Was Final Practice a Race Preview?

In a furious final warm-up for the Iowa 300, Simon Pagenaud set the tone early. The polarizer turned a lap at 174..462. For most of the session no one was within four miles an hour of that speed.As shadows began to cover the front stretch and turn four, other drivers crept closer. Eventually four others= Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon, and Conor Daly, posted times in the 170 range.

We may have seen a glimpse of what tonight’s race will look like. Pagenaud has a huge advantage in speed and will try to build an early lead. He will need that cushion when his cars handling changes with the creeping shadows.

I watched most of practice from the outside of turn 3. It’s a great view watching the cars exit turn 2 and set up for turn 3. Cars appear to be able to go side by side coming out of the second turn, but one car needs to back off a bit in turn 3. The action on the backstretch is a mad scramble to get Set up for the next corner.

As always at Iowa traffic for the leaders will be challenging. The rear of the field might see the frontrunners after 10 laps.


In a move to help fans the driver’s autograph session wasps moved to beneath the grandstands. I talked to a fan who dreaded standing in the heat and sun for the session.

Marcus Ericsson backed up his 10th place qualifying by ending the practice session in 7th.

It will be interesting to see how full the grandstands are at the beginning of the race. The stands were nearly all in shadow by the end of hour long final practice.

Back after the race with Quick Thoughts.

Pagenaud Continues Title Quest with Iowa Pole

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi can hear the footsteps louder now. They faded for a bit after May, but are now coming faster. Simon Pagenaud won the pole for tomorrow night’s Iowa 300, beating his Penske teammates who will start second and third. It is Pagenaud’s third pole of the season and second consecutive top staring spot.

Pagenaud snatched the pole from teammate Will Power, who posted a two, lap time of 35.8418 seconds. Pagenaud then completed his two laps in 35.7455 seconds. Newgarden was the last driver to attempt to qualify. He appeared to have trouble negotiating turn 4 and will start third Saturday.

The three Penske cars were the only cars in the 35 second range. Takuma Sato in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda was the only driver besides the top three to post a single lap less than 18 seconds. Sato had just taken the provisional  pole from James Hinchcliffe before the first Penske car took the track.

Hinchcliffe had claimed the top spot from his Arrow Schmidt Peterson teammate Marcus Ericsson. Seven drivers failed to top Ericsson before Hinchcliffe’s run. Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay eventually topped Ericsson’s time ahead of Sato qualified. Hinchcliffe, the defending race winner, starts fifth tomorrow.

Andretti Cars Lack Outright Speed

Alexander Rossi starts sixth and Ryan Hunter-Reay rolls off ninth tomorrow. Andretti Autosport has seven victories at Iowa but trail the Penske cars by half a second. The good news is the Hondas get better fuel mileage than the Chevys, although tire degradation may prevent them from taking advantage of that edge.

The caution periods will need to play out in Rossi’s favor for him to have a shot at his third win of the year.


Pagenaud said qualifying was “very intense… I’m still shaking, but that’s what Indycar is all about.”

He said he is “living in the moment” this year, focusing on the next task once the last one is finished.

The cars from Ed Carpenter Racing qualified a disappointing 17th ( Ed Carpenter) and 19th ( Spencer Pigot).

Indycar has a final practice session at 7 pm Eastern time tonight.

Qualifying Results




Iowa 300 Qualifying- Quick Thoughts

Simon Pagenaud is definitely back in the title chase now. He now has three poles and three wins. The bonus points he is accumulating are helping him gain ground quickly.

The title could come down to whoever wins their fourth race of the year first.

Josef Newgarden missed turn 4 on his first qualifying lap. He seemed to brake and turn a hard right. That is the moment he lost a chance at the pole.

It was an interesting qualifying session with several drivers at the top throughout the session.

Carlin Racing had a respectable qualifying effort with Sage Karam in 14th and Conor Daly in 16th.

Pagenaud said tire degradation will be the key to the race tomorrow.

The polesitter has never won at Iowa. That is not a reason to discount Pagenaud’s chances tomorrow.

It was nice seeing the two Arrow Schmidt Peterson cars at the top of the pylon for a few minutes.

Team Penske looks formidable this weekend.

The next Chevy after the Penskes in the top three spots is Tony Kanaan in 13th.

The starters in fourth through ninth could win. Fuel strategy will be crucial for the Honda cars.

Several cars had lots of understeer.

A full story on qualifying will follow in a bit.

Final practice for the Iowa 300 is from 7-8 EDT.


Newgarden Leads Penske Sweep in Iowa Practice 1

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Josef Newgarden led most of the first practice session for the Iowa 300 this morning.  Ryan Hunter Hunter-Reay led briefly during the middle portion of the NTT Indycar Series practice period. In the final 20 minutes, Newgarden’s teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power moved into second and third.

Newgarden’s fastest lap was 17.8961 seconds, 179.838. Pagenaud finished 0,1308 seconds behind. Alexander Rossi, Newgarden’s closest competitor for the series championship, struggled early but came back to finish fourth in the session, 0.2 seconds behind. Rossi was third fastest without a tow.

Following the three Chevys were three Hondas. After Rossi was Dixon and the Hunter-Reay. Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, Felix Rosenqvist, and Zach Veach complete the top ten.

Qualifying begins at 2:15 EDT on NBCSN.



Cars were lifting in the turns. Some of it could be due to traffic, but it was noticeable when there was no one in front of a car as well.

Indy Lights driver Rinus VeeKay will test with Ed Carpenter Racing August 7 at Portland International Raceway. VeeKay won the Indy Pro 2000 in 2018.

Colton Herta has blank sidepods.

It is not difficult to tell Dixon’s and Rosenqvist’s cars apart.

Back after qualifying with Quick Thoughts and a full report.

Welcome to Iowa Speedway

Greetings from Iowa Speedway. It will be a warm, make that a hot day for the NTT Indycar Series drivers.  The temperature for the first practice  first practice at 11 EDT should be around 86 degrees. It will be 90 when qualifying takes place at 2 pm EDT and 92 degrees at 7 EDT for the final practice.

Last night it did not get dark until well after the race should be over tomorrow night.  The cars will be driving into a lowering sun about an hour into the race. I’m wondering if the start time will be adjusted after tonight’s practice.

Today’s Schedule – all times EDT

Practice 1- 11-12  NBC Gold

Qualifying  2:15  NBCSN

Final practice 7-8 NBC Gold

Something to look for is how the extra horsepower will affect lap times. Iwill be interesting to see how much the drivers lift in the turns.

St. Pete Extension

Adam Stern reported yesterday that the St. Pete race has been extended through 2024. A new four year agreement between the city and Green Savoree was reached. The current agreement expires after next year’s race.

This event has grown substantially over the past six years. My first time at St. Pete was 2013. I have noticed a big positive change in the race weekend since then.


I’ll be back with a first practice wrap-up later.



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: