By: Tanner Watkins
December 16, 2019 | 9:19 AM
While the points battle had already been settled before Sunday’s POWERADE Championship, 26 drivers still had 150 laps worth of fighting before the final MYLAPS Indy Elite Series round of 2019 could be decided.
In the end, it was Team Chimera’s Joshua Chin taking home the hardware following 300 miles of white-knuckle racing in iRacing’s version of Auto Club Speedway.
The evening started with AJ Burton taking the pole, running his Indy 500 Group machine to a best lap of 31.523 seconds around the two-mile southern California speedway. Burton just edged ahead of Simon Briant, Christopher Demeritt, and Brendan Lichtenberg for the top spot.
With the championship already in-hand after a triumph last week at Road America, Adam Blocker did not start the final race of the season. In total 26 drivers lined up to start the race – including Brandon Trost, who failed to post a time due to mechanical issues in qualifying.
When the green flag flew for the first time, the action roared to an intense start with multiple lead changes in the first few laps.
By Lap 7, though, the race would be changed permanently when the No. 93 machine driven by Chin found its way to the front for the first time. The Florida driver had started 11th, and worked his way to the point before his fuel tank had even become half empty.
Relive the 2019 fall championship finale below!
In the first half of the race, Chin’s greatest challenger was Stofer – who had come from even farther back (in 17th) to fight up front. Other drivers such as Burton, Demeritt, and Bradley Walters frequented the top five as the race reached the halfway mark.
Additionally, veteran Tim Doyle had worked his way into the mix by Lap 50 after starting 20th. The Snake Pit driver would find a home inside the top-10 for the remainder of the night, fighting for the lead at times.
By Lap 98, the race was running at a brisk pace without any yellow flag periods – despite slight run-ins and close calls from a few drivers. Chin continued to lead (he led 75 of the first 106 laps) while Ray Kingsbury, Lichtenberg, and Burton remained in the lead pack.
A group that consisted of Doyle, Liam Quinn, Andrew Wood and Riley Thompson were just a couple seconds behind, and they would eventually lead that trailing pack back to the leaders by Lap 114.
On Lap 117, Quinn and Burton made contact while fighting for third place – sending Quinn’s No. 44 machine sideways before the UK and Ireland club member was able to straighten things out. Just a couple of laps later, Wood and Lichtenberg made contact on the exit of Turn 2 that produced another dazzling save, this time from Wood.
Stofer was the first of the leaders who jumped onto pit lane for the final time – receiving service at Lap 123. The next few laps saw all drivers make their last stop of the night, and only one would be snakebitten by a pit road mistake.
It was Lichtenberg who was clocked more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit entering pit lane, resulting in a penalty that removed him from contention.
By Lap 132, the pit cycle had sorted itself out while Tony Showen had emerged as a contender. Over the next 10 laps, drivers jockeyed for position behind Chin, who was an unmovable object hanging out on the bottom line at Auto Club Speedway.
Fighting for second place on Lap 144, Doyle and Simpson would hip check each other on the frontstretch – sending Simpson into the outside wall while Doyle took a high-speed trip through the grass, eventually ending up in the inside retaining wall. Both drivers’ nights were over – though this accident would consequently figure into the final race result.
Just as Chin, Burton and Showen had gone three-wide for the race lead on Lap 147, the yellow flag flew for the damaged car of Simpson – who had spun slightly trying to bring his No. 42 machine to pit lane. The caution period started with Chin out in front, and the race would not go green again.
The victory was Chin’s second win of the 2019 MYLAPS Indy Elite Series fall championship, and his 10th Indy Elite Series win overall. The triumph also moved Chin ahead of Powerslide Motorsports’ Henry Bennett for second place in the final standings, 117 points behind Blocker for the title.
Rounding out the first five positions were Burton, Showen, Wood, and Quinn. Chin led an impressive 114 of the 150 laps on the evening, though 11 leaders paced the field at some point and there were a total of 24 lead changes overall. The race was completed in a brisk 1 hour and 24 minutes.
Chin’s win brings a close to the 2019 fall championship for the MYLAPS Indy Elite Series, and ushers in a new era for the league as the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Kokomo, Indiana takes over as title sponsor for Indy Elite.
The 2020 championship will kick off in just a few weeks – January 5 – with the first round being held at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 12-race championship will feature eight oval races and four road/street course events – culminating in the season-ending Indy Elite Series Indianapolis 500 on May 3.
All races in the 2020 championship will be shown live by SYM TV – the broadcast partner from the 2019 fall championship who did a great job throughout the year.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels throughout the spring as we continue to cover the Indy Elite Series and extend our pursuit of sim racing journalism. Thanks to Joe Branch and the competitors of the Indy Elite Series for another great season, and here’s to 2020!