IndyCars - Iowa: Fast and tiny bullring in the corn

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Each year about this time the IndyCars return to Newton, Iowa to do another small oval race on the fast and high-banked Iowa Speedway - The Iowa Corn 300!

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The Iowa Speedway - a .875-mile tri-oval - has always produced a great show for the IndyCar fans, with its high speeds enabled by its high banks. The best performer at Iowa among the current IndyCar drivers is Ryan Hunter-Reay who has had WINS there in 2015, 2014 and 2012. Last year the winner was Helio Castroneves for Team Penske, and as he is in SportsCars now, there will not be a repeat. In 2016 the WINNER was Josef Newgarden in a dominating race - the most lead laps ever for an IndyCar driver at any track. Josef was ALSO the Indy Lights WINNER at Iowa in 2011.

Other former Iowa WINNERS are Tony Kanaan, now with AJ Foyt, Marco Andretti for Andretti Autosport and James Hinchcliffe for Schmidt Peterson. Max Chilton WON at Iowa for Carlin in the Indy Lights in 2015 and Matheus Leist - now with AJ Foyt - WON in Indy lights in 2017 for Carlin while Zach Veach, now with Andretti Autosport, was a P2 at Iowa for Belardi in the Lights in 2016.

The IndyCars came for a test of the new 2018 aerokit 10 days ago, with 13 drivers participating. The TOP SEVEN drivers - in top speed order - for that test were Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti and Zach Veach - all for Andretti Autosport - followed by Josef Newgrden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud - all for Team Penske. The test confirmed that the new aerokit will be fast on the bullring, but different, too. Instead of flat out all the way around, it will be higher speeds on the straights but slower in the corners, with lifting necessary.

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The weekend will be short and sweet. Supporting the IndyCars will be an ARCA stock car race on Saturday and an Indy Lights race on Sunday. Let’s take a look at that support:

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ARCA Racing Series - This is the premier division of the Automobile Racing Club of America, utilizing former NASCAR stock cars. It is a feeder series for NASCAR and runs on small ovals, superspeedways, road courses and even dirt tracks. ARCA drivers run the gamut from youngsters learning their craft to old hands keeping their foot in racing. There are no IndyCar drivers here, but a friend of ours, young Sheldon Creed, multi-champion from Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks, is the current ARCA series points leader, so we will let you know how he does, this weekend.

Sheldon’s United Rentals Toyota

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Sheldon Creed

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Indy Lights - This is the top step of the IndyCar feeder ladder system known as the Mazda Road to Indy. The cars are Dallara IL-15s with Mazda MZR 2.0 liter turbo-charged engines developing 450 horsepower. The cars also have push-to-pass - the steering wheel button that allows the turbo to spool up for an additional 50 hp on demand - just like the big cars. The cars handle much like the big cars. That is to say that they require conscientious driving and are easy to slide away and lose without good control and that makes them ideal for training to drive the big cars. It’s a simple formula: The better you can drive, the more the car will do for you. The Lights consistently produce great drivers. No less than three 2017 Lights drivers are currently driving IndyCars and most of the field are former Lights drivers. The current points leader in the lights is Colton Herta driving for Andretti Steinbrenner.

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Colton Herta’s Andretti Steinbrenner IL-15

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Colton Herta

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Saturday will be a day of testing and qualifying for all three series and the ARCA gang will race in the evening. Let’s GO!

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Saturday morning at Newton - The IndyCars hold their first practice…

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Practice is that time when the driver and his or her engineer work to maximize the highly-adjustable car for the track configuration, the track conditions and the expected weather of the weekend. Practice is essential to top performance in the race.

The weather is important at Newton NOT because of the possibility of rain - there is none this weekend and IndyCars do not run on ovals in the rain, anyway - but for temperature and humidity, both of which affect the engine, the tires and the aero configuration. This will be the only practice for the IndyCars before they qualify.

