IndyCar are back in action and this time it’s the famous Iowa oval, known as ‘The world’s fastest short track’ with a sub-18 second lap. It’s a proper driver’s track, both physically and mentally, that rewards bravery but heavily punishes mistakes, which could prove very costly, especially at this stage in the championship. Scott Dixon currently has a rather healthy 45-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay and his teammate Alexander Rossi, who are tied on 348 points, but, with 50 points up for grabs each race, that margin is a very long way from being safe.
Last race at Road America was a brilliant display of just how good Josef Newgarden is when he’s on form. No, he didn’t run away with it like we’ve seen before but what he did do was fend off repeated, sustained challenges from IndyCar’s finest, specifically Hunter-Reay and Dixon, who completed the podium in that order. Rossi was also amongst those challenging, along with season-long rival Robert Wickens, but, after some questionable moves, Rossi’s charge came crashing down with a suspension failure. This wasn’t exactly what Rossi was hoping for, but his championship challenge hasn’t been too badly dented by it with it being very hard to firmly rule out any of the top 10.
Looking forwards now and the Iowa Corn 300, to give it its full name, is coming up. Last year, Penske’s Helio Castroneves dominated to take his first victory in what seemed like forever, famously climbing the fence at the end of the race in celebration. He was followed home by Ed Carpenter Racing’s JR Hildebrand and then Andretti’s Hunter-Reay which gives us the unusual situation of only one of last year’s podium finishers being on this year’s grid. Castroneves has been moved over to Penske’s sportscar forays while Hildebrand failed to find a seat for this season but, despite their absences, we can presume that both their teams will be going strong again this year. Iowa’s a funny old track but smaller teams generally have the chance of doing well, along with the usual giants of Penske, Andretti and Chip Ganassi.
Chevrolet stood in slightly better stead for Iowa last year but, then again, the top 10 finishers were evenly split between Chevrolet and Honda. However, as we’ve come to realise this year, previous form counts for very little with the universal aero kits wiping out any previous advantages so, as usual, it’s anyone’s game.
We’re back on an oval, so the usual oval weekend format is in place with minimal practice and single, two lap, qualifying runs in reverse championship order.
There’s one substitution and one absentee for Iowa – Ed Carpenter is back in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing car with Jordan King making way, as is the arrangement for ovals, while there is no Juncos entry, meaning the field is 22 strong rather than the usual 23.
Predictions are always hard for IndyCar and, with no defending winner, it’s all a bit different for this race. The usual suspects will, as always, be factors throughout the weekend so expect Newgarden, Will Power, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Wickens and co to be up there however, Iowa has a habit of throwing up unexpected results and surprises so keep an eye out for that!
As ever, practice and qualifying are being streamed live on all IndyCar’s streaming channels while the race is being shown live on the BT Sport/ESPN channel for the UK. If you’re looking to catch the action, the timings are as follows:
Practice 1 – 4:15pm
Qualifying – 8:30pm
Final Practice – 11:45pm
Race – 7:40pm
(All times BST)
Featured image courtesy of Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing (http://media.gm.com)