It was a tale of two races. First was a race to survive the carnage; second, the race to save fuel. Ultimately, Jake Wright proved why he’s still the favorite to win the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment championship.
The two-time defending series champion avoided several wrecks early, then saved enough fuel late before making a daring outside pass for the lead with two laps to go, en route to his series-leading eighth win of the season.
“Iowa is one of the toughest tracks we go to, and most unpredictable,” Wright said. “I’m not really sure how I caught up like I did. I know Dan (Geren) and Brandon (Limkemann) helped out, but somehow I caught up to (to Andrew Kinsella)...I got lucky. I can't believe I survived.”
Wright avoided major wrecks that saw contenders like Michael Goodman, Bobby Mikes, Chris Stofer and Pierre Daigle eliminated.
On lap 41, Goodman pushed exiting turn four, collecting Mikes. Wright avoided the wreck by inches, if that.
“I don’t know how I avoided that one,” Wright said. “I kind of saw it coming and maybe that helped, but I still thought I was in it.”
The final caution flew on lap 89 for Jason Galvin, who had sustained earlier damage brushing the wall while racing with Adam Blocker.
With a fuel window of roughly 50 laps, several drivers, including Wright, Kinsella and Jorge Anzaldo topped off. Geren, the pole winner for the eighth time this season and Wright’s biggest championship adversary, led a group of other fast cars, including Joe Hassert and Limkemann who stayed out, having hit pit road 10 laps earlier.
Another caution never flew, causing the drivers to peel off for pit road under green with less than 10 laps remaining. Kinsella, propelled to the lead, held a two second lead with six laps remaining.
Wright, with plenty of fuel, started reeling off quick laps and cut the lead in half with four to go. As the duo came off turn four with two laps remaining, Wright rocketed past Kinsella and drove away for the win.
“The lapped cars decided to not cooperate with me at the end,” Kinsella said. “Plain and simple. A lapped car with damage ran the middle lane and I had to slow to go under him. Then cars with fresh tires decided to go three-wide and that was it. I never got my momentum back.”
It was a crushing loss for Kinsella, who sits third in points and maintains a longshot chance to winning the championship in his rookie campaign.
“I worked really hard to get to that point,” Kinsella said. “I knew as long as it went green, my strategy was going to work...I felt we had the strongest car and we were able to make passes where others couldn’t most of the day, so it’s really disappointing to lose in the last two laps.”
Through the chaos, several drivers with poor qualifying performances turned in inspiring runs.
Brian Yaczik drove from 15th to finish third.
“That was an interesting race,” Yaczik said. “I didn’t approach it super aggressive because I know how Iowa is...that caution came out with 52 laps to go, and we brought this thing back in a third place finish. Finally, another good finish.”
Scott Johnson - from 33rd on the grid - earned his first top five finish in fourth, with Woody Mahan also scoring his first Lionheart top five while driving through the field from 20th.
Joe Branch, Bart Workman, David Altman, Robert Blouin and Rory Collins completed the top ten. Branch started 16th, while nobody else started in the top 20.
In a race that featured five cautions in its first half, only Galvin’s spin brought out a yellow in the second half of the race. The flip in momentum put Geren - who finished a lap down in 17th - in a huge championship hole.
Joe Hassert, who led the second most laps, finished 15th, with Adam Blocker 16th.
Kinsella (52) led the most laps, followed by Hassert (46) and Geren (41). Wright led only two laps - the two most important - while Blocker and Mitchell Mohler both led a single lap.
The first caution came on lap three, as Brian Greenlee experienced a mechanical failure and spun in turn two.
On lap 13, Dave Barber spun exiting turn four. Jack Bogan could not avoid the spin, which looked to be contained to just two cars until Scott Bolster, Pierre Daigle, Justin Weaver and several others were gathered up while avoiding the wreck.
The carnage early meant just 22 of the 36 entrants finished the race. 13 cars finished on the lead lap.
Wright extended his lead 55 points over Geren, the largest margin of the season. Kinsella sits 105 back of the lead with five races remaining.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads to series founder Jorge Anzaldo’s home track, Chicagoland Speedway, for the Von Hanson’s 200 Thursday night. The race can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:40 p.m. EST.
For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.