A Strong Fan Safety Effort by Iowa Speedway

Iowa Speedway met the challenge this weekend,  taking  proactive measures to allow fans to attend the Indycar doubleheader this past weekend.  The crowd limits for each race were appropriate, as were the limited hours that the track was open to spectators.

Each day was limited to 5, 000 fans. They may have been able to handle another ,00-1,500 or so, but in these uncertain times it is always better to err on the low side. As cars entered the grounds, three lanes were available for temperature checks of all fans. I didn’t see anyone not allowed to enter the the track. A secondary screening station stood ready to work with anyone whose temperature was too high.

Fans were required to wear a face mask to enter the grandstand area. Masks and hand sanitizer were available at the screning stations and at the gate. I didn’t notice much resistance, but many masks came off after fans passed through the entrance.

Concessions were limited to three stands plus just a couple of drink stations. Food vendors at Iowa have steadily declined over the years. it is the only thing I think the track needs to improve overall. Considering the pandemic, I was okay with the concession situation this year.

Grandstand seats were assigned with plenty of space between groups. In addition to the sadly now standard signs about COVID -19 safety, placards asked fans to sit only in their assigned seats. It appeared most fans did. The spacing in the stands you saw on television was by design. It looked as if the speedway left two rows vacant between seats.

Iowa Speedway staff ensured social distance in the general admission areas on the hills in turns 1 and 4. Eight foot circles about seven feet apart marked where fans could sit.  I sat in turn 1 for Race 2. All the fans in the are respected the boundaries.

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Turn 4 didn’t look to have as many fans as turn 1. I liked the view, and may look to sit there again next year. It seems to be a more unobstructed look at the track.

In the men’s restroom every other urinal was taped over. Every other sink was also closed for use. I’m wondering how the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will handle this situation with the new improved troughs. I assume the sink situation was the same in the women’s restroom. Even in the interest of journalism I was not allowed to enter.

One thing I didn’t notice were hand washing or sanitizing stations, but given the size of the crowd and the facility going into a restroom to wash your hands  was not difficult to do.

Overall, it was a great job by Iowa Speedway. I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe at any time. The two tracks I have been to the last two weekends each ahndled fan safety in ways unique to their facility. The larger the track and the bigger the crowd, the more variable there are to consider.  I know IMS was watching and learning. There are some good ideas from from both Iowa and Road America they should consider.

I’ll be back later this week to talk about my visit to the National Sprint car Hall of Fame.

Quick Thoughts- Iowa Race 2

Dr. Newgarden has reopened his Iowa clinic.  His 214 laps led tonight give him close to 1,000 laps led at Iowa Speedway.  Newgarden is the first driver to win at Iowa from the pole. His third victory at the track ties him with Ryan Hunter-Reay for most wins  here. Newgarden also joins Hunter-Reay as the only back to back winners.

Newer teams and drivers stood out this weekend. Carlin and Conor Daly had a pole and finished eighth Friday. On Saturday, Daly started third and was definitely  a contender until being caught out by the second yellow. His 13th place finish does not reflect the great race he ran tonight.  Sadly, Daly has only one more race scheduled with Carlin this season, August 30 at Gateway.

Arrow McLaren SP ‘s pair had two good races, contending at times both nights. oliver Askew was on the podium Friday, giving the team podiums two races in a row. Pato O’Ward’s disastrous pit stop probably cost him his second top 5 finish of the weekend. We have not heard the last from either of these teams.

Both yellows seemed to take a long time.  I’m surprised there weren’t more.  Both cautions played havoc with several teams pit strategies.

After a series of frustrating races, Graham Rahal finally gets a podium. He has been strong all year, but has had a difficult stretch of getting a good result.

Colton Herta’s repaired car was a handful tonight. I don’t know how he avoided hitting the turn 4 wall early in the race.

Two top 10s for Rossi  couple with his third at Road America should help his and the team’s morale. Like last year the team doesn’t seem to have the overall pace to contend. Rossi needs another strong Indianapolis 500.

If you are surprised that Team Penske suddenly came alive this weekend, don’t be. Some years it takes them a race or two to get going.  Penske usually gets to the top eventually.

Simon Pagenaud improved 41 spots from his starting position over the two races. He didn’t seem to have the pace he had on Friday, yet still managed a 4th place finish. He trails Scott Dixon by 49 points, gaining just 1 point on Dixon tonight.

Doubleheaders are great, but they shouldn’t be overdone in a normal year. As a fan I loved it, but the toll on the drivers and crews has to be heavy. I realize this is not a normal year. I could live with another double header at Iowa.

