Brophy wins Indy Elite Series debut at Homestead-Miami

Brophy wins Indy Elite Series debut at Homestead-Miami

By: Tanner Watkins
January 5, 2020 | 10:29 PM

Race Results from Homestead-Miami Speedway

As we turn the page to a new year, a new era in the Indy Elite Series kicked off on Sunday evening with a season-opener, a new title sponsor, and a first-time winner.

Jason Brophy took victory in the Triptacular Memories 225 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, winning the first round of the Coca-Cola of Kokomo Elite Series’ 2020 season. The Oregon native won in his first Indy Elite Series start, leading 31 of the 150 laps.

The night started with 36 drivers on the entry list – meaning three competitors would miss the show at the end of qualifications. Chris Cahoe was quickest during the 10-minute qualifying session with a fast lap of 24.324s, just ahead of Bradley Walters (24.334) and Henry Bennett (24.353) for the top spot. 

The first 14 drivers in qualifying are separated by less than one-tenth of a second. Gabriel Perez, Brendan Lichtenberg, and Cristian Otarola were not quick enough to qualify for the race, while AJ Burton was the last driver (33rd) to make it into the field on time with a lap of 24.521s – less than two tenths of a second off of the pole sitter’s time.

While the race did not see its first caution flag until Lap 41, the event’s early stages weren’t without action – and a few incidents.

The cool, evening air in south Florida produced tight racing up front, with the leaders swapping positions many times over during the first fuel stint. 15 laps into the race, the top 11 cars were separated by less than a second while Cahoe was continuously pressured by drivers such as Chris Stofer, Bennett, Walters, and David Adams.

Unfortunately for Walters, he would clip the apron while battling for the lead on Lap 9 and slide to the inside wall on the exit of Turn 4. The heavy contact with the barrier resulted in an early retirement, finishing 33rd.

Just 11 laps later, Andreas Eik and Charles Anti would leave the race with nearly identical spins on the exit of Turn 2. Each driver was caught out by oversteer conditions on corner exit, which shot their cars hard into the inside retaining wall.

On Lap 22, Riley Thompson would slide sideways off of Turn 2 but avoid the same fate as Eik and Anti to continue on. By Lap 28, Liam Quinn and Logan Simmons found their way into the backstretch wall and their night’s ended with 30th and 29th place finishes, respectively.

When the first round of green flag stops commenced, Joe Branch and defending series champion Adam Blocker were fighting for the lead while the top five was rounded out by veterans Tim Doyle and Stofer, as well as the pole sitter Cahoe.

On Lap 40, Shannon Caudill and Joe Flanagan got together on the entry to pit lane while trying to slow their cars down, and just one lap later, Brian Carey would spin on the access road while trying to enter pit lane to bring out the first yellow of the race.

With the yellow flying during the pit stop cycle, Philip Kraus led Dakota DiCienzo, Blocker, Chad Simpson, and Branch to the green flag.

After starting 14th, Brophy had made his climb into the top five by Lap 71 – and into the top three by Lap 75. Just a few laps later, the second round of green flag pit stops would begin… this time without much issue.

At the conclusion of the second green flag pit cycle, Brophy, Blocker and Doyle had broken away from the rest of the field for a three-car leader pack. Even as the lead pack fought with lapped traffic around Lap 100, they padded the lead on group two by more than four seconds by Lap 109.

The final round of pit stops began on Lap 118 with Stofer and Briant (in the second pack) being the first of the leaders to pit. On Lap 123, Doyle and Blocker made their way to pit lane before Brophy received service on Lap 124. Again, it was Brophy, Doyle and Blocker who finished the pit sequence while maintaining a slight advantage to the trailing group.

It seemed that everything was set to change on Lap 135, when a multi-car accident brought out just the second caution period of the night. While fighting for sixth place, Ray Kingsbury made a move to the inside of AJ Burton, eventually drifting up into the Indy 500 Group driver in Turn 1.

Burton then lost control of his machine, sliding into Andrew Kinsella on the high line to end their nights early.

The final restart of the race would come on Lap 140, with Brophy leading Doyle to the green ahead of Kingsbury (now third), Bennett, and Simpson. The next few laps saw Brophy desperately protecting the bottom line while Doyle and Stofer continued to apply pressure on the leader.

On Lap 145, though, Brophy would see light at the end of the tunnel with a race-ending caution flag. While racing into Turn 1, Kingsbury and Thompson had a netcode contact incident that unsettled Kingsbury’s Last Lap Motorsports car, sending him towards the wall.

In the wrong place at the wrong time was the defending series champion, Blocker, who would end up in the Turn 2 catch fence in a violent accident. After waltzing to the fall 2019 title, Blocker’s first result of 2020 with be a 24th place finish.

The yellow flag, just the third of the evening, would effectively signal the end of the race while Brophy crossed the line first behind the pace car. Stofer finished second, and Doyle rounded out the podium on a night with many unexpected twists and turns.

“I am pretty much speechless, to be honest,” said Brophy. “I never in a million years would have guessed that I could pull off a win in my first (Indy Elite Series) race.  I just wanted to finish, to run well.  It was a really clean race… but I would have never guessed in a million years that I could be out front, so, speechless.”

Naturally for Stofer, a bit of disappointment comes with that second place finish while the race ended under caution.

“I definitely had something for (the leaders),” said Stofer.  “I had a plan for the last lap, last turn kind of thing, but the caution flag came out and sealed it for second.  I’ll take second (place) for the first race of the season.”

With the win, Brophy leads Stofer by 21 points in the early-season standings – and is the first winner in the Triptacular Memories Triple Crown.

The second round of the 2020 Coca-Cola of Kokomo Elite Series will be held next Sunday, January 12 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. You can catch the action live on the season-long broadcast partner for the Coca-Cola of Komomo Elite Series, SYM TV.

Matt Kingsbury wins opening round of the Road to Indy at Homestead

The second round of the 2020 Coca-Cola of Kokomo Elite Series will be held next Sunday, January 12 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway. You can catch the action live on the season-long broadcast partner for the Coca-Cola of Komomo Elite Series, SYM TV.

In a tight finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Matt Kingsbury edged out Thomas Keene and Matt Hollibaugh for victory under the lights. The Road to Indy Elite is a feeder series for the Coca-Cola of Kokomo Elite Series, paying the way for the RIE champion to take part in the next IES season.

The Road to Indy Elite presented by races at each Coca-Cola of Kokomo Elite Series track and uses the Formula Renault 3.5 chassis. Check out this week’s narrow margin of victory below and make sure to keep up on the Road to Indy Elite throughout 2020.

Matt Kingsbury pulls out a narrow victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Logan Simmons)

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