Iowa Wrap Up: This is How You Oval

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Before last weekend, Indycar at Iowa Speedway was some of the best racing no one came to watch. The big crowds in the early years had dwindled to a bout a third of capacity, typical of oval attendance everywhere. Iowa did not have a slot on the 2021 schedule.

Thanks to Hy-Vee, Indycar returned to Iowa, big time. The activation and programing drew two sellout crowds. The event will be back in 2023 and 2024.

In March, details about the weekend were laid out by Bud Denker of Penske Entertainment and Randy Edeker, CEO of Hy-Vee. I posted about it in this story.

From March-\https://thepitwindow.blog/2022/03/08/a-way-forward-for-ovals/

Everything they said would happen did happen. The track and grounds looked cleaner than I had ever seen t. The turn one and four suites gave the track a classy look.

Sponsor Activation

In addition to the copious Hy-Vee signage, the company had a mobile store at the track with some grocery items and some camping supplies. If a desired item wasn’t stocked, Hy-Vee would deliver it to the fan at the track.

I visited a couple of their stores after i left the track. There were at least a half dozen cut outs of Jack Harvey’s Hy-Vee sponsored car displayed throughout the store. In addition signs with the logos of the two races hung prominently near the entrances and exits and above shelves. A racing related merchandise displayed greeted shoppers as they came in.

I don’t know the exact amount of money Hy-Vee put into this weekend, but it was substantial. I heard they weren’t interested in Return on Investment, but I think they got their money’s worth.

Indycar could use a couple more sponsors putting this kind of effort into the series.

Fans

While both days were sold out, the spectators in my area were different each day. I talked to several people Sunday who had never been to a race of any kind before. I’m positive some of them will return next year.

I have also heard some fans who did not come this year are making plans to some in 2023.

Were the concerts more of an attraction than the races? Perhaps in some cases, but the grandstands were filled for the races.

One of my concerns was that the crowd would filter out after the first concert and return for the post race performance. I was wrong.

This is the first oval race outside of IMS that I have been to, and I’ve been to a couple of them, where the atmosphere had the same buzz as the 500.

Keeping the Plan Going

The series now has a template for a successful oval weekend. Will ovals not currently on the schedule now have an interest in bringing Indycar to their venue? Will a certain track in the south that had an Indycar race this spring take notice or do they not care whether the series returns?

Can Iowa Speedway and Hy-Vee sustain this dame level of energy for the next two years? As great a success as last weekend was, the real proof comes in years two and three.

I could see this event becoming the Hy-Vee company picnic, similar to what Honda does at Mid Ohio for their employees.

I would very much like for the Saturday race to take place at night, but I’m not sure now if that would help attendance without one more support race.

Race Day, Part Deux

Today’s Schedule:

SUNDAY, JULY 24
9:00 am Gates Open
12:10 pm – 1:00 pm Gwen Stefani Concert
2:00 pm – 4:30 pm NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google (300 laps) NBC, Peacock
5:15 pm – 6:45 pm Blake Shelton Concert

The weather will be much more pleasant today, with highs in the low to mid 80s.

Staring Lineup:

*Will confirm later, but Colton Herta is expected to receive a nibne place grid penalty for an engine change.

Yesterday’s crowd was announced as a sellout-38,000. As of last night, Indycar said that there were 800 seats available for today’s race. Wheteher they sell out or not, this weekend has been a smash success.

Pato O’Ward said yesterday that he used up his tires trying to get to Josef Newegarden. The team will look for a solution for today’s race.

“We were just extremely extremely loose. We need to we need to see what we can do better for tomorrow and not have that because it took a lot of pitstops to get it into a window where we can actually attack rather than just being a little bit of a passenger but yeah, really happy with our day,” O’Ward said.

Two of O’Ward’s Indycar wins came in the second race of a double header.

Results from Race 1

Notes

Rinus VeeKay had a sneaky fourth place finish Saturday. He started eighth and just quietly drove to fourth. VeeKay has two fourth place finishes in his last three races.

His teammate. Conor Daly, started third, but ended the day 19th. I think both Carpenter cars will have good days today.

Newgarden could complete the fourth double header sweep in Indycar history. The last time it happened was Detroit 2017 when Graham Rahal won both Detroit races.

We could see the same drivers on the podium today, but in a different order.

Quick Thoughts- Iowa HyVeeDeals 250

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Another Iowa race, another Josef Newgarden victory. Newgarden dominates this track like Scott Dixon used to rule Mid Ohio.

Chevy has a tremendous advanatge over Honda this year. Several Honda cars challenged Newgarden, but did not have enough to make a serious run. Chevys finished 1,,2,3,4 today.

Colton Herta’s oval misfortunes continued. After his first early pit stop it was fun watching him carve his way through the field. Herta looked like he would be a contender.

