A late-race crash in the biggest race of the season dramatically altered the championship battle for the second consecutive year.
Jason Galvin spun entering turn two at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while attempting to overtake leader Alex Saunders on the outside during the penultimate lap, collecting Adam Blocker and leading to a yellow flag finish in a thrilling Simpit 250.
It was a series-leading sixth win of the season for Saunders, a rookie who has taken the Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation by storm.
“That last stint when we were under 10 to go, we were pretty close to the next flag ends it,” Saunders said. “I thought I made the move too early, but it worked out.”
Galvin spent much of the race up front after roaring into contention from the eleventh spot on the grid. After sustaining battles with Dan Geren, Justin Weaver and Andrew Kinsella for much of the race, it was the championship contending duo of Blocker and Saunders who emerged in the final 20 laps.
But a caution with eight laps remaining – just as Saunders made a daring three-wide pass around Galvin and Blocker – setup a three lap dash.
After swapping the lead on the first lap of the restart, Galvin entered turn one to the outside of Saunders, and carried momentum into the south chute.
But as the cars turned into the second corner, Galvin had to adjust his line and the car was stuck in the marbles. The 98 lap old tires lost grip, and Galvin spun across the track, collecting Blocker and Geren.
“I feel horrible, gutted,” Galvin said. “Last year we had the lead off turn four and got wrecked with the win in sight. I thought we were getting redemption, but I guess I made a mistake. There’s no saving these cars once they start to go. I apologize to Adam. I didn’t want to be in the middle of a championship battle like that.”
An understandably upset Blocker declined comment.
Kinsella squeaked through to take second.
“That wasn’t the way I envisioned this race going, but we came home with a result, so we can’t complain,” Kinsella said. “They were running three-wide in front of me and I was biding my time, and then unfortunately it looked like Jason just got a little high and had to put too much wheel in it and lost it, and took my teammate Adam with him.”
Galvin’s teammate Dustin Wardlow – the defending race winner – came home third.
“It got really scary there for the last few laps,” Wardlow said. “You couldn’t put a slice of paper between the back wing of guys and the nose of others. I’m sorry for our teams troubles today, we were having a bang up day and I’m lucky, but sorry for everyone else.”
Two weeks ago, Saunders threw away a win at New Hampshire as Wardlow and Michael Goodman roarded past in the closing laps. Lessons learned from that race were perhaps a catalyst for Saunders picking up his first Triple Crown race win.
“After last race, I will never take tires again,” Saunders said. “I don’t know how new tires worked, but the old ones were just fine.”
With the win, Saunders now leads Blocker by 30 points. Wardlow sits third, and still in striking distance, 59 points out of the lead.
The race was slowed by 10 cautions for 37 laps.
The “Big One” occured on lap 34, when Bob Mikes and Scott Johnson made contact entering turn one. The ensuing melee ended the night for six cars, including early contenders Chris Stofer and Drew Adamson.
17 drivers finished the race, all on the lead lap.
The Lionheart Retro Series presented by HPP Simulation takes a week off now before heading overseas and back to the road course side of things.
The Headwaters Alpacas 125 at Circuit Zolder – the Lionheart debut at Zolder – is set for Thursday, September 20 and can be seen live on the Global SimRacing Channel at 10:35 p.m. EST.