I’ll be back Monday with a report on how Iowa Speedway handled its COVID plan. Wednesday a story on my visit to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Thank you for following along this weekend.

 

 

Newgarden Leads Practice Joined by the Usual Suspects

Josef Newgarden led the final practice for tonight’s Iowa 250. Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon followed in a session that saw the series veteran stats at the front.

Colton Herta drove his repaired car and Rinus VeeKay drove a backup car. Herta was 13th and VeeKay was 14th.

The top seven:

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Quick Thoughts- Iowa 250 Race 1

Photo: Pagenaud at Road America last week

Last night should remove any doubts about the aeroscreen. It saved Rinus VeeKay’s life and probably kept Marcus Ericsson from serious injury.

Herat’s crash is one of the worst I have ever seen. Thank goodness for the aeroscreen and that the SAFER barrier at Iowa is in front of the fence. We could have seen another Wickens type incident otherwise.

A driver going from starting last to victory lane is quite an accomplishment, but Simon Pagenaud has had lots of practice this year. Last night he improved eight places in the first 25 laps. His average starting position through last night was 17th. His average finishing position is 6.2

Pit strategy played a big part of the outcome. Once again, the timing of the yellow thwarted some great strategy by Takuma Sato, Oliver Askew, and Pato O’Ward.

Up until last night I have been praising the newer drivers. Yesterday was a big day for the newer teams. Carlin, a single car entry, won the pole with Conor Daly, who finished eighth. Arrow McLaren SP, with  Askew getting his first podium and O’Ward finishing fourth, had a shot at the win. Don’t count them out tonight either.

It is hard to believe that it took five races for a Penske car or a Chevy to win this season.

Askew’s third place finish gives him a top 10 and a top 5 in the two oval races to date.

I’m hearing that Andretti will repair Herat’s car, and VeeKay will go to the backup. A badly damaged car in race 1 is a risk on a double header weekend.

Dixon”s try for career win 50 fell less than half a second short. Like Pagenaud, he started near the rear of the field and will do so again tonight. The task might be a bit more challenging with Josef Newgarden and Will Power on the front row.

It was a great race. Once again, the television schedule didn’t work out in Indycar’s favor. This would have been a really nice one to have had on NBC.

I’ll be back with tonight’s starting lineup and practice results later.

Today’s schedule:wp-15946845127371256326842750687973.png

 

Daly Takes First Career Pole; Newgarden Wins Pole for Race 2

Old photo. Someone must have thought these guys would be pretty good drivers

Conor Daly joined the ranks of Indycar pole winners this afternoon as he had the fastest first lap in qualifying for the Iowa 250s. Daly’s first lap of 175.188 beat Josef Newgarden by 0.0085 seconds. Newgarden turned the fastest second lap of 175.333 nipped teammate Will Power for tomorrow night’s pole. Daly starts third Saturday.

Simon Pagenaud had a fuel pressure problem as he started out of the pits for his qualifying run. Pagenaud will start last in both races. Qualifying has been difficult for Pagenaud this season.

It will be fun watching him work his way to the front.

Daly’s first pole follows last Sunday’s first pole for Pato O’Ward.  Four drivers have won pokes so far this year.

This is big achievement for Carlin Racing, the only single car team in the field.

Tonight’s green flag is at 9:15 pm Eastern Time.

Herta Leads Iowa Practice

Colton Herta was quickest in the practice session for the first Iowa 250. Herta’s best lap of 171.990 mph beat Conor Daly, who held the top spot for most of the final 30 minutes. Daly’s time of 171.488 was the first of the day above 171 mph.  Five drivers topped the 171 mark.

The top 5:

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One interesting note- Daly, driving for Carlin this weekend, is pitted next to his other car, the 20 of Ed Carpenter.

I am all set up in the Grinnell annex of the Iowa media center. I will be heading to the track for qualifying and the race in a few minutes. I will try to post a quick qualifying summary. Look for my race summary tomorrow morning.

Iowa- Race Day 1

Good morning from somewhere in the wilds of I-74. As you read this i am on my way to Iowa for Rounds 5 and 6 of the Indycar season.

Today’s schedule: (Times are Central)

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The qualifying sets the grid for tonight and tomorrow night. Both races are on NBCSN. Sunset tonight is 8:43 pm Central time, so this race will be run mostly after dark. Saturday’s race begins 30 minutes earlier.

I will try to post after qualifying, but definitely look for my race quick thoughts about two hours after the finish of the race. I will also have a feature tomorrow morning on some news of the week.

Enjoy the races.

Zanardi Update

yesterday doctors began the process of bringing Alex Zanardi out his medically induced coma. the process is expected to take three days. When he is awake, the doctors will do a neurological evaluation.