By: Tanner Watkins
March 30, 2020 | 10:00 AM
In last night’s ninth round of the 2020 Coca-Cola of Kokomo Elite Series championship, Zachary Campbell dominated in his season debut to win at iRacing’s version of Barber Motorsports Park.
A deep field of 39 entries were left to fight for 34 positions on the starting grid, which left Aaron Roufs, Coen Evans, Dakota DiCienzo, Caleb Weekley, and Dan Lee Ensch on the outside looking in after qualifications.
Campbell would be the polesitter, qualifying just ahead of Adam Blocker, Henry Bennett, and Eric O’Connor in the first two rows.
After qualifying a respectable eighth, Joshua Chin was forced to start from the pit lane following technical issues. His early misfortune may have saved his race, though.
Coming to take the green flag, a massive multi-car accident eliminated many cars from contention before the race even began.
In the end, it was a long list of drivers involved – with varying degrees of damage: Adam Blocker, Joe Flanagan, Tony Showen, Flinn Lazier, Henry Bennett, Eric O’Connor, Ray Kingsbury, Simon Briant, Marshall Stanley, and Brendan Lichtenberg would all see their afternoon altered in the melee.
A full-course yellow period would hover over the race, a rarity in Indy Elite Series competition, until Lap 4.
The restart on Lap 4 would be much cleaner than the race start, and there would not be another FCY period for the remainder of the race – despite some local caution periods.
Later in Lap 4, Chris Cahoe and Chin would come together in the downhill Turn 11 complex and push each driver off-track.
Just four laps later, another multi-car accident would occur in the same place to involve Bradley Walters, Charles Anti, Adam Crane, Matt Kingsbury, and Ray Kingsbury.
This time, Chin narrowly avoided danger by sliding through the mess with minimal contact.
In 11 laps, 12 drivers had been eliminated from the race.
From that point on, the action calmed a bit. Campbell routinely extended his lead on second-place driver Christian Steele (also making his season debut) and only relinquished the lead during the first round of green flag pit stops.
Philip Kraus, the points leader coming into Sunday’s race at Barber, was the last of the leaders to pit in the opening round of stops when he came down pit lane on Lap 25.
Campbell would re-assume the race lead from that point on, never looking back.
The Georgia driver would go on to lead 41 of the 43 scheduled laps in the race, even pitting with five laps remaining in the event while still holding the lead through the pit cycle.
Despite the field’s best efforts, Campbell would waltz to 19.139-second victory over the second place finisher in Andreas Eik.
It was Campbell’s fifth Indy Elite Series victory in his career, and the first since October 2019 at Mid-Ohio.
“The full-course caution threw in the only real hook that could have downed us, and my race engineer Christopher Demeritt was giving me fuel numbers, but I just got bored. So I just started pushing as hard as I could, and it worked out in the end,” said Campbell.
“I was pretty happy with that strategy – I know it was to the chagrin of him, but it was a fun race overall and I liked it.”
In the end, Kraus would join Campbell and Eik on the podium and extend his points lead to 70 points over Henry Bennett with nine rounds complete in the 2020 championship.
After challenging races from the back, Andrew Kinsella finished 7th (started 20th) and Joshua Chin placed 9th (started from the pits).
The next Coca-Cola of Kokomo Elite Series round will be held on Sunday, April 5 with the Elite Long Beach Grand Prix from the streets of Long Beach, California. The race will be shown live on SYM TV.
Header image by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.