What a drive for Jimmie Johnson. He spun on lap 14, recovered to lead 19 laps, and spent much of the race in the top 10 before finishing 11th.

The standings have tightened up. Mafrcus Ericsson’s lead has shrunk to 15 pointsover Newgarden and 22 over Will Power.

Pato O’Ward earned his second runner up spot on an oval. it was a much needed result for O’Ward, who had an average finish of 20th in his past three races.

Overall, it was a good race with many battles for position.

Newgarden, Power, and O’Ward all noted how quickly the tires went away today. They expect the same situation tomorrow.

Some Numbers

Newgarden has won four races in 2022. This is the first year a driver has four wins since 2020. Today’s win was also his fourth at Iowa. His first win here came when he drove for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Indycar announced there were 722 passes on track today, 372 for position.

Only five cars finished on the lead lap.

Today’s race marked the sixth time this year that the driver starting second has won. The pole winner has not won since the first race of the year in St. Pete.

I will have a follow up story with quotes and final results up later. Thanks for following along. Another race tomorrow.

Quick Thoughts- HyVee Deals.Com 250

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Another Iowa race, another Josef Newgarden victory. Newgarden dominates this track like Scott Dixon used to rule Mid Ohio.

Chevy has a tremendous advanatge over Honda this year. Several Honda cars challenged Newgarden, but did not have enough to make a serious run. Chevys finished 1,,2,3,4 today.

Colton Herta’s oval misfortunes continued. After his first early pit stop it was fun watching him carve his way through the field. Herta looked like he would be a contender.

What a drive for Jimmie Johnson. He spun on lap 14, recovered to lead 19 laps, and spent much of the race in the top 10 before finishing 11th.

The standings have tightened up. Mafrcus Ericsson’s lead has shrunk to 15 pointsover Newgarden and 22 over Will Power.

Pato O’Ward earned his second runner up spot on an oval. it was a much needed result for O’Ward, who had an average finish of 20th in his past three races.

Overall, it was a good race with many battles for position.

Newgarden, Power, and O’Ward all noted how quickly the tires went away today. They expect the same situation tomorrow.

Some Numbers

Newgarden has won four races in 2022. This is the first year a driver has four wins since 2020. Today’s win was also his fourth at Iowa. His first win here came when he drove for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Indycar announced there were 722 passes on track today, 372 for position.

Only five cars finished on the lead lap.

Today’s race marked the sixth time this year that the driver starting second has won. The pole winner has not won since the first race of the year in St. Pete.

I will have a follow up story with quotes and final results up later. Thanks for following along. Another race tomorrow.

Double Pole for Power; Double Penske Front Row Lockout

And then there was one. Will Power moved moved within one career pole of Mario Andretti by grabbing poles for both races at Iowa Speedway. Josef Newgarden, Power’s team Penske teammmate, will start second in both races. Chevy powered cars will start each race in five of the first six positions. Power now has won five poles at Iowa.

The last pole sweep by a driver was by Simon Pagenaud in Detroit in 2016.

Conor Daly had held both provisional poles through 10 qualifiers until Newgarden firmly beat his times. Power then took to then track and turned the only laps int the 178 mph range to grab his 65th and 66th career poles. Power now has three poles for the season.

Colton Herta picked up nearly three miles an hour on his second lap to slot third for race 2. However, his team will change his engine after today’s race and he will be moved to 12th for Sunday’s race.

Rinus VeeKay had the most consistent run. His first lap was 176.626 mph and his second lap was 176.625 mph.

Will Power

Power talks about his double pole.

“Yeah, it was It was messy. It was skipping up the track and I was surprised those the quickest like but always wheeling it as much as I could. I thought it was leaving nothing on the table. So again, it was not there was a 17 (second lap) to encounter .”

Starting position is key.

” lt felt like you had to start in the top 10 To have a good race because it was seemed a little difficult to pass .. cars can follow along so you can make sense. Positions are in basic decision up with our strategy, but leading is obviously easier. You can queue up people when they need to get a bit of a lead up early they’ll come down to laps you know that was so yeah, good spot to be in.”

On catching points leader Marcus Ericsson:

“I’m hoping that this is a good weekend for us to catch Marcus. Because he’s very tough. He’s, he’s, you know, he’s not the best qualified but he’s probably the best racer in series in my opinion. I might have just over the years watching him race. He’s one of the toughest guys like he’s very, very good at starting back there and making his way all the way to the front. So yeah, he’s going to try and get some points on it.”

Saturday at Iowa- Qualifying Calls May Affect Race

Toiday’s Schedule: All Times Central

8:00 am Gates Open
8:30 am – 9:00 am Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Qualifying
9:30 am – 10:45 am NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying for Races 1 and 2 Peacock
11:15 am – 12:20 pm Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Race (100 laps) Peacock
1:00 pm – 1:50 pm Tim McGraw Concert
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm NTT INDYCAR SERIES HyVeeDeals.com 250
presented by DoorDash (250 laps) Green flag at 3:30 NBC, Peacock
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm Florida Georgia Line Concert

If qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 is the most pressure in qualifying in Indycar, Iowa qualifying has to be the second most pressure. Drivers are qualifying for both races. The first lap is for today’s race, the second lap is the time for tomorrow’s race. Cars must race today as they qualify.

The session to set the lineup will be in cooler conditions that Friday’s practice, while the race will be run in similar conditions to Friday.

Just 0.7225 seconds separated the fastest car from the slowest in practice. One smallbobble can mean a big penalty in the starting lineup.

The race could be Team Penske versus Conor Daly and Pato O’Ward. Daly exuded confidence all day Friday. O’Ward is due for a reversal of his recent misfortunes. WE could be in for a really good race today.

Notes

The qualifying order may help the early runners as the temperatures rise during the session. Daly goes out in the middle of the round, which might help him.

If you are at the track, hydrate and take shade breaks. HyVee sells a very nice Indycar cooling towel.

One thing that struck me yesterday was the amount of advertising on the track’s outside wall, I have never seen so much at an Indycar track. Parts of the walls look like an NHL rink’s boards.

Qualifying order:

Power’s Late Lap Nips Daly in Iowa Practice

Will Power set the fastest lap in the only practice sessioin the Iowa double header. Conor Daly laid down a lop of 173.239 mph in the first 10 minutes of practice.Power edged Daly turning a 173.285 lap with less than 40 minutes to go in the 90 minute practice.

Qualifying for the two races begins at 9:30 Central time tomorrow. The HyVee Deals.com250 presented by DoorDash begins at 3 pm Central time tomorrow.

There were two stoppages, one for a track inspection and one for a fox running across the track. The fox jumped over the safer barrier.

“It’s my favorite oval,” Power said. “I think we’re in the mix.”

On running the high line, Power said, ” You gotta be wherever the car in front of you is not. It’s where can I get clean air?”

Notes

I went intoi one of the HyVee mobile stores this afternoon. It bis a camp store on steroids. If they don’t stock the product there, it can be ordered and elivered to you at the track.

HyVee has already hit a home run with this event. I am excited to see whatb the next two days bring. Indycar needs two or three more sponsors who will activate like they have

Results

Ericsson Walking Fine Line Toward Title

Marcus Ericsson knows what he needs to do to secure his first NTT Indycar Series championship. His mplan is to maximize his position each weekend and not be so aggressive that he loses psotions.

“.I don’t have to be about the gamble. Like we don’t have to try to manage to do everything to win the race, we can do whatever and beaggressive in races, we don’t have any gambling. That’s sort of my my mindset, we need to go out there maximize that we don’t have to, we don’t have to throw away a P5 to have to win.”

Ericsson has scored more points than any other dribver in the series since Nashville last year. He doesn’t plan t change the way the team does things because they are fighting for the title.

” …a fine line because if you start to think too much about it and be clever about it, you’re gonna put yourself in a hole so like I said, we’ve had a good run for the last year and a half. I don’t want to change that the way we do things. I think it’s more like, like I said to my guys, we don’t have to, like, we don’t have to gamble for a bigger goal, right? Like if we were 80 points on the lead, and then you need to win races, you would say okay, like we need to win a race or to finish a championship. But we’re not the ones that has to take a big as to get there physically. So we need to have solid weekend and all the weekends that are leftbe running solidly up front and if we do that, we’re gonna be fine.”

It has been a while since Ericsson has contended for a championship. He is confident in his team and his strategists to help him.

“I haven’t been writing for a championship for quite a while, you know, I’ve got a bit of it last year, but we’re showing the hunter at the end of the season. But before then, you know, it was in my junior career. So it’s a bit a bit new for me, but I want to do things the same way I’ve done the last year I’m gonna keep doing and I I have extremely talented and good pit wall with you know, Brad and Michael Gary. They are so clever and like, you know, so good on strategy and all that. So I promised them and I do it together. And we’re going to try and maximize every weekend.”

On racing at Iowa Speedway:

“I’ve never raced in such a short track I was in my life. And so the track is, well, it’s pretty extreme unique. The first time so pretty shocked driving cars out there and the test in 2019. Like we actually raised on this place ever since I’ve just really enjoyed it. I’ve been racing it awesome. It’s one of the best tracks of the year that we can race on. So I’m really looking forward to it. I really enjoyed being a doubleheader. I think that’s gonna be super interesting. And also display there’s always so many things happening. So he’s like, you know, sSimon last time, he won last. I think that’s everything, you could have a good race car and you know, you hit it right with strategy, you can win from anywhere in this field. So it’s gonna be a really interesting race.”

Ericswson believes he still needs to win at least oine more race to win nthe championship. The series goes to Nashville, where whe won last season, in a couple of weeks. That race may be his best chance to win.