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Here is the order of speed for the IndyCars P-1 practice session, with times for the TOP FIVE: [R] denotes rookie

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1 - Josef Newgarden, Team Penske - time of 00:17.5188s for a speed of 183.711mph

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2 - Will Power, Team Penske - time of 00:17.5447s for a speed of 183.440mph

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3 - Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:17.5681s for a speed of 183.196mph

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4 - Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:17.6619s for a speed of 182.223mph

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5 - Zach Veach [R], Andretti Autosport - time of 00:17.6895s for a speed of 181.938mph

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6 - Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing
7 - James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
8 - Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske
9 - Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta
10 - Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing

11 - Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing
12 - Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
13 - Robert Wickens [R], Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
14 - Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing
15 - Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing
16 - Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
17 - Zachary Claman DeMelo [R], Dale Coyne Racing
18 - Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
19 - Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser/Sullivan
20 - Charlie Kimball, Carlin

21 - Max Chilton, Carlin
22 - Matheus Leist [R], A.J. Foyt Enterprises

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Notable:

  • The TOP FIVE were also in the TOP SEVEN of the test here ten days ago, though the oirder is a bit shuffled. It is still an Andretti / Penske thing.

  • Spencer Pigot hasn’t raced here since his last appearance in Indy Lights in 2015, so this P6 is impressive.

  • Ed Jones got a pole at Newton in the Lights in 2016 and finished P3. In 2015 he started P2 and ended P2, again in the Lights. Look for Ed to do well.

Left to right, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones

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The IndyCars will qualify later this afternoon. Next, the Indy Lights hold first practice…

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Saturday afternoon at Newton - The Indy Lights practice…

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The lights, like the big cars, are going to get this one practice session before they qualify, later today.

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Here was the order of speed for the Indy Lights P-1 session with times for all: [R] denotes rookie

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1 - Pato O’Ward [R], Andretti Autosport - time of 00:20.0056s for a speed of 160.875mph

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2 - Aaron Telitz, Belardi Auto Racing - time of 00:20.0795s for a speed of 160.283mph

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3 - Santiago Urrutia, Belardi Auto Racing - time of 00:20.1703s for a speed of 159.561mph

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4 - Victor Franzoni [R], Juncos Racing - time of 00:20.3248s for a speed of 158.348mph

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5 - Colton Herta, Andretti Steinbrenner - time of 00:20.3913s for a speed of 157.832mph

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6 - Dalton Kellett, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:20.5246s for a speed of 156.807mph

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7 - Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:20.5591s for a speed of 156.544mph

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Notable:

  • The best performer of this group in previous Lights races here is Santiago Urrutia, who posted a P2 last year. Dalton Kellett was P3 in the same race, while Colton Herta was P4. The WINNER in 2017 was Matheus Leist, who is now driving for AJ Foyt in the big cars.

  • Pato O’Ward has never raced here, making his P1 time all the more impressive.

Pato O’Ward

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The Indy Lights will qualify later this afternoon. Next, the IndyCars qualify!..

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Saturday afternoon at Newton - The IndyCars are qualified!

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Qualifying IndyCars on ovals is dirt simple: The cars go out one at a time, put down one warm-up lap and then two hot laps. The speed for those two laps is averaged and the fastest driver is on pole, with everyone lining up behind, in the order of speed.

Here is the way the IndyCars will grid for the Iowa Corn 300, with times for thew TOP SIX: [R] denotes rookie; time is for two laps added together while speed is the average of those two laps.

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Row 1

Pole - Will Power, Team Penske - time of 00:35.2913s for a speed of 182.391mph

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P2 - Josef Newgarden, Team Penske - time of 00:35.5310s for a speed of 181.160mph

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Row 2

P3 - Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:35.6253s for a speed of 180.681mph

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P4 - Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske - time of 00:35.6980s for a speed of 180.313mph

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Row 3

P5 - Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:35.7996s for a speed of 179.801mph

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P6 - Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing - time of 00:35.8545s for a speed of 179.526mph

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Row 4

P7 - Robert Wickens [R], Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
P8 - Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing

Row 5

P9 - Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing
P10 - Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Row 6

P11 - James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
P12 - Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Row 7

P13 - Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
P14 - Zach Veach [R], Andretti Autosport

Row 8

P15 - Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser/Sullivan
P16 - Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing

Row 9

P17 - Charlie Kimball, Carlin
P18 - Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing

Row 10

P19 - Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta
P20 - Zachary Claman DeMelo [R], Dale Coyne Racing

Row 11

P21 - Max Chilton, Carlin
P22 - Matheus Leist [R], A.J. Foyt Enterprises

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Notable:

  • This is Power’s 3rd Iowa pole and the 2nd in a row, nut he has never won this race. No one has ever won the race from pole. Will was the only guy to top 182 miles per hour on his average.

