With a slow car blocking the racing line, Jake Wright squeezed past Jason Robarge in the final 200 feet to win the Unacceptable Racing 125 at Phoenix International Raceway on Wednesday night. The margin of victory, .038-seconds, is the second closest in Lionheart IndyCar Series history.
“I was just trying to keep my second place,” Wright said after claiming his second victory of the season. “I wanted to keep my points after being taken out last week. But there in turn four, (Jason Robarge) got caught up by a lapped car and I was able to go outside of him and take the win. It sucks for him that he didn’t get the win but I’m happy to be back in victory lane.
“I just wish it could’ve been under different circumstances.”
The final quarter-mile of the race will go down as the most controversial in series history.
Krystya Nelson, well off the pace after brining out the last caution with nine laps remaining, was trying to limp her car to the finish. Heavily damaged, she remained in the middle of the racing groove as the top six cars approached with the checkered flag waving.
With Nelson well off the pace, Robarge had to lift to avoid her car. With more time to react, Wright was able to keep his foot in the throttle, inching by Robarge on the high side at the stripe.
Robarge’s teammate, Jason Galvin, was third, .118 seconds back of Wright after going around James Krahula in the final corner.
Robarge declined comment after the race.
“We all have our opinions on what happened at the end,” Galvin said while trying to smile, despite taking home his career-best finish. “My teammate had that in the bag. I’m more mad, and shaking for him, than anything. Our No Chance cars were so good tonight.”
Krahula echoed those sentiments.
“That was a crazy race, it sure was a heck of a lot of fun, though,” said Krahula, who started 19th. “I think we were three-wide on the white flag, and I was hoping those guys would chicken out, and they didn’t. And then that fun little mess happened in three and four, and Galvin was able to get around me there at the end. Glad we didn’t wreck from that.”
Joe Hassert, who was trapped a lap down with Galvin during green flag pit stops midway through the race, rallied to finish fifth.
After the race, Nelson said she “felt terrible” and owed Robarge, and several others an apology. Nelson said she thought she’d get to the white flag before the leaders reached her.
The incident is under review by league officials.
The win expands Wright’s points lead with just four races remaining. He now leads Krahula by 129. Hassert is third, with Pierre Daigle and Ricky Hardin fifth. Robarge moved up four spots to sixth.
Tommy Rhyne finished sixth in the race, still within half a second of Wright. Daigle, Michael Gray, Hardin and Drew Motz rounded out the top ten.
Wright led the most laps at 43, although most of those came in the middle stages of the event. Robarge led 34, with Hassert leading 30. Seven drivers exchanged the lead 12 times.
The race was marred by eight cautions for 32 laps. The back half of the race was heavily painted with wrecks.
Eight of the 28 starters failed to finish, with four others falling off the lead lap due to damage.
The series next heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, November 25 for the Cart Retro Series 200. The race can be seen live on Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST.