IndyCar: Iowa Corn 300 Preview

Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden lead the field into Turn 1 during the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. [Photo by: Chris Owens]

Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden lead the field into Turn 1 during the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. [Photo by: Chris Owens]

by Paul Gohde

The corn will be knee high in Newton, Iowa Sunday when the Verizon IndyCar Series hits the tight banking of Iowa Speedway for the 12th running of the Iowa 300.

Opened in 2006, the first IndyCar event ran a year later with Dario Franchitti besting Marco Andretti by just 0.0681 sec. as only 10 drivers finished the inaugural event.

Race Facts: The under one-mile (0.875-mile) “bull ring” track will see drivers make a dizzying 300 laps, 268.2 miles, in right around two hours as the series competes at the fourth of six ovals on the schedule. Josef Newgarden won in 2016 with a record speed of 143.330mph (1:52.16.36). Scott Dixon set the qualifying record for a two-lap run in 2014 of 186.256mph (34.558 seconds). Ryan Hunter-Reay has won here three times, while the Andretti Autosport team has won seven times beginning with Franchitti in 2007.

Past Races at Iowa: In 2017 Helio Castroneves ended a three-year, 54-race winning drought dating back to Detroit in 2014. The Team Penske pilot beat JR Hildebrand by 3.964 seconds while scoring what would be his final win before moving to Penske’s IMSA team at the end of the season. The Brazilian led 217 laps while Hildebrand led 38.  RHR came in third in a race that saw Chevrolet capture three of the first four spots. Castroneves win was the 30th of his Indy car career. Five drivers who have won here (Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Newgarden) will compete on Sunday.

2018 So Far: With only seven races remaining, the chase for the IndyCar Championship is tightening with just 50 points separating the first four drivers. Standings:1.Scott Dixon (2 wins, 393 points) 2. Hunter-Reay (1, 348) 3. Alexander Rossi (1, 348) 4. Newgarden (3, 343) 5. Will Power (2, 328). There have been six different winners in the first ten races so far. Previous oval track winners have been Newgarden at Phoenix, Power at the Indianapolis 500 and Dixon at Texas.

The field: The usual 22-car field will see the green flag Sunday. Ed Carpenter is back on the oval for his team, while part-time team Juncos will skip the Iowa round.

Notes: The two remaining ovals on the schedule are Pocono and Gateway in August…As reported by several sources last week, Chicagoland Speedway may be seeing an IndyCar race return to the Joliet oval. With Phoenix off the schedule, and some rumblings about closing the season on an oval, the Windy City track could be a logical choice…No driver has won at Iowa from the pole…TV: NBCSN-Race Sunday, 2:00 pm ET/ Qualifying Saturday, 3;30 pm ET.

Our Take: The cream seems to be rising to the top as the season begins to wind down. The top four or five in points are slowly pulling away from the rest, but with double points waiting for the closer at Sonoma, and a race that could bring a hard-to-predict result at the vast Pocono 2.5-miler, Iowa could go a long way in determining the season’s champ. Andretti Autosport has been dominant here in the past, winning 70 % of the races. Look for Rossi or Hunter-Reay to be strong for Michael on Sunday, while Power or Newgarden could win for “The Captain”.

Final Words: Takuma Sato (No. 30 Mi Jack/Panasonic Honda) “Iowa Speedway is just non-stop cornering with usually the highest lateral G-force loads recorded during the season. There is a bump in Turn 2 which is tricky, but generally a great race, and racing there is exciting. It’s a lower (aero) downforce package …possibly the lowest one in recent years, so I’m sure it’s going to be very challenging to follow cars. If we could run in the second lane it will be quite exciting.”




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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”