NTT Indy Car Series:  Iowa Speedway Indy Car Preview

Conor Daly. [Media Credit-Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens]

Conor Daly may be the happiest driver to be heading to Iowa Speedway. [Media Credit-Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens]

by Paul Gohde

After a one-year delay due to COVID-19 concerns in 2021, the NTT Indy Car Series returns to Iowa Speedway on July 23/24 to a raceway many call “The World’s Fastest Short Track”, for Saturday’s Hy-Vee 250 and Sunday’s Salute To Farmers 300, deep in the corn fields of Newton Iowa.

Race Facts: The track’s unique two-day double header format was first used at Iowa in 2020 when Indy Car was forced to double-up many races due to the ongoing pandemic. This weekend’s races will be the 16th and 17th Indy car events since Iowa’s inaugural in 2017. NASCAR’s Rusty Wallace was hired to help design (and “influence”) the track’s design prior to its opening in 2006. The progressive-banked track (12-14 degrees) measures 0.875-mile and the two-lap qualifying record is owned by Scott Dixon at a scorching 186.266 mph (2014). Iowa’s unusual qualifying format earns a driver’s first lap speed his grid spot for Saturday’s race and his second lap speed the starting position for Sunday.

Recent Race History: Josef Newgarden has won two of the previous three Indy races in Iowa; the first in 2019 and the second as part of the 2020 doubleheader. He also visited the highest step of the Podium at Iowa in 2016. His 2020 win saw him dominate Race 2 by leading 214/250 laps with Penske Racing teammate Will Power    second and Graham Rahal third. Another Penske Chevrolet driver, Simon Pagenaud, captured Race 1 that day, leading Scott Dixon and Oliver Askew to the checkered flag by 0.495 seconds.

2022 Season So Far: 2022 Drivers’ Standings after ten events: 1) Marcus Ericsson, 351 points, 1 win…2) Will Power, 316, 1…3) Alex Palou 314…4) Josef Newgarden 307,3…5) Scott Dixon 307, 1… Other winners: Scott McLaughlin, 2…Colton Herta, 1…Pato O’Ward. 1…Manufacturer’s Standings: Chevrolet, 826 points, 7 wins…Honda, 784, 3.

Race Entries: Twenty-six cars will fly around the tight, short Iowa oval this weekend, with Ed Carpenter in his third team car as part of his oval track only schedule.

Notes: TV: Saturday’s 250 will air on the NBC Network at 4:00 p.m. ET, while Sunday’s 300 will start at 4:00 p.m. ET, also on NBC…The 2021 season saw only the ARCA series run at Iowa…The weekend races should draw a good crowd each day as the first-year Hy-Vee sponsorship of the whole weekend has already brought renewed interest…AJ Foyt’s car #11, driven by Tatiana Calderone on road courses and JR Hildebrand on ovals, was parked at the recent Toronto race due to sponsorship payment problems. It was hoped that the problem could be rectified by Iowa, but only the remaining two Foyt cars are entered again for this weekend’s Iowa oval; those of Dalton Kellett and rookie Kyle Kirkwood…Andretti Autosport has won seven of the 15 previous Iowa Indy Car races…After this weekend, the only remaining oval race on the schedule will take place at the World Wide Technology oval near St. Louis on August 20…Newgarden (3) is the only entered driver who has won at Iowa more than once. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud are the only other entered drivers who have won here (once each).

Our Take: With only three former Iowa race winners in the 26-car field, and one of them (Newgarden) has three of those, a betting person might think there is going to be a first-time winner. Team Penske has had quite a few wins here recently, but Andretti Autosport has seven, but none since 2015. Iowa is a track with many grooves on its progressive banking and somewhat different curves on each end of the tight, high-speed layout. This track takes time to learn that layout, and it tells us that the winner (or two?) will come from a few drivers/teams with experience. Scott Dixon won at Toronto last week, and though that was a road course, he could be in victory lane at some point and so will either Pagenaud or Newgarden. Should something happen to any of those three, a good choice for a first-time winner would be Will Power or Colton Herta.

“They Said” Conor Daly, #20, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet: “It’s going to be awesome to be back at Iowa. Seeing what (race sponsor) Hy-Vee is doing, what’s being constructed at the track when we tested there two weeks ago, is awesome. Recently we’ve had such great events and St. Louis is coming back; they do an incredible job for that event. Nashville is awesome and having Iowa back on the schedule is great…As for qualifying, it’s going to be so hot. I’d rather qualify up front and make people work to pass us than to (hold back) and be good on tires at lap 60. I don’t know if anyone is going to go that far on tires. I’ll be curious how that plays out…You’ve got to be ready to qualify and then race at the same time. You don’t want to miss the set up on either side.”

Next Series Race: Gallagher Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield road course, July 30th.





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