By: Tanner Watkins
August 21, 2019 | 8:00 AM
After 150 unpredictable laps in the WebSportsRadio.com 150 from World Wide Technology Raceway, Brendan Lichtenberg emerged as the MYLAPS Indy Elite Series’ round two winner on Tuesday night.
The evening began with drama in qualifications – 35 drivers would lay down a qualifications run with only the fastest 33 making the show. In the end, Michael Peters (34th) and Richard Holt (35th) failed to qualify for the race, while weekly front runners Christopher Demeritt (21st), Jonathan Goke (22nd), Chris Stofer (25th), Joshua Chin (29th) and Brandon Trost (32nd) would start the event in the back half of the field.
No driver was quicker than Rob Powers in qualifying, who laid down a blistering lap of 188.371 mph (23.889s) to best Adam Blocker (23.937s) and Henry Bennett (23.978s) for the race’s pole award – and one bonus point towards the 2019 fall championship.
Before the race officially began, Trost and Matt Kingsbury came together during the outset of the pace lap – which would eventually bring out the one of the 13 caution periods on the night.
On the race’s first lap, internet problems sent Logan Simmons into the Turn 2 wall to prompt the first yellow flag. On the following Lap 6 restart, Kingsbury would spin on entry to Turn 1 as a result of his pre-race damage. The ensuing wall contact would be enough to knock Kingsbury out of the race, finishing 32nd.
Through the race’s first 50 laps, six yellow flags had slowed the pace to a snail’s crawl. Drivers failing to see the 1/3rd-mark of the scheduled distance included last week’s runner-up Brandon Traino, Chris Stofer, Andreas Eik, John Downing, Jonathan Goke, and pole sitter Rob Powers.
Furthermore, drivers such as Josh Chin, Tony Showen and Chris Cahoe had been maimed by accidents in the first 50 laps, though each continued on with various levels of damage. Showen would end up in the wall once again on Lap 59 – this time for good – as he tangled with Dakota Dicenzo.
After a caution on Lap 71 for a spinning Niall McBride, the race had a nice green flag period that saw heaps of competition throughout the field. At the front, Jeff Drake, Michele Costantini, Lichtenberg, Andrew Kinsella and Henry Bennett were racing under a blanket.
Chad Simpson had been lurking around the top five for much of the race’s middle third, until he spun on the exit of Turn 2 on Lap 90 and pounded the inside wall to end his bid for victory.
Thankfully, Simpson’s accident did not bring another caution period, and one lap later we saw Costantini take the lead from Drake, who had been dominant to that point. Remarkably, just six laps later it would be Drake suffering from the same fate Simpson faced: in the backstretch wall after oversteering on the exit of Turn 2.
After leading a race-high 56 laps, Drake would be relegated to a 22nd place finish.
Without another caution flag for the Drake incident, green flag pit stops shortly followed with Constantini hitting the pit lane first, followed by Kinsella and Lichtenberg. While the latter two pitted on Lap 106, Riley Thompson spun exiting Turn 2 – without hitting anything. His moment did bring out a caution, though, and set the stage for a wild finish.
On the following restart, it was Trost leading Blocker, Tim Doyle and Bennett to the green flag – though only two laps were recorded before an accidental netcode run-in between Joe Branch and Joe Flanagan sent the latter “Joe” into the wall. Unfortunately, Branch would be involved in the following caution period when he clipped the apron battling inside the top ten, sending his No. 28 MYLAPS machine into the pit lane wall.
The restart on Lap 131 was setting up to be a fantastic dash to the finish line with Trost leading Doyle, McBride, and Lichtenberg as finalists for the win – until the unthinkable happened. Before the green flag officially flew, McBride spun from third place while Dicenzio also spun from inside the top ten – nearly as synchronous as two Olympic divers. Each car would end up in the inside pit wall, forcing Dicenzio to 10th and McBride to 16th in the final running order.
The next ten laps (under green) would see a fantastic battle play out between Trost and Lichtenberg. With Trost leading on Lap 143, Lichtenberg filled a gap on the entry to Turn 1 and contested for the lead into Turn 2. On the exit of the corner, the two drivers came together in a fight for the top spot – eventually sending Trost into the wall.
Lichtenberg would continue on, later securing his victory when Adam Plunkett spun on what was ultimately the final restart of the night on Lap 148. Trost finished 18th after leading 37 laps, second only to Drake’s 56.
Coming home second was Lichtenberg’s teammate Costantini, followed by Doyle, Blocker and Andrew Kinsella to round out the top five.
While Lichtenberg was remorseful in his post-race interview, the win was far from tarnished despite the last-laps tussle with Trost.
“I’m not particularly happy that there was contact (with Trost)… anyone who knows me well, knows that,” said Lichtenberg to SYM TV. “People can think what they will. It was the end of the race – you have to go for it. I raced how he would have raced me.”
In hindsight, Lichtenberg was immensely impressed by his Italian teammate Constantini, who fought through the field after starting 28th.
“Michele drove an excellent race. He came back from… really far back and he made it up there with me. (I am) just really proud of the whole team and all of the effort that went into it.”
With two rounds of the MYLAPS Indy Elite Series’ fall championship in the books, last week’s winner Ray Kingsbury is still the points leader after an 11th place finish at Gateway. He leads Lichtenberg by 19 points, followed by Bennett, Traino and Constantini in the top five. Check out the full points standings here.
The next race of the season will be held on Sunday, September 8 when the series travels to Texas Motor Speedway for the Triptacular Memories 225. The race will be shown live by SYM TV, so make sure to tune in.