Iowa Preview: A Different Format for Different Times

Photo: Last year’s race ended early Sunday morning after a 4 hour rain delay. Photo: USAToday.

The 2019 Iowa race began on Saturday and ended on Sunday. The reason was a violent rainstorm that hit the track about two hours before the scheduled start. This year the event begins on Friday and and ends on Saturday. It is by design. The strange times we live in and schedule postponements have made this event a doubleheader, with two night night races.  The fourteenth race at Iowa Speedway will feature the first doubleheader at the track and the third different qualifying format in the race’s history. Here are some things to look for this weekend.

TK’s Last Lap

Tony Kanaan, who won this race in 2010, will be driving his final race at Iowa as his oval only season continues. After this weekend, Kanaan will have just two races remaining, the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, and the race at Gateway.  His number 14 car for A. J. Racing will feature a classic livery of Bryant Heating and Cooling, a long time sponsor in the series.

tklastlap

Photo from @AJFoytRacing Twitter account

Kanaan will be the Grand Marshall for Friday’s race, giving the command from the cockpit of his car. In addition to winning in 2010, Kanaan has a second place in 2011, and three third place finishes in 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only other driver to have as many top three finishes at Iowa.

Qualifying

Iowa has become the place to experiment with qualifying. In 2012 and 2013, grid positions were set by three heat races. The heats were determined by practice times.  This was not a popular format with the drivers or fans. In the heats drivers drove cautiously so they didn’t damage their cars before the race. A crash in one of the 2013 heat races put an end to this experiment. I doubt we will ever see qualifying races again in Indycar.

This year, in the interest of time and to take a bit of workload off of the crews, There will be one qualifying session on Friday afternoon. The qualifying run will still be two laps. rather than average the laps, the first lap will set the grid for Race 1 on Friday, and the second lap will set Saturday’s grid.

Race 1’s lineup should look much as we would expect, with the usual suspects up front. Traditionally, the second qualifying  laps at Iowa see a significant drop from the first lap. Race 2’s lineup could look very interesting. Someone might steal a pole for that race.

Veterans vs. The Kids

At road America the younger drivers, those with less than three years of experience, shined. At Iowa, I think we’ll see the veterans dominating. At least three of the younger drivers have never raced here. This weekend is just the second oval race for Alex Palou. His race at Texas ended early as he was collected by Rinus VeeKay, who hit the wall and slid down the track.

VeeKay hopes to make up for his poor showing at Texas, where team owner Ed Carpenter was frustrated with his driving. I think we will see a much better result from VeeKay this time around.

Will Scott Dixon start a new winning streak? This is one of the tracks where Dixon has never won. He showed a lot of strength at Texas, and I look for another good weekend for the five time champion as Chip Ganassi Racing looks to stay undefeated in 2020.

I think Team Penske will finally break through to win at least one of the races. Josef Newgarden has won twice at Iowa and is the defending winner. he nearly won a third time in 2018, when James Hinchcliffe got by for the victory. He should have a strong two races.

Will Power has just two poles hereand has not won. he has been s pressing a bit this season. This may be the weekend thta gets his season back on track.

Aeroscreen and Cockpit Heat

The weather at Road America was cooler than expected. Iowa will be the first real test of the new modifications to the aeroscreen as Indycar tries to mitigate the heat in the cockpits. Teams are allowed to use a second cooling duct. the water bottles have been moved to a position so that the fluid does not get warm, and a crew member can give the driver a water bottle during a pit stop.

Racing at night should help as well. the aeroscreen will continue to be a work in progress this season and next. When the new chassis comes on line in 2022 and the screen is fully integrated into the bodywork, i think a lot of these problems will take car of themselves.

The Iowa COVID Plan

Iowa Speedway is going to great lengths to ensure the safety of the fans this weekend. They have limited ticket sales. A xcheck of their their seating chart shows large patches of seats not for sale. It appears that they are leaving two rows empty between where fans may sit.

Saturday is general admission and they are not selling any more tickets for that race. fans are encouraged to bring a blanket to sit on as no lawn chairs are allowed.

All cars must drive through a health screening station before entering the the track. I spoke with a representative of the track  yesterday who told me there will be five lanes open at that point for temperature checks. All cars will funnel into the health checkpoint. Masks are recommended but not required. I expect like Road America that we will see about 50% of the fans wearing masks.

enteriowa

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