On the birthday of the namesake for the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, Jason Galvin delivered a lion-like drive through the field to win his first career Lionheart Series race in the Cart Retro Series 150 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on Wednesday night.
The win came on what would have been Dan Wheldon’s 38th birthday.
“This is incredible, I can’t believe I won a Lionheart race, and to do it on Dan’s birthday, at the track he won his first race, I can’t believe it,” Galvin said from victory lane. “I’m not going to say I was the fastest car tonight, but we ran in the top five all race. I’m not apologizing.”
Galvin took the lead with five laps to go when Joe Branch brought his car to the pits for fuel. It culminated a frantic charge to the front, as various fuel strategies played out on the 1.5-mile oval.
When the final caution flew on lap 56 after Robert Obrohta hit the wall and rolled on the front straight, Jonathan Goke surrendered the lead, electing to fuel up and hope to conserve or catch another yellow. Jake Wright inherited the lead, but also hit pit lane a lap before the restart, along with several other cars.
When green flag racing resumed, Christian Steele pulled out to a nearly two second lead over Galvin. But a slow green flag pit stop for Steele opened the door for Galvin, who slid up the track on his pit exit. Steele crossed Galvin over into turn three, but a strong run down the front straight put Galvin at the front of cars who had pitted.
Galvin, Steele and Jason Robarge still found themselves buried behind 13 cars attempting to stretch their fuel to the finish. One by one, the three picked off cars well off the pace, attempting to stretch their fuel or catch a caution.
But when Branch hit the pits with five to go, the coast was clear for Galvin, who outpaced Robarge, his teammate, to take the win.
“I have to thank my teammates, they made this happen,” Galvin said. “Jason Robarge was behind me assuring me that he didn’t have the car to catch me. And Jorge Anzaldo, he founded this league and does so much for us, he talked me into staying out on the final yellow. I wanted to follow Jake in. I had talked about it the entire caution, pitting with one to go. I thought we’d get another yellow.”
Robarge continued his strong run since returning to the series in week three. His second place finish gave him his fifth top ten in seven starts.
“What a great run, tonight was perfect,” Robarge said. “I didn’t have anything for Jason, but we knew we were in good shape after practice, and everything just fell into place.”
Steele was happy with third, but disappointed at a missed opportunity.
“I slid through my pit stall, and that was the difference,” Steele said. “We were real fast, I thought we had it. But third is still a great night.”
Goke, Wright, James Krahula, Patrick Taylor and others who had been quick all race but didn’t catch the caution they needed, battled it out in a race that shook up the points.
Chris Stofer finished fourth, with rookie Ryan Otis fifth in his series debut. Brian Neff gave AGR Motorsports three cars in the top six, with Goke the first of the cars that tried to stretch the fuel finishing seventh. Dan Geren came home eighth, with Bob Mikes and Branch rounding out the top ten.
No Name Racing’s gamble failed, with all four of its five drivers finishing a lap down, the highest finisher being Brian Yaczik in his series debut in 21st.
Goke led a race-high 59 laps from the pole. Three cautions slowed the pace for 12 laps. Five drivers swapped the lead six times in a race that took 59 minutes.
Wright’s 22nd place finish saw his points lead over Goke cut to 88. Krahula, Branch, Geren and Pierre Daigle hold down the unchanged top six, but major changes litter the rest of the standings.
Robarge continued to march up the standings to seventh, with Michael Gray dropping one to eighth. Steele moved up a spot to ninth, and Galvin’s win propelled him six spots to tenth. Stofer and Mikes also improved six spots in the standings.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment returns to the track next week, with the Premier Racing League 200 at Texas Motor Speedway. That race can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST on Wednesday, June 29.
For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, head to www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.