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]

Iowa Speedway
Verizon IndyCar Series Race 11 of 17

by Paul Gohde

The Verizon IndyCar Series leaves the series’ longest track (Road America), and ventures west to Iowa Speedway, the series’ shortest circuit, for Sunday afternoon’s Iowa Corn 300 in Newton Iowa.

Iowa Speedway Facts: Opened for Indy car competition in 2007, 30-miles east of Des Moines, this Rusty Wallace-designed track measures just 7/8-mile (0.894-mile), short enough to post laps in the 17-18-second bracket. With a record single lap qualifying time of 17.2283 seconds set by Helio Castroneves in 2014, Sunday’s 300 lapper will likely see the checkered flag in less than two hours.

Dario Franchitti captured two of those early races (2007, 2009), with the late Dan Wheldon the 2008 winner.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is a three-time champion here for Andretti Autosport; a team that has won seven times in the ten-race history of the facility. Chip Ganassi Racing has won twice and Ed Carpenter’s team once.

The 2016 Iowa Corn 300: Driving the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for ECR, Josef Newgarden led 282 of the 300 laps to set an all-time Indy car record for laps led, surpassing the previous record (250) set by Hunter-Reay who led all 250 laps on the Milwaukee Mile in 2014. The win was the third for Newgaden in the series, but his first on an oval.

Starting second next to pole-winner Simon Pagenaud, Newgarden’s held serve, only giving up the lead through pit stop cycles as Chevrolet teams took seven of the top-10 finishers.

Will Power trailed by more than four seconds at the flag after doing battle with Scott Dixon and Pagenaud for podium spots.

The 2017 Season: Honda and Chevrolet have each visited the winners’ circle five times this season, but Honda is on a recent hot streak having won four of the last five races (Indy 500, Detroit 1&2, Road America). Chevy dominated the early season results, but Honda has come on strong since Memorial Day. Eight different drivers have won races so far with Power and Graham Rahal each winning twice.

Dixon has a 34-point lead over second-place Pagenaud in the point chase, followed by Castroneves (-37), Takuma Sato (-56) and Newgarden (-61).

There will be just six events left after Iowa: Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and Sonoma on road/street circuits and ovals at Pocono and Gateway.

The Field: Twenty-one familiar cars will take the Iowa flag late Sunday afternoon. Ed Carpenter is back for the oval race while team-owner Dale Coyne has settled on rookies Ed Jones and F1 graduate Esteban Gutierrez until the injured veteran Sebastien Bourdais hopefully returns before season’s-end.

Notes:  TV: Qualifying, NBCSN, Saturday, 3:00 p.m. ET. Race, Sunday, 5:00 p.m. ET… No pole-winner has ever won an IndyCar event at Iowa…Of the 21 drivers entered, only Marco Andretti, Kanaan, Dixon and Castroneves have competed in all 10 IndyCar races here…Newgarden has finished second, second and first in the last three Verizon Series races…The Rusty Wallace track design is said to be based on Richmond, a track where he had great NASCAR success…Iowa Speedway has the SAFER barrier system installed around the entire track…The Mazda Road to Indy USF 2000 series will compete Sunday prior to the IndyCar event, while ARCA stock cars will run on Saturday…The track has been owned by a wholly-owned subsidiary of NASCAR since 2013…Team Penske has never won at Iowa in an IndyCar race.

My Take: Chevy and Honda have each won five races this season with Honda holding the hot wheel lately. Iowa is all grip and power with Chevy feeling that it has an advantage, and they may. We’ll take Hunter-Reay for Honda and Newgarden for Chevy.

The Final Word: Scott Dixon (NO. 9 NTT Data Ganassi Honda): “You have very high g-force loading (at Iowa) and there is always a lot of action on this bullring-style track. You really have to be on your game with traffic and the quick lap times. The track has a lot of character having weathered-in over the last few years and (with) the bumps in Turns 1-2…Our over-all package seems to be at a slight disadvantage on the short ovals like this track and likely Gateway (in August).



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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.”