To say 2015 was a disappointment for Jake Wright would be unfair. The rookie won two races and the championship in his maiden voyage in the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment. But despite winning his strong pace, Wright ended the year without a trophy on a road course.
He won’t have to worry about that in 2016. Wright took the lead from pole-sitter Christian Steele on lap 14, and never relinquished the lead, taking the win in the Lionheart 100 at Watkins Glen International on Wednesday night.
“It feels great,” Wright said in victory lane. “All week I felt fast. I found it was very difficult when you weren’t on the pole, because I was mirroring everything Christian was doing. But I’m pretty psyched.”
Wright jumped into the points lead, with an eight point advantage over Homestead winner Joe Hassert.
The relatively clean race saw Steele and Wright get big separation early from James Krahula, Jason Galvin and Dan Geren. Both Galvin and Geren had off-track incidents, allowing Michael Gray and Hassert to fill the gap behind Krahula and round out the top five.
After the race, Steele had a hard time accepting second.
“Once (Wright) got around me, I knew there was no going back,” Steele said with a dejected tone, despite notching his best series finish. “We were so close in space that once he had the pretty good margin, he won it going away.”
The two teenagers easily outpaced Krahula, who ran alone in third much of the event.
“I feel old,” Krahula said. “I found an old trophy from 2005 this week, and Jake Wright was four years old when I won that. Anyway, those two pitted, I led my lap, and that was pretty much my night.”
Wright led 17 laps, Steele led the 12 and Krahula picked up a bonus by staying out one extra lap on the first green flag stint.
The race was relatively clean, with several solo incidents taking out contenders. The biggest event came on lap 8, when Chris Gutierrez forced the issue with Pierre Daigle heading into the inner loop. The two collided and both were forced to the garage.
Ronald Hacker, Jonathan Goke, Geren, Randy Crossno and Brandon Limkemann completed the back half of the top 10.
Wright and Hassert have a steady lead over Krahula in the points. Steele’s finish leapfrogged him 23 spots up the board into fourth, and Hacker sits fifth.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment returns to the oval side of things with a trip to the valley of the sun and Phoenix International Raceway for 150 laps. Wright picked up his second career victory in this race last year, one of the more thrilling events of the season.
Wright beat Jason Robarge and Galvin in a three-wide finish on the quick one-mile tri-oval. You can watch the 2016 edition of the event live on Global SimRacing Channel on Wednesday at 10:40 p.m. EST. For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.