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:

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Karam and Daly Driving for Carlin at Iowa

A tweet this afternoon from Carlin Racing:

I think this is could be the makings of a great team for 202 if the money is there.  Karam may still be tied to Dreyer and Reinbold for the Indianapolis 500, but he could possibly drive for Carlin the rest of the year.

I know Daly wants to drive for Andretti, but with the news that Rossi looks to be staying, there is no room for him except for an Indianapolis one-off.

Daly drove for Carlin at Texas and finished 11th. Last week at Toronto Karam drove the Carlin entry. He started and finished six laps down in 21st. It was his first road/street course race since 2015 and he had never driven at Toronto.  Karam has driven in the Iowa race.

Iowa will not have a title sponsor this weekend. According to Adam Stern, a couple possible sponsor deals did not come through. Stern also mentioned that ticket sales are up a bit.

Honda Indy Toronto- Quick Thoughts

Photo: Kyle McInnes

I don’t know what was the best part of Robert Wickens driving the parade lap- the smile on his face or Karli’s reactions. It was a great way to start the day. I’m glad my eyes cleared up for the start of the race.

Thank you, NBC, for showing just a few still photos of the beginning of Wickens’ crash.  It was just enough to get the idea across, although most of us didn’t really need the reminder.

Too much time was given to the Bourdais-Sato incident from yesterday.

The series is on a pace to have the fewest different race winners in a while. There have only been six so far, and I think the top contenders could win the remaining races. Josef Newgarden has won three times. Simon Pagenaud matched that total with today’s win. Alexander Rossi has won twice. Three other drivers, Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, and Colton Herta have one victory each.

The lack of cautions made for a very straightforward race. The top five starters finished in the top five with just some minor shuffling of positions.

I’m now convinced Will Power will not win a race this season. He just doesn’t seem to have that edge which made him so successful.

The race started to get interesting the last 20 laps as Dixon closed in on Pagenaud, but overall it was the least interesting Toronto race in a few years.

While Ed Carpenter Racing has improved their road/street race qualifying, they still can’t seem to put a decent race together. Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot each finished six spots lower than they started. Banging wheels with your teammate and damaging your teammate’s wing does not help.

We have a three , possibly four, driver points battle now. Rossi has closed to within four of Newgarden, and Pagenaud is now just 39 behind. Dixon is 86 points down, but could make up more ground in Iowa. The yellow on the last lap helped Newgarden keep fourth place. Rosenqvist was closing quickly on Newgarden’s damaged car.

NBC Can Do Better

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad NBC is the exclusive home of the NTT Indycar Series. There are some things they can do, or in this case stop doing, to improve the broadcasts.

First, please dump the Danger Zone phrase. We get it. The situation doesn’t even come up that often.

We don’t need weekly speculation on where Rossi will drive next year.  He is driving this year and fighting for a championship. Let us just enjoy that.

fewer NASCAR inserts would be great. I don’t watch that series, so i don’t know if there are as many Indycar inserts in those broadcasts. If there are, that’s fair.

It seems as if each race broadcast we see fewer laps and more periphery shots of the area where the race is held. Yes, the Toronto skyline is beautiful. Show it in the prerace.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. Thanks for following this weekend. I will be on site at both Iowa and Mid Ohio.

Honda Indy Toronto Qualifying- Quick Thoughts

 

Photo: Kyle McInnes

The Sato/Bourdais scuffle was an interesting way to start the show. I don’t want a steady diet of that type of thing, but it spices up the action when it occurs.

Rosenqvist loves Toronto.

Ed Carpenter Racing  is making progress on their road course program. Both cars in Round 2 and Ed Jones in the Fast Six.

Power seemed frustrated in the interview after Round one.

Great last lap by Jones to lead Group 2.

Six teams advanced to Round 2 and four teams had cars in the Fast Six. An incredibly competitive qualifying.

Rossi seems to be in the same place he was in St. Pete – just okay but not good enough to contend.

I like the strategy by Jones and Rosenqvist in the Fast Six. It almost worked for Rosenqvist.

Pagenaud took a rather roundabout route to the pole. He didn’t lead a round until the Fast Six.

The two drivers who most need wins to stay in the championship fight are starting on the front row.

Overall, it was a wild and competitive qualifying. Teams used lots of different tire strategies. It seemed like several drivers had a shot at the pole.

I wonder how many slides and wall hits we’ll see tomorrow?

Back tomorrow afternoon with Quick Thoughts on the race,.  My full race report will be on Wildfire Sports Monday.

Pagenaud Fastest in Practice 3; Qualifying Groups Set

Simon Pagenaud led the final practice before qualifying with a lap of 59. 365 seconds. He will lead Group 2 in Round 1 of qualifying this afternoon.  Pagenaud also led yesterday’s second practice session. Felix Rosenqvist had the next best time at 59. 4 seconds. Rosenqvist has finished each practice period in the top three.

The session was green until Ryan Hunter-Reay slid into the tires just before pit in with 12 minutes left. the session resumed with eight minutes and ten seconds remaining. Graham Rahal slid into the tires in turn 1 with four minutes left. Time expired but Indycar allowed one more flying lap.

Qualifying begins at 2pm EDT on NBCSN.

Tentative Qualifying Groups

Group 1

Rosenqvist

Ferrucci

Andretti

Bourdais

Pigot

Rahal

Power

Chilton

Sato

Leist

Karam

Group 2

Pagenaud

Hunter-Reay

Herta

Rossi

Hinchcliffe

Ericsson

Newgarden

Dixon

Jones

Kanaan

Veach

Back after qualifying with Quick Thoughts. Going to try to write some during qualifying.