  • A number of fast drivers were upset in their runs by bumps in the track that unsettled the car and ruined their runs. Among them were Marco Andretti and Spencer Pigot.

Marco Andretti (left) and Spencer Pigot - it’s the bumps

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The IndyCars will hold a final practice later today. Next, the Indy Lights qualify…

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Saturday afternoon at Newton - The Indy Lights are qualified…

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Just as with the big cars, the Lights qualify one at a time, one warm-up lap followed by two hot laps, with the fastest two-lap average on pole.

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Here is the way the Indy Lights will grid for the Iowa Corn 100, with times for all: [R] denotes rookie; time is two laps added together and speed is the average of those two laps

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Row 1

Pole - Pato O’Ward [R], Andretti Autosport - time of 00:39.8148s for a speed of 161.669mph

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P2 - Colton Herta, Andretti Steinbrenner - time of 00:39.8591s for a speed of 161.489mph

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Row 2

P3 - Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:39,9393s for a speed of 161.165mph

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P4 - Dalton Kellett, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:40.0822s for a speed of 160.540mph

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Row 3

P5 - Santiago Urrutia, Belardi Auto Racing - time of 00:40.1632s for a speed of 160.266mph

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P6 - Aaron Telitz, Belardi Auto Racing - time of 00:40.1893s for a speed of 160.162mph

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Row 4

P7 - Victor Franzoni [R], Juncos Racing - time of 00:40.1993s for a speed of 160.122mph

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Notable:

  • This is Pato’s 6th pole of the year and gives him one more point in his effort to catch and pass teammate Colton Herta in the points chase.

  • The Andretti cars were all hooked up and Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett have both been fast at Iowa before. Nevertheless, the Belardi team knows how to move up at Iowa.

  • Victor Franzoni offered that he didn’t flat-foot it in his run, feeling like Juncos could not afford for him to risk going into the wall, as he has never raced at Iowa before, but he knows there is plenty of time to go through a small seven-car field in the race.

  • The difference between Franzoni and O’Ward is a mere .385 seconds. With that kind of parity, anyone can win this thing.

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NOTE: The Lights will race late Sunday morning. That race will be same-day broadcast on NBC-SN at 11:00pm EASTERN time, and as such we will not report on it until after that broadcast.
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Next, the big cars go out for a final practice…

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Saturday afternoon at Newton - The IndyCars hold final practice…

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The P-2 session will be the last chance for IndyCar teams to get their race set-ups in order, as they no longer need worry about qualifying. Because this session is so late in the day the temperatures are not reflective of how hot it will be at race time on Sunday, which is predicted to be hot and cloudless. While it is cloudless now, it is NOT as hot as it will be at race time. That makes this session a bit of a crap-shoot, with engineers guessing how the cars will need to be different at race time.

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Here was the order of speed for the IndyCars P-2 session, with times for the TOP FIVE: [R] denotes rookie

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1 - Josef Newgarden, Team Penske - time of 00:18.2065s for a speed of 176.772mph

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2 - Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:18.2583s for a speed of 176.271mph

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3 - Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport - time of 00:18. 4284s for a speed of 174.643mph

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4 - Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing - time of 00:18.4824s for a speed of 174.133mph

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5 - Will Power, Team Penske - time of 00:18.5242s for a speed of 173.740mph

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6 - Ed Jones, Chip Ganassi Racing
7 - Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske
8 - Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
9 - Tony Kanaan, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
10 - Zach Veach [R], Andretti Autosport

11 - James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
12 - Robert Wickens [R], Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
13 - Matheus Leist [R], A.J. Foyt Enterprises
14 - Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan
15 - Charlie Kimball, Carlin
16 - Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing
17 - Zachary Claman DeMelo [R], Dale Coyne Racing
18 - Max Chilton, Carlin
19 - Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser/Sullivan
20 - Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter Racing

21 - Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing
22 - Marco Andretti, Andretti Herta

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Notable:

  • Everyone is remembering the beat-down that Josef Newgarden put on the rest of the field in 2016. The only guy also into 176 miles per hour on speed is Alexander Rossi. This is a great match-up, Chevy vs. Honda

  • With 8 minutes left in the session Simon Pagenaud’s Chevy engine let go with a lot of smoke. The Penske crew will be giving him a new powerplant overnight.

  • Sebastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti are all falling on their faces at just the wrong time. They may be trying stuff with a more decent set-up ready to reinstall overnight or they may be truly helpless.

Sebastien Bourdais (left) and Ed Carpenter

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The race is scheduled for broadcast on NBC-SN starting at 2:00pm EASTERN time on Sunday with the pre-race show, the race itself at 2:30pm EASTERN time. You can also see an edition of “Inside IndyCar” at 12:30pm EASTERN time and the qualifying session from today at 1:00pm EASTERN time, both on Sunday.

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Following this practice the ARCA series went racing under the lights, but this was the last on-track activity for IndyCar.

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IndyCar has released Saturday highlights from Iowa Speedway…

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Spotter’s Guide - Changes in livery since Road America…

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Only one driver change and just a few changes in livery since the last race at Elkhart Lake:

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Josef Newgarden was in the silver Verizon car for Road America but switches back to the white and black Hitachi car for Iowa:

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Ed Jones drove the black and blue First Data car at Road America but switches to a new car, the two-tone blue DC Solar car for Newton:

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Graham Rahal was in the locally-sponsored Gehl car of black and white at Elkhart Lake but comes to Iowa in a new car, the red, white and black Luther car:

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Ed Carpenter will be driving the # 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka car at Iowa, instead of Jordan King, the car’s road course driver, but the livery will be the same black and white:

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Spencer Pigot was in the blue and white Direct Supply car at Road America but gets back into the green and white Fuzzy’s car for Iowa:

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Sunday afternoon at Newton - IndyCar puts on a barn-burner!..

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At the end of 300 exciting laps of racing James Hinchcliffe for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport came home victorious for the first time in 2018, and though he WON under a yellow flag the outcome of the race went down to the final laps, after Hinchcliffe plotted all day to take away what was supposed to be a sure WIN for Josef Newgarden for Team Penske. P2 at the end was Spencer Pigot for Ed Carpenter Racing in his best-ever IndyCar finish, while Takuma Sato cruised into P3 for Rahal Letterman Lanigan in his best finish of the year, so far.

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After 23 laps with pole sitter Will Power for Team Penske in the lead, Josef Newgarden took over the top spot and took off, sometimes gapping the field by 10 seconds and lapping three quarters of his opponents - some, multiple times. It was looking to be another rout, like his 2016 WIN at Iowa.

Behind him the jockeying and passing for positions was unbelievable. More than 950 on-track passes were recorded. Starting P11, James Hinchcliffe was one doing a lot of that passing, personally recording more than 60 passes in his inexorable move to the front. Other big passers were Pigot, Sato and Zach Veach for Andretti Autosport. The track was filled with very tight but remarkably smart racing as no one punted anyone else for the entire event, despite a lot of passing and sliding going on.

Near the middle of the event the first caution flew as Veach got into the gray and slid up into the wall. He would pit for repairs and rejoin, but out of contention. With 44 laps to go Hinchcliffe finally caught and passed Newgarden. As the race wound down P3 was Robert Wickens for Schmidt Peterson, P4 was Pigot and P5 was Sato. Then, with 8 laps to go, Ed Carpenter got sideways and nearly spun. Takuma arrived on scene and actually nicked him, straightening him out and stopping him from spinning off, but that left debris on the track and a final yellow flag flew.

Newgarden knew that he had nothing for Hinchcliffe with things the way they were, so the Penske crew made a calculation that if he could get new tires he could out-race the Canadian and thus ducked into the pits during the caution for what was hoped to be a 2- or 1-lap dash to the end. He was followed in by Wickens. But the debris took too long to clear and the race ended under yellow.

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Notable:

  • On shear passing and racing alone, this one will be hard to beat. The track was FILLED with racing everywhere. Add in the paucity of yellows and the strategy plays at the end and you had a real nail-biter.

  • Newgarden ended P4 and Wickens P5. Points-leader Scott Dixon could only manage a P12, so Newgarden got a lot closer to him in the points chase, despite losing the race.

  • This is the first WIN for Hinchcliffe since Long Beach in 2016 and helps to sooth the disappointment at not qualifying for the Indy 500. It also makes for a great way to enter Toronto with fellow Canadians Robert Wickens and Zachary Claman DeMelo, next weekend.

