Unlike the UCORA Throwback Cup Series, which began its season last week, the UCORA IndyCar Throwback Series is already well underway as Thursday night brought round eight for the series at, fittingly for Memorial Day Weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The series uses the old Dallara IndyCar chassis that was retired following the end of the 2011 IndyCar season prior to the introduction of the DW12. As is tradition for IndyCar at IMS, four laps were in store for drivers in qualifying, though unlike the real Indianapolis 500 it was the fastest lap and not the four lap average which would indicate where a driver would start.
When time expired in the ten minute qualifying session, it was Brian Beard, who entered the race third in the points standings, who turned the fastest time. Joining him on the front row would be Jason Galvin. The two drivers would be attached at the hip from the drop of the green flag come race time. Points leader coming into the week, Dan Geren, would find himself starting in the sixth position.
As mentioned earlier, the vehicle used in the series is the IndyCar chassis retired in 2011, that wouldn’t be the only thing from 2011 being used for the race. The weather for the iRacing session was identical to the conditions seen in the 2011 running of the Indianapolis 500. Of course, that race is remembered for its iconic finish that saw J.R. Hildebrand hit the turn four wall on the last lap allowing Dan Wheldon to score his second Indianapolis 500 win.
When the 200 mile, 80 lap, race began, however, it was much more reminiscent of 2001 than 2011. Within the first 20 laps, the caution flag flew three times with several of the front runners finding issues early. The opening lap saw Abigail Winters race come to an end after contact from Tyler Graaf sent both cars into the wall and out of the race. Laps after the first restart, points leader Dan Geren made an uncharacteristic mistake exiting pit lane, spinning into the outside wall bringing out another caution.
On the next restart, an accordion style crash would collect polesitter Brian Beard and Nate Burck. Both drivers were able to limp back to the pits and use their fast repair to rejoin the action. After reviewing the restart, race officials handed out a black flag to leader Brandon Shown for a restart violation which was deemed the cause of the accident.
After the early rash of yellows, the race entered into a decently long green flag run, with most drivers following each other in lockstep. Just when it looked like things were about to settle down for the long run with green flag pit stops, the caution flew as leaders began to pull off track into the pit lane. Some, like Jason Galvin and Jake Wright were unlucky as they were caught in the pits under yellow. Others, like Chris Lanini and Brian Greenlee, were able to avoid entering the closed pit lane.
With drivers pitting under yellow, Brian Beard, who had made a green flag stop and lost a lap, got the wave around and joined the field at the back of the pack. Joining him there was Jason Galvin. Entering turn three on the opening lap back to green Galvin took a look down the inside of Beard. Suddenly, Beard’s car was sent spinning and into the wall. Though contact was likely the culprit, the below pictures show it may have been a case of netcode contact.
The race would resume just shy of the halfway point. For the second time in the race, a long run was in store for the drivers, but that didn’t stop the leaders from dicing it up for the lead. Even though there was half a race to run, Justin Kirby, Joseph Hassert, and Erik Jeffers, among others in the lead pack, ran closely together, trading the lead several times. A yellow flag with 25 laps to go set the drivers up for their final pit stops, taking fuel out of the equation.
More frantic racing would be showcased following the restart as the end of the race began to rapidly approach. Joining the party up front was Takeshi Kita, who wasn’t afraid to push the envelope in hopes of making a pass stick. In the cover photo of this report, Kita is the outermost car in a four wide battle down the frontstretch. Also joining Kita was Jason Galvin who had finally clawed his way from the back of the pack to contend for the win. Another caution set up a sprint to the finish.
With only eight laps to go when the race restarted, the action was sure to be wild. As Joseph Hassert led the field, what he saw in his mirrors was surely music to his ears. While drivers battled for second place side by side, Hassert began to pull away. The music, however, would soon turn to the Jaws theme, as Takeshi Kita made his way to second and closed right in on Hassert’s rear wing.
The race would end in anticlimactic fashion, however, as a melee in turn four in the closing laps forced the race to finish under caution. Regardless of the finish, the race itself was full of incredible action and respectful racing between the drivers.
Coming out on top after withstanding an onslaught from behind was Joseph Hassert. In second was Takeshi Kita, who may have been the most exciting driver to watch all day. Third place went to Justin Kirby while Jason Galvin recovered to take home fourth place.
While points contenders Brian Beard and Dan Geren had issues, Paul Jenkins reaped the benefits with a solid seventh place finish.
The next UCORA League race will be the Throwback Cup Series next Thursday night with action at the Rockingham Speedway. As for the IndyCar Throwback Series, they resume action in two weeks time at Watkins Glen.
For more information regarding UCORA or iRacing, you can follow the links below for more information regarding both.
By Todd Rose