By: Tim Doyle
February 28, 2021
The fifth week of the 2021 Coca Cola Bottling of Kokomo Indy Elite Series visited Pocono Raceway in PA for the first leg of the Catalyst 317 Triple Crown. With the race distance of 160 laps, it would be a battle of attrition and determination to make it to the end.
With a total of 40 drivers attempting to make the race, that meant seven drivers would fail to make the field. Grabbing the pole with a lap time of 41.106 seconds, Jason Brophy would lead the field to green.
Andrew Kinsella would place 2nd with Henry Bennett, Bryan Carey and Andreas Eik rounding out the top 5. Failing to make the starting lineup were Trevor Greenfield, John Downing, AJ Musselman, Carlos Gomez Dotero, Aaron Roufs, Marshall Stanley and Lester Hryhorczak.
With the field getting underway under a partly cloudy sky at 1pm EST time, Bennett would take the lead and the field quickly sorted itself with several drivers moving forward as well as drivers falling down the order.
It didn’t take long for the weather to play a role in hampering some drivers runs as many would succumb to incidents off Turn 3 as well as the exit of Turn 1. The race’s first yellow would fly on lap 15 when Charles Anti would loop it off Turn 1, luckily not involving anyone else.
The field would take the opportunity to pit under yellow and Bennett would resume his position at the head of the field with Kinsella and Brophy in tow. On lap 34 trouble would find several competitors when the cars of Liam Quinn and Bryan Carey were battling for 11th place and contact was made between the two.
Point leader Chris Demeritt had nowhere to go and was collected by Quinn’s wounded machine while Riley Thompson lost control trying to avoid the melee. All three drivers would be forced to retire.
After the timely yellow for the front runners, the field would return to green on Lap 39 with Kinsella in the lead when he was able to overtake Bennett under the yellow flag pit stop. Brophy was 3rd with Philip Krause up to 4th from his 11th starting spot and Wilson Neto up from 9th.
Kraus would overtake Bennett for 2nd on Lap 42 while Andrew Wood overtake Bennett for 3rd just two laps later. Kraus would waste little time grabbing the lead away from Kinsella on Lap 48.
The first round of green flag pit stops would occur on Lap 59 with 3rd running Wood being the first to pit followed a couple laps later by Kinsella, then followed by race leader Kraus a lap later, only for the race’s 3rd yellow to fly on Lap 63.
With the front runners already pitting, this moved them back to the front of the field when those who hadn’t yet pitted made their service on pit road. Leading the field back to green on Lap 68, Kraus would position himself as the car to beat. Kinsella and now 3rd running Chris Stofer would lead over Tanner Watkins and Tony Showen.
The race would see the rest of the race go green with three rounds of green flag pit stops with Kraus leading all but a few of those laps during pit stops keeping Kinsella just at bay until he made a fuel strategy error, dropping him out of contention late in the race.
Matt Pawelski would come out of nowhere to nab a close 2nd place finish, finishing just .641 seconds behind Kraus after starting 22nd in the field.
Bennett would pace 3rd while Neto would rebound from an early race restart mishap to finish 4th with Stofer rounding out the top 5. Watkins, Ray Kingsbury, Joe Branch, Showen and David Adams would complete the top 10.
Race recap: Field size- 33 Laps- 160 Cautions- 3 Caution laps- 9 Lead Changes- 15 Fastest lap- 41.169: Andrew Kinsella Cars on the lead lap- 16 Polesitter- Jason Brophy (41.106)
After a week off, the 2021 Coca Cola Bottling of Kokomo Indy Elite Series will make its lone appearance eon a temporary street course, doing so at Detroit’s Belle Isle on March 14, at 7:15 p.m. Eastern on Sym.TV.
Header Image By Tim Doyle/iRacing.com