then they didn’t….and then Adam and I got into it on the front. I thought he’d know it was a no brainer that I’d block the wall there, and ended up hitting the wall there and bent the toe.”
Arjuna Kankipati was the beneficiary of Blocker’s wreck, capturing his first Lionheart podium finish.
“I definitely prefer the road courses,” Kankipati said. “Just a great race for us today.”
Andrew Kinsella and fromer series champion Jake Wright rounded out the top five.
The race was relatively clean until that point, with minor accidents eliminating the likes of Jason Galvin, Joe Branch, Joe Hassert and Josh Chin.
18 drivers finished on the lead lap.
41 cars took the green flag, a Lionheart Racing Series powered by HyperX record for a road course event, including five drivers with real world racing success: Karam, Barrichello, 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan, and a pair of Mexican sports car champions, Adrian Fernandez (also of CART fame), and Luis Diaz.
Karam holds a 74-point advantage over Harrington, with Kinsella falling to third, 81 back of the lead. Blocker remains in fourth but now sits 118 points back of the lead.
Next up for the Lionheart IndyCar Series, the HyperX Indianapolis 500.
The race is set for Sunday, June 28 and can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with Global SimRacing Channel producing the broadcast, with a 4 p.m. EST start.