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P2 Spencer Pigot…

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…and P3 Takuma Sato

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Following this event, here are the TOP TEN in points leaving Iowa:

1 - Scott Dixon 411
2 - Josef Newgarden 378
3 - Alexander Rossi 370
4 - Ryan Hunter-Reay 359
5 - Will Power 358
6 - Robert Wickens 304
6 - Graham Rahal 304
8 - James Hinchcliffe 280
9 - Simon Pagenaud 279
10 - Sebastien Bourdais 254

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The next outing for the IndyCar will be the Honda Indy Toronto, with full support from the Mazda Road to Indy, NASCAR’s Pinty Series and IMSA’s Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge - all next weekend.

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Racer’s Robin Miller interviews the race Champion, James Hinchcliffe…

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Sheldon Creed WINS at Iowa on Saturday…

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As promised, we want to let you know that young Sheldon Creed, late of Robby Gordon’s Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks, took his Toyota Camry ARCA Series car to P1 in the Fans with Benefits 150 at Iowa Speedway. P2 was Chandler Smith and P3 was Chandler Purdy.

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Sheldon Creed

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Sheldon had to withstand five caution flags for incidents on the race track and numerous challenges from drivers throughout the field. There were a total of 16 lead changes among 7 drivers, with Creed leading a total of 85 of the race’s 150 laps. This is Sheldon’s 3rd WIN in the last five races.

With this result, Creed unofficially leads the series points with 2910 over Chandler Smith at 2745.

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.Way to go, Sheldon. Proud of you!

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Pato O’Ward dominates the Lights at Iowa Speedway…

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The Mexican rookie teen - already an IMSA Champion - not only had the fastest time in practice and the pole-winning speed on Saturday but went on to dominate the race on Sunday for Andretti Autosport, leading from the green to the checkers with no one anywhere near him, relatively speaking. P2 at the finish was championship points-leader Colton Herta for Andretti Steinbrenner while P3 went to Belardi Auto Racing’s veteran, Santiago Urrutia.

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Pato took off on the start and pulled a gap that was as much as 6 seconds ahead of the field and spent the rest of the race modulating the pedal and conserving his tires, while maintaining that gap. The real excitement was behind him as on the opener, Santi Urrutia jumped from his P5 start past Dalton Kellett and Ryan Norman, both for Andretti, and then Colton Herta as well, before the end of lap 1, putting him in P2. Victor Franzoni for Juncos Racing also nudged past Aaron Telitz for Belardi to take the P6 spot. The two would battle for much of the race over that spot, with Victor hanging on to it.

Meanwhile, Colton began to formulate a plan of attack to get back by Santi. For many laps the young American sophomore would test the Uruguayan at each corner, looking for a weakness that he could exploit. The two battled each other closely for most of the race. Finally on lap 93 of 100 he took Santi by diving under him in Turn 2. Once past, he made an effort to reel in O’Ward, and was making up some ground, reducing the gap to 3 seconds, but the gap was too big for the time left and Colton had to settle for P2.

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Notable:

  • This is Pato’s 4th WIN of the season and it brings him ever closer to Colton in points, though Herta’s P2 minimized the damage.

  • This is Colton’s 8th podium of the year.

  • Victor Franzoni set Fastest Lap but started too far back in the pack to make much of his speed.

  • Santi was awarded the Tilton Hard Charger Award for his great 1st lap pass on three contenders.

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Here is your happy podium - That’s Colton Herta in P2 on the left, Patricio O’Ward in P1 in the middle and Santiago Urrutia in P3 on the right:

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With this result, here are the TOP FIVE in points leaving Iowa:

1 - Colton Herta 283
2 - Pato O’Ward 275
3 - Santiago Urrutia 234
4 - Victor Franzoni 216
5 - Ryan Norman 189

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The next two outings for the Indy Lights will be next weekend on the streets of Toronto at Exhibition Place, as the full Mazda Road to Indy supports the IndyCars, July 13-15

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Racer’s Robin Miller interviews the Lights winner Pato O’Ward…

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IndyCar has released a Race Re-Mix highlights reel of the Iowa Corn 300…

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.That was a great one. Too many passes and too many places to watch all at once The track was filled with action everywhere.

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