Iowa – Heat and Horsepower

Photo: Josef Newgarden leads the field back to the green flag on a restart during the 2018 Iowa Corn 300

The Iowa race has had an unusual history. The date has jumped a bit- last year it was on July 9. From 2007-2013 the race distance was 250 laps. It has been a 300 laps race since 2014.  There have been  day races and  night races . For 2019, I’m not sure what  to call it exactly. Twilight race? Late afternoon event?

The Iowa 300 begins at 6:15 pm  local time and will finish before sundown. This hardly makes it a night race.  We won’t see the cool down that comes after dark which causes the handling characteristics of the cars to change. Iowa is spectacular at night.

Fans clamored for the race to return to Saturday night from  Sunday afternoon, mostly so that they could have all day Sunday to travel home and be ready for work on Monday.   They  got their wish-sort of. I know several fans from Indianapolis who stopped going to the race because of its Sunday date.  They are returning to Iowa this weekend.

Many factors will make this an interesting race.  The temperature will be in the low to mid 90’s at race time, which means a slick race track. The cars will have extra boost, 700 horsepower, as a further test of driving skill. There should not be any flat out laps. Then, of course there is the championship battle to consider.

Josef Newgarden leads Alexander Rossi by just four points after Toronto. Simon Pagenaud is now just 39 points behind, and Scott Dixon trails by 64. Dixon, one of three entered drivers who has competed in all 12 races here, has never won at Iowa. Newgarden won in 2016. Pagenaud won the pole in 2016. The pole winner has never won at Iowa.

Rossi did not sound optimistic about his chances for success this weekend in a post-race interview after the Toronto race. In three Iowa races, Rossi has a best finish of sixth.

Other former winners in the field this weekend are Marco Andretti (2011), Tony Kanaan (2010),  Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012, 2014, 2015), and James Hinchcliffe (20113, 2018). Hunter-Reay is the only driver to win consecutive races.

If you want to pick the winner by teams, Andretti Autosport has won seven times, Team Penske and Chip ganassi Racing two times each. Ganassi’s last win was in 2009 with Dario Franchitti. Penske’s two wins came back to, but the first one wasn’t until 2016 with Newgarden. Helio Castroneves won in 2017 in what turned out to be his last win in the series.

Carlin Team of the Future?

Conor Daly and Sage Karam will drive for Carlin Racing at Iowa. Daly drove for Carlin at Texas, and Karam stays in the car after hid debut at Toronto. Karam finished 21st last weekend. It was his first time on a street course in four years. In his last Iowa appearance in 2015, Karam finished third.

If the money and sponsorship comes together, these two could possibly make up the future of Carlin Racing. Karam seems to have some sponsorship.  Daly has never had much money to bring. Consider Iowa another audition call back for both drivers.

Beating the Heat

Iowa Speedway sent an alert to fans reminding them to drink plenty of water. Fans may bring an unopened bottle of water into the track or an an empty bottle.  Water filling stations are located on the concourse. Fans may also bring in a soft sided cooler no larger than 14″‘x14″x14″. The track has set up misting stations and will have a cooling trailer.

Picking a Winner

This has always been a tough race to call. There have been races when one car was clearly superior to everyone else. Races have been won by pit  strategy. Team Penske and Andretti Autosport seem to have this track figured out better than most.

I look for Josef Newgarden to win and extend his points lead a bit. Newgarden dominated most of last year before James Hinchcliffe, who also had a strong car, got past him.

Iowa Schedule: