In the end, one driver was just too good at saving fuel.
Michael Goodman captured the Lionheart Season 7 All-Star Race presented by Von Hanson’s Wednesday night at the virtual Rockingham Speedway. It marked the first All-Star win of Goodman’s career in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
Goodman passed 8 Ball Motorsports teammate Justin Weaver in the final corner, as Weaver’s car sputtered on ethanol fumes.
“I felt horrible for Justin,” Goodman said. “We got towards the end and he said his fuel was in the red, and on the last lap he said he was out so I just went high. It was nice to finally get one of these.”
Weaver coasted across in second, just ahead of Brian Yaczik.
“What a heartbreaker there running out,” Weaver said. “That yellow came out and I just said screw it, we’re going to stay out for track position. And I was fuel saving behind Sage and he hit the wall, so I just had to keep my foot in it out front and hope for the best. It just didn’t work out.”
IndyCar star Sage Karam dominated the event, leading 97 of the 148 laps after starting third.
Karam quickly worked his way around Yaczik and Goodman, the pole winner, and was rarely challenged. But following the final caution of the event, Karam rocketed through the field only to have Weaver keep pace.
Challenged for the first time all race, Karam made an uncharacteristic mistake exiting turn two and slapped the wall, ending his night 31 laps from the end.
From there, Weaver held Goodman at bay while Yaczik saved fuel, convinced the first two would run out.
“I hate fuel milage racing with all of the passion you could hate things with,” Yaczik said. “I was riding in sixth gear and lifting and I was only a half lap to the good. I don’t know how either of them made it. Add it to the list of things I suck at.”
The race was slowed by three cautions. The first, a competition caution on lap 41, bunched the field up and allowed everyone to get tires.
At the first caution, several contenders had already found the wall and retired, including defending champion Adam Blocker, series runner-up Dan Geren and Dan Geren. Race sponsor Bob Mikes had damage from net code contact with Jason Galvin - a common theme on the night - and also retired.
On the lap 46 restart, Karam jumped out to a quick lead. The second caution flew on lap 50, when Brandon Limkemann received net code contact from Chris Stofer while battling for second.
Limkemann spun off turn two, with Andrew Kinsella slamming into him, ending the night for both. Goodman collected slight nose damage but was able to get his car repaired.
On the restart, the revamped Loud Pedal Motorsports team showed its might, with Yaczik, Galvin and Joe Hassert swapping second through fifth with Chris Stofer. That ended when Galvin and Stofer made net code contact, ending Stofer’s race.
A few laps later, more net code contact between Galvin and Hassert caused Big Joe to slap the wall.
Galvin’s luck ended on lap 91, when Weaver clipped the apron in turn three and slid up, pushing Galvin into the wall. The crash brought out the final caution and setup the fuel saving dash to the finish.
Nine cars were still running, and only Weaver stayed out when the pace car lights went off. As others topped off on fuel, that move would prove to be the difference.
Just four of the 20 starters finished the race, with Mike Rigney surviving early contact to finish fourth.
In the All-Star Shootout earlier in the night, Brian Beard beat Rigney and Bryan Carey to the stripe, securing a spot in the main event for each.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment packs up and heads south for its traditional season-opening stop at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The First Medical Equipment 200 kicks off season seven on Wednesday, March 13 and can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with production by Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST.