By: Tanner Watkins
September 15, 2019 | 9:00 PM
In a quick 45-lap sim racing contest on Sunday night, Adam Blocker finished first in the MYLAPS Indy Elite Series Grand Prix of Monterrey at the historic WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
A field of 35 drivers was on the entry list for the fourth round of the 2019 MYLAPS Indy Elite Series fall championship, and only 33 would make the cut after qualifications.
When the dust had settled on qualifying, Joshua Chin was quickest with a lap at 1m5.854s – just a smidge ahead of Adam Blocker (1m5.944s) and Henry Bennett (1m6.093s) for the pole. Unfortunately for Chin, a penalty in the most recent IES round at Texas Motor Speedway relegated him to a back-of-the-pack start.
Two drivers would be bumped from the field during qualifications after having incidents in qualifying and failing to post a lap: John Downing and Logan Simmons. Brandon Traino, who qualified seventh, additionally had an end-of-the-line penalty from a previous race incident and had to start at the back with Chin.
The race’s opening lap started with excitement – as well as clean racing. On the first corner, a three-wide battle for second place saw Flinn Lazier (the son of former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier) take the runner-up position as Bennett jumped to the point.
While Bennett led Lazier for much of the race’s first half, a bevy of accidents saw drivers such as Jeff Drake, Andrew Wood, Zac Campbell, Andrew Kinsella, Bradley Walters, Riley Thompson and more eventually spin or find the sand run-offs at Laguna Seca.
A pleasant note to add though (after the first three oval races) was the fact that all of these incidents only brought out local caution advisories, and not the full-course yellows that have slowed the pace at times in this 2019 fall season.
By Lap 17, a remarkable 12 cars had already fallen a lap down to Bennett, Lazier, and the rest of the leaders. One driver on the charge was Campbell, the most recent MYLAPS Indy Elite Series champion.
The talented open-wheeler had worked himself into the top five by the race’s later stages, only to bring the car to a stop exiting pit lane on Lap 41 following a pit road speeding penalty.
Bennett and Lazier kept each other honest through the first green flag run, while lapped traffic allowed Blocker to stay within shouting distance of the top two.
Lazier would be the first of the leaders to pit, with Bennett and Blocker pitting together two laps later. In a fight for the lead, Lazier barely squeezed by for the top spot as Bennett re-joined the race from pit lane. His lead was short lived, though, as Lazier locked the brakes on the next trip through the iconic Corkscrew corner and relinquished the lead to Bennett once again.
Over the next few laps, though, the battle would rage on between Bennett and Lazier. Finally, on Lap 24 it was Lazier diving to the inside of Bennett on the entry to Turns 1 and 2 before eventually emerging with the race lead. The battle had allowed Blocker to firmly plant himself in the conversation, and as Lazier drove off with the lead, Blocker pestered Bennett for second place.
On Lap 33, Blocker would squeak by Bennett with a daring pass around the outside at the Corkscrew to move one spot back of the leader Lazier – 2.332 seconds behind. In just a few laps, though, Blocker would trim nearly a second off of Lazier’s lead before the second-generation driver pitted for his final service of the night.
All eyes would be on Blocker as he made his final pit stop with just six laps remaining. In the end, a key pit strategy call to only take fuel and stick with used tires would make up the difference as Blocker emerged with a multi-second lead following his pit stop.
Nursing a comfortable lead home to the finish, Blocker would beat Lazier to the line by 4.916 seconds while Bennett rounded out the podium. The race was completed in a brisk 51 minutes and featured three leaders and two lead changes.
It was the second win of Blocker’s MYLAPS Indy Elite Series career – and first on a road course following his January win at New Hampshire.
“In the first stint, (Bennett and Lazier) pulled away from me a lot and the only reason I was keeping up was traffic,” Blocker said post-race to SYMTV.
“Henry and Flinn started fighting hard in the second stint so I caught up to them, and one time onto the backstraight, Henry got a really bad run following lapped traffic and I passed him on the outside in the Corkscrew –so that was interesting. Definitely a lot of respect from him to make that work. Then just made the strategy call at the end – I knew the tires could last, so took no tires and brought it home and won.”
Despite the tough second place result, the finish was the best of Lazier’s seven-start IES career.
Following the podium result, Bennett is now the championship points leader by a full 15 markers over previous top dog Ray Kingsbury. Brendan Lichtenberg is only 19 points back of the lead in third while Blocker used the win to slide into fouth – 25 points behind Bennett.
The MYLAPS Indy Elite Series will get a two-week break before returning to action on Sunday, September 29 with a bit of short oval action from ISM Raceway. The race will be shown live by SYMTV as the IES fall championship continues to roll on.
Header image by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.