The drama didn’t even last a corner, and hometown hero Jake Wright was all but assured his second consecutive Sonoma win. The Northern Californian dominated the USMC Wounded Warrior Grand Prix for his fourth win of the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment season, after his closest competition wrecked at the start.
“I have no idea what happened behind me, but I saw after turn one Ryan Otis and Dan Geren were off in my relative, so it took off some stress to say the least,” Wright said from victory lane, his third win in a row at Sonoma. “It sucks that happened to them, but this is a demanding track and it helped a lot.”
Wright qualified on the pole but was expected to face pressure from Otis, a road course ace, and Geren, one of the fastest drivers in Lionheart. But as the green flag flew, the second and third place qualifiers suffered net code contact and spun off the track at turn two.
Geren was able to continue with minimal front wing damage, which his crew later fixed. Otis slammed the tire barrier and was the first car out, finished 32nd.
The contact setup a fierce battle for the remaining podium spots. Ultimately, James Krahula and Michael Goodman pulled through for the second and third spots, with Michael Gray closely behind in fourth.
The trio were not without their own near miss following a massive wreck on lap 24, which saw points leader and second place runner Andrew Kinsella’s race end with a flip in turn seven.
“Considering this is as close to a road course victory as I’ll get with Jake around, I’m going to go ahead and celebrate like I won one,” Krahula said after his second place finish. “It sucks that happened to Andrew. We got some damage too, or I thought we did. I guess the pit crew fixed it.”
Kinsella was running second and trying to lap Frank Bieser and Joe Hassert as the trio screamed down the drag strip towards the double-apex turn seven. As they entered the corner, Jack Bogan, who was already five laps down, was practically stopped in the center of the corner, blind to everyone but Hassert.
Hassert cut right, just missing Bogan. But Beiser had to swing wide to miss Bogan. As he did, he collected Kinsella, spinning and then flipping the points leader. Krahula plowed into Beiser, and Goodman also received damage that was later fixed by his crew.
“I hate to see that,” Wright said of the wreck. “That will help in the points though. With the drop weeks taken into account, we should all even out and be close.”
The Lionheart series drops a drivers three worst finishes from the season results. Kinsella finished 26th after the wreck. Goodman thought he was fortunate to sneak through.
“It was a lot rougher than I anticipated,” Goodman said. “A couple of incidents went my way. My hats off to everyone who was in front of me. I was expecting people to make a lot more mistakes than they did, so really my hats off.”
Brian Yaczik held off a furious charge from Geren for the final spot in the top five. The finish gave No Name Racing three cars in the top five, including Wright and Krahula. Jason Galvin ran a steady race, the only car besides Wright without an incident, to finish seventh. Dustin Wardlow finished eighth, with Bob Mikes and Pierre Daigle tenth, the fourth No Name driver in the top ten.
No Name Racing now leads the team points standings by 170 points over Team #nailedit.
Kinsella’s series points lead fell to 26 over Wright, the two-time defending Lionheart champion. Geren sits third, 34 back of the lead. Gray and Otis round out the top five.
The Sonoma race never had a full course caution. Four driver led laps, with all 5 lead changes happening in the pits. Kinsella led 2, with Krahula and Gray each leading a single lap. Wright led 36.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment returns to the road for a four race stretch, starting Wednesday, June 28, with the Area 51 Milwaukee 150 at the historic Milwaukee Mile. 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.