By: Tanner Watkins
March 8, 2020 | 9:00 PM
In absolutely dominating fashion, Powerslide Motorsports’ Henry Bennett stole the show on Sunday evening, leading 140 laps in the latest Coca-Cola of Kokomo Indy Elite Series round.
The 160-lap race at Iowa Speedway was the seventh event of the 2020 season, kicking off the second half of the 12-round championship.
On this night, 37 drivers would be on the entry list while three pilots would be sent packing. After qualifications, Andreas Eik grabbed the pole while Rob Powers, Bradley Walters and Niles Anders would be cut from the field of starters.
With the sun setting on the Iowa track, the green flag flew with Eik leading Total Downforce Racing’s Riley Thompson into Turn 1. Just moments after the leaders had cleared Turn 2, a massive five-car accident ensued which collected the likes of Chad Simpson, Frank Levick, Adam Crane, Bryan Carey and Gabriel Perez.
Simpson, Carey and Perez would get the worst of the accident, retiring from the race early on.
The race restarted on Lap 7, only to be slowed by another caution on the next lap – this time it was Levick spinning on the frontstretch, a likely product of the damage sustained earlier in the race.
On Lap 15, the race would go green once again – with Bennett taking the lead from Eik on Lap 16.
Joe Flanagan drifted high on the exit of Turn 4 on Lap 29 and popped the wall, though no caution was required and he brought the car to pit lane on the next lap. A caution would fly, though, just five laps later for another multi-car accident.
While heading to pit lane on the apron of the track, Coen Evans lost control of his Dallara IndyCar and slid up into the middle of Turns 3 and 4 – clipping Flanagan in the process. As SADI Sim Autosport’s Simon Briant was hustling through Turns 3 and 4, he too was clipped and sent hard into the outside SAFER Barrier to end his race.
A nice green flag run wouldn’t see the caution fly again until Lap 64. In this time, Bennett was constantly hounded by Eik, though the Club Scandinavia driver was unable to fully complete a pass on the high side while Bennett defended the low line.
On that Lap 64 caution, defending series champion Adam Blocker was battling with Liam Quinn when the two cars made contact on the exit of Turn 2. The contact sent Blocker into the outside wall, damaging his suspension.
Trying to bring the car onto the apron safely, Blocker lost control of his machine and quickly shot across the track in Turn 3 – collecting Brendan Lichtenberg in a violent collision that ended both drivers’ races. Quinn and Blocker had been battling for third place.
A similar accident occurred on Lap 92 with Andrew Wood and Chris Stofer battling side-by-side: The contact between the two drivers pushed Stofer into the wall on the exit of Turn 2, ending his race with severe right side damage. On this same lap, Thompson retires from the race – one of only three drivers to lead a lap in the event.
By the Lap 98 restart, only 18 cars were running on-track. Chris Cahoe shook up the fight up front momentarily after the restart, taking second place from Eik on Lap 105. Eventually, Bennett would work out a comfortable lead without much challenge in the last third of the race.
One final caution flag flew on Lap 137 as Dakota DiCienzo spun exiting Turn 2 while making contact with the inside wall. The leaders pitted for service, with Bennett leading last week’s winner Philip Kraus off of pit lane.
The final restart saw Bennett lead Kraus to the end with Jason Brophy close by in third place. The podium would end in that order, with Bennett beating Kraus to the line by 0.420 seconds for the win.
It is Bennett’s first win of the 2020 Coca-Cola of Kokomo Indy Elite Series season and his fourth Indy Elite Series win in his career.
With the victory, Bennett sits now 73 points behind Kraus for the championship lead. Brophy is third, 97 points back of Kraus for the top spot.
The next Coca-Cola of Kokomo Indy Elite Series round will be contested on Sunday, March 22 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be shown live by SYM TV.
Header image by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.