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




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:



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.