|James Hinchcliffe scored a dominant win at Iowa last year.|
During the 2014 season, AutoRacing1.com columnist Brian Carroccio will preview all Formula 1 and IndyCar races. Below, is Brian's preview of this weekend's Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DeKalb
A Brief Overview
The Verizon IndyCar Series will make its eighth annual trip to the 7/8-mile banked oval in Newton, Iowa this coming weekend. For this year, the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DeKalb returns to its Saturday night slot after being run Sunday afternoon a year ago. Another change this year is the race will be extended from 250 to 300 laps, a distance of 262.5 miles.
The Indy cars will be accompanied by the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, who will contest the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen Friday evening.
|Dario Franchitti is the only driver to win twice at Iowa. Here, Franchitti sports one of his many alternative livery designs en route to victory in 2009.|
The retired Dario Franchitti is the only two-time winner at Iowa. As for drivers who will run this year, Tony Kanaan (2010), Marco Andretti (2011), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2012), and James Hinchcliffe (2013) have all won at Iowa. The only other Iowa winner was the late Dan Wheldon (2008).
Kanaan has also finished on the podium in each of the last 4 years, coming home second after a fierce battle with Andretti in 2011, and third each of the past two year
As for Andretti, he has made his love for Iowa Speedway very clearly known both off-track and on. In addition to his 2011 victory, he has finished second twice and third.
|Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates victory in 2012.|
Hunter-Reay had a somewhat unexceptional record at Iowa until his win in 2012. He also put on quite a drive last year from the 15th starting position to give Andretti Autosport a 1-2 with Hinchcliffe.
Anyone else run well at Iowa
Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon have each won pole twice; Takuma Sato and Will Power once each. Additionally, Castroneves finished second in 2010 and Dixon came home third in 2011.
The only other driver in this year’s field to have recorded a podium finish at Iowa is NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ryan Briscoe, who finished second in 2009.
What about teams?
|Michael Andretti smiling is a site you see often at Iowa Speedway.|
The last 4 years, Iowa Speedway has been the personal playground of Andretti Autosport, as the team has won every race, and finished 1-2 the past two years. The team also won the inaugural event in 2007 with Franchitti behind the wheel.
The only other team to win at Iowa is Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who captured victory with Wheldon in 2008 and Franchitti in 2009.
Still, any discussion regarding who wins begins with Andretti Autosport, who has won five of seven races in Iowa, with five different drivers.
Is there anyone with a particularly unexceptional record at Iowa?
While Sato won pole in 2011, the driver of the ABC Supply Honda has never finished better than 12th in 4 starts. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden did win the Indy Lights race in 2011, but has a best finish of 15th in two IndyCar starts.
|No one has cooler hair than Sebastian Saavedra. The young Colombian, however, has struggled in two starts at Iowa.|
Charlie Kimball of Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing has best finish of 11th in three starts. Sebastian Saavedra won the Indy Lights race in 2010, but has a best finish of 19th in two Indy Car starts.
As for teams, Dale Coyne Racing has no finish better than 10th at Iowa.
How important is qualifying at Iowa?
Obviously, starting up front is preferable anywhere. But generally speaking, qualifying is not at the premium at Iowa it is elsewhere.
For one, no one has ever won the race from pole. Kanaan won from 15th and Andretti won from 17th. And in 7 races, 8 drivers have finished on the podium after starting outside the top-10.
What are some of the storylines this weekend?
From a big picture perspective, the series championship battle has been put into focus over the past two weekends.
|Juan Pablo Montoya captured his first win since returning to Indy Cars at Pocono.|
After Texas a few weeks ago, I noted that the Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay had essentially broken away from the pack if you will. Things bunched together slightly after a crazy weekend in Houston, in which fourth-place Simon Pagenaud scored a victory. They bunched up even more after Power self-imploded last weekend at Pocono, and fifth-place Juan Pablo Montoya captured victory.
Of course, Iowa has never been a strong track for Power. However, the Aussie is clearly feeling the pressure of the championship stretch and a good run in Iowa would do his championship campaign wonders.
With regards to Iowa specifically, it’s Andretti Autosport v. The Field.
We’ve already outlined the team’s dominance at Iowa. But this dominance extends to the other short tracks on the schedule. In fact, if you go back to Marco Andretti’s win at Iowa in 2011, the team has won six consecutive short track races.
So, are you saying you’d take Andretti Autosport versus the field?
|Brian C. says this is the ideal weekend for RHR to get back on track.|
If you look at the team’s form since Hunter-Reay’s win at Indy, you would certainly be hesitant to make that bet. Still, if I have to pick one winner this weekend, I’m going with Hunter-Reay.
While RHR has struggled of late, the best American Indy car driver of this era is at his best in attack mode. And no tracks suit RHR’s attacking style like the bullrings.
Hunter-Reay gets his mojo back this weekend in Iowa, and scores his third win of 2014.
Brian Carroccio is a columnist for AutoRacing1. He can be contacted at BrianC@AutoRacing1.com.