There was a mighty sigh of relief in the virtual racing world Wednesday night. After more than two years of would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, Brian Yaczik shook the monkey off his back and came out victorious in the Thumbs Up, Cancer Down 200 at Phoenix International Raceway - now known as ISM Raceway - in round two of the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment.
It was the first Lionheart IndyCar Series victory for Yaczik, an accomplished iRacer with wins in several leagues in stock cars.
“This is incredible,” said Yaczik, who led the most laps (124) for the second time in as many races this season. “Full strategy and stuff like that never works for me. It worked tonight. This is amazing.”
Yaczik redeemed himself after the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where his No. 55 HPP Simulation IR-18 seemed destined for victory, until Andrew Kinsella came storming around the outside in the closing laps to steal the win away.
Learning from his mistake of a week ago, Yaczik rolled the middle groove in turns three and four on the one-mile oval, fending off challenges first from Tony Showen, and finally from Jason Galvin through six restarts in the final 50 laps.
“I really like Phoenix,” said Yaczik, who picked up the first win for the newly formed Loud Pedal Motorsports. “I’ve run a lot of races here, and had a lot of success here in NASCAR and stuff like that...I am beyond excited, this is incredible, I can’t believe after choking it away last week and getting so down on myself, to come back out the next week and lead a ton of laps and win the race, this is incredible.”
Galvin came home second in the race presented by one of his sponsors, Thumbs Up, Cancer Down, a Bakersfield, Calif.-based charity. Despite taking a look inside of Yaczik on the penultimate lap, Galvin said he never thought he could get around the eventual winner.
“I told Brian before the final restart that as long as he didn’t wall me, and I didn’t think he would, that I was not going to compromise us,” Galvin said. “He drove a perfect race, and I had no business even being in second...things just played out the right way throughout the night.”
Carnage was the word of the night, with just 25 of the 42 starters finishing the race, which featured a race-record eleven cautions for 44 laps. Several other cars finished with damage, and just 12 cars finished on the lead lap after a caution on lap 101 turned the race upside down.
Nine cars had yet to pit, using extra fuel from a pit stop on lap 51 to stretch the window. The caution, for Scott Johnson’s solo spin exiting turn two, trapped the heavy hitters of the first half of the race a lap down, when the trio of Adam Blocker, Andrew Kinsella and polesitter Dan Geren (who led 74 laps) could not run down Yaczik, who had inherited the lead.
Those three - easily the class of the field early on - were trapped down a lap, along with Lionheart stalwarts Joe Hassert, Ian Adams and Michael Goodman. The group were all waived around the pace car, tacking onto the back of the lead lap. But another caution - as Chris Lanini hit the wall on lap 152 - once again trapped the group a lap down, and in some cases, two laps down.
The group never recovered, and several were eliminated in wrecks during the final laps.
Showen held on for third, despite a late push from his Adrenaline Motorsports teammate Chris Stofer.
“It was a lot of luck,” Showen said of his podium. “I pitted every time there was a yellow, and I was down to one lap left when the caution came out and it got me up front.”
Stofer settled for fourth, with No Name Racing’s James Krahula rounding out the top five, joining his new teammate Galvin near the front.
Brian Greenlee led the back half of the top ten in sixth, followed by David Korty with a career-best seventh. Joe Flanagan, Kinsella and Rory Collins rounded out the top ten.
Bart Workman and Brian Beard were the final two cars on the lead lap.
Only one lead lap finisher - Workman (9th) - started inside the top ten. Four of the top five finishers started in the back-half of the field, with the podium of Yaczik, Galvin and Showen coming from 24th, 21st and 28th, respectively.
The wreck with the biggest points impact occured on lap 187, as Kinsella made contact with the lapped car of Mitchell Mohler exiting turn four. Blocker, Hassert and Ed Tutwiler were also collected.
Kinsella was the only car to drive away.
The championship race sees a dramatic shakeup after two races.
Yaczik - the only driver in the top five in both events - leads the way by 20 points over Galvin, who finished sixth at Homestead. Kinsella sits five points back in third, with Jorge Anzaldo and Brian Greenlee, perhaps surprisingly, in fourth and fifth through two events.
Geren, who has yet to finish in the top ten despite a pair of poles and the second-most laps led, sits 22nd. The series runner-up in 2017 was the first car a lap down, in 13th, at Phoenix.
Following wrecks at both events this season, Blocker sits even further back, a shocking 36th in points.
Both Geren and Blocker were on the short list of preseason favorites to win the championship, which is considered wide open this season with both Jesse Vincent and three-time defending champion Jake Wright in race control.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series permits drivers to drop their three worst races in the 24 event season.
There’s no time for rest for the stars of the premier fixed-setup IndyCar league using the iRacing.com service.
The Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment heads to the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for the OMA’s Kentucky 200 on Wednesday, April 11th.
As is the case with all Lionheart Racing Series events, the OMA’s Kentucky 200 can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST Wednesday night.
For more information on the Lionheart IndyCar Series presented by First Medical Equipment, and the accompanying Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation, visit www.LionheartRacingSeries.com.