Sometimes it pays off to be lucky and good. Scott Johnson was both Wednesday night, and it paid off in the biggest of ways, with his first career win in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
The Minnesota native led the final 22 laps after a caution propelled him into the lead, holding off Ken Hacker and a hard-charging Adam Blocker for the surprise win.
“I still don’t believe this actually happened,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I had this until we were coming out of turn four.”
Johnson had yet to stop during green-flag pit cycles late in the race. Already planning on stretching his fuel as far as he could, Johnson was one of five drivers still on the track when Connor Harrington spun Jason Galvin on lap 114 - in what was a battle for the lead amongst driver who had already pit - causing Galvin’s car to careen off the wall on the back straight before being plowed by Bob Mikes.
Both Galvin and Mikes were unable to continue, and Harrington was assessed a drive through penalty by race control for reckless driving. He would finish 24th, two laps down, after running in the top three for most of the event.
Justin Weaver beat Johnson off pit road, but was issued a penalty for going through the stop sign at pit exit. Johnson inherited the lead, and never looked back.
“I had a bit of a cushion with the lapped cars after Justin got pushed back,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t raced in traffic all day long so I was kinda afraid I was going to screw up, but it worked out.”
Ken Hacker was able to fend off a hard-charging Adam Blocker for second. The result was the best of Hacker’s career.
“I just spent the race trying to stay clean and keep up with the team,” Hacker said. “At the end I got around Justin and tried to make a run around Scotty but ran out of time.”
Blocker rallied from the 41st starting position to earn his third podium in as many races in 2019.
“I blew my qualifying lap and spun at the end of my hot lap,” said Blocker, the defending series champion. “Kentucky is hard to pass but eventually I found my groove and was able to avoid a few close calls. We just ran out of time at the end.”
Dan Geren led a race-high 71 laps from the pole, but had to settle for fourth after the late caution. Tony Showen, who was in the mix along with Geren, Galvin and Harrington for the win, came home fifth.
The race was slowed four times by cautions totalling 15 laps. Three of the wrecks occurred before anyone could really find a rhythm.
On lap 15, Adrenalin Motorsports teammates Bryan Carey and Chris Stofer tangled exiting turn two. Carey made a passing move and did not realize Stofer was below him, sending his teammate crashing into the inside wall.
Chaos ensued on lap 26. Contact sent Michael Goodman into a slide where he tagged Andrew Kinsella. Kinsella spun across the track, and several other cars were collected. Ron Hacker received the worst of it, barrel rolling down the back straight.
On lap 35, Jason Robarge, Joe Flanagan and Sage Karam became collected in calamity corner, turn tow. All three would retire.
The race would run green, with Geren, Harrington, Galvin and Showen pulling away over the next two fuel stints until the Galvin crash and final restart.
Blocker holds a 13 point lead over Geren through three of the 24 scheduled events in the 2019 Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment. Dustin Wardlow jumped up one spot to third in points, with Weaver and Brian Yaczik tied for fourth.
It’s a quick turnaround for the teams, who head to a short track for the first time in 2019. The Thumbs Up, Cancer Down Phoenix 200 at ISM Raceway is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10 and can be seen live on the iRacing eSports Network with coverage by Global SimRacing Channel.