By Justin Prince
After a fierce battle for the race lead resulted in a major crash on the final lap, Chris Stofer has won the first triple crown race of the 2021 Lionheart Speedway Series Presented by The DMLC Racing Channel season.
The GRAAFix Esports 300 at iRacing’s virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway ended with a dramatic incident coming out of Turn 2 after Stofer and Jason Galvin had been battling for the win during a three-lap shootout.
Galvin appeared to be about a foot apart from Stofer when Galvin’s car shot up the track.
The Thumbs Up Cancer Down LPM driver then slammed into the outside SAFER barrier before bouncing back around to the other side of the track and to the apron. Galvin would then hit the inside wall, destroying the back end of his Dallara DW-12.
He would spin around the apron for a few more seconds before crossing the line in 13th position.
Joe Branch, Ken Hacker, Barrett Rolph and Matt Taylor rounded out the top five.
“It was a tough race,” said Stofer from HyperX Victory Lane. “Galvin there raced me hard and clean the whole way. Me and him already talked about it and looked at it. It was netcode. It’s unfortunate that our race had to end that way because it would have come down to the wire.”
The two drivers had fought for the race lead for more than 20 laps after Eric Schaus and Alexander van de Sandt collided on Lap 173. Stofer and Galvin would swap draft at least 10 times during the following green flag stint.
When Galvin would take the lead, he attempted to break the draft several times by defending to the inside of the track.
Then, a caution with seven laps to go set up the wild finish.
“It is what it is,” said Galvin. “It’s part of sim racing. It’s part of doing things on the internet. There’s nobody to blame. To me, it’s no different than if you’re racing for the win in real-life and a piece of debris comes on the track and knocks you out on the last lap. Just part of it.”
Nick DeGroot had been the dominant car in the opening 40 laps of the race.
The Motorsport.com Editor would lead by as much as 1.2 seconds after pulling away from the pack on Lap 15. DeGroot at points was as much as a tenth quicker than the rest of the pack.
The complexion of the race lead would change after Vern Hawkins III was involved in back-to-back caution flags early in the race.
The OM2D Motorsports driver first got into trouble when Ken Hacker tapped his left rear tire on Lap 39. Then, as Hawkins saved his car, Chris Stofer ran into the back of Hawkins, sending both cars spinning through Turns 3 and 4. The incident would immediately end Fowler’s race.
Then on Lap 51, after Hawkins got his damage repaired, he would slap loose coming out of Turn 4, sending him spinning head on into the inside SAFER barrier down the front straightaway.
With the caution period, 11 drivers decided to take a risk early on strategy, including Galvin and series points leader Alexis Newsome.
Newsome would follow the same trends as DeGroot after fending off Galvin, leading by as much as 1.1 seconds in clean air before a Lap 84 caution allowed the strategies to even out.
Galvin, who had not done any practice prior to qualifying due to commitments with the NHRA, would cycle into the top five.
DeGroot would eventually find his way back in contention for the win after a restart with 80 laps to go. the points standings would see a massive shakeup afterwards.
As DeGroot, Galvin and Fowler fought back and forth for the lead on Lap 125, Paul Jenkins would clear Newsome coming out of Turn 2 while battling for fourth. Newsome would get into the back end of Jenkins, sending the AeroX driver spinning into Tony Showen.
Showen would be launched off the front nose of Jenkins and flip in the air several times over the apron before disappearing from the track.
Due to the flip and to Jenkins spinning below the white line, no caution flag came out for the incident.
Then, on Lap 136, Newsome would crash after being hit in the left rear by Marc Cohn entering Turn 3. The Contact would send Newsome into the right sidepod of Schaus. Newsome then bounced hard right into the outside wall, flinging her car to the inside of the track into the path of Tyler Graaf.
Van de Sandt, Andrew Kinsella and Charles Teed would also be involved in the crash.
On the ensuing restart, Galvin would take the lead on Lap 147 and begin pulling away from the pack.
DeGroot elected to come in for his final stop on Lap 153 after dropping to the edge of the top 10 positions and immediately lost a lap after a quick caution.
DeGroot would then be involved in the next caution after he attempted to go three-wide. He would go on to finish 10th.
Overall, nine cautions were drawn during the race with more than half the field not completing the full 200 laps.
Next up, the Lionheart Speedway Series goes to iRacing’s virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway on May 7th for the DMLC Racing Channel 200. Live coverage can be seen live on RaceSpot TV and ESTV at 10:35 p.m. ET.