In a Nutshell: Ryan Hunter-Reay made it two in a row with a convincing win at Iowa Speedway. Hunter-Reay started seventh and had a fast car all night, as did all the Andretti Autosport drivers. He was strong all night and simply motored to the front in the end and stayed there.
Teammate Marco Andretti finished second, followed by Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, and Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top five. The victory also bring Hunter-Reay within three points of series points leader Will Power.
Key Moment: Dixon’s car wasn’t quite what he wanted it to be all weekend so he used pit strategy to get to the lead in hopes that he could hold off all challenges by being in front. Hunter-Reay’s faster car was just too strong and on lap 238, he motored right on by Dixon to take the lead for the final time.
- The IZOD IndyCar Series tried a new qualifying format for Iowa, running three 30-lap heat races to determine the starting lineup. Heat assignments were based on practice speeds. Odd numbers from ninth on back ran in one heat while even numbers from 10th on back ran in another to determine the inside and outside rows from ninth to 25th. The top eight in practice ran in the third heat to determine the top eight starting spots. Driver opinions of the format were positive. Helio Castroneves found it a valuable opportunity for teams to run their cars in race conditions and understand their cars. Ryan Briscoe suggested the winners of the first two heats should have advanced to the final heat to have a chance at further improving their starting spots. Kanaan and Graham Rahal, winners of the first two heats, probably would have been fans of that suggestion, even though both drivers took 10-grid-position penalties for unapproved engine changes.
- IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard says series officials are thinking better of their idea to try to find a last-minute replacement for the cancelled race in China in order to keep the series schedule at 16 races. Bernard says just having 15 races is preferable to rushing to try to put together a 16th race at the last minute that ends up being a failure and a big black eye to the sport.
- If you build it they will come should be the motto of Iowa Speedway. The race drew a good crowd and that was in spite of rainy weather that delayed the start by some 40 minutes. It’s ironic that Iowa was in such desperate need of rain and got it on the day of the IndyCar race.
- First the on-track action was delayed by 40 minutes for weather and then the green flag was delayed by all sorts of mayhem. First Alex Tagliani‘s car came to a stop on the track, delaying the green, and then while the cars continued under caution, polesitter Dario Franchitti was just about to radio to his team that his car was making an odd sound when the engine expires. The field didn’t actually get the green flag until lap 10.
- Championship points leader Power also had his share of troubles. Power cut low across the front of EJ Viso‘s car on lap 68 and both drivers wrecked. Viso had a run to the inside and tried to get as low as possible when he saw Power moving down the track but ran out of room. When shown the incident later, Power took the blame completely. He just didn’t get the word that Viso was there and said he completely moved into Viso’s line.
- One of the best quotes of the night; when James Hinchcliffe‘s team radioed to their driver to tell him Power was out of the race, Hinch answered that “it doesn’t matter who’s out, it matters who’s in.”
- Oriol Servia had the pit-stop engine flame up of the week, which ended up burning out some of the electronics in the car and ending Servia’s night early. Franchitti, by this time in the announcers booth after his early exit, explained that he asked about this and was told that with the new engines, sometimes a bit of fuel dribbles on the turbos during stops and flares up. It’s especially troublesome on the Chevys with their twin turbos.
- Amy Henderson just wrote about lack of full field coverage in her Friday NASCAR column and it seems that perhaps the networks that cover NASCAR should take some lessons from NBC Sports. The network continues to do a great job of showing racing throughout the field. Often fans at home complain races are boring when there is no action at the front where the camera stays focused while fans at the track are seeing racing all over the place. NBC Sports has no problem breaking away from the leader to show racing for other positions on the track. They also do a great job of covering and updating teams having issues, no matter where they were running before the problem.
- Briscoe was the last guy yet to pit on lap 178 and was hoping for a caution to come out and pin the rest of the field a lap down, leaving him on a lap of his own. What he didn’t want was to be the caution he needed. Briscoe made contact with Josef Newgarden in an incident very much like the one that took out his teammate Power only different. Briscoe was well into turn when Newgarden, who had a run on him with fresher tires, stuffed it in low where there wasn’t room.
- James Jakes drew a penalty for passing the pace car. The punishment was 40 seconds on pit road. Ouch! 40 seconds is an eternity in the racing world.
- An update to one of last week’s highlight reel spots, IndyCar has installed a starter camera to specifically watch restarts in an effort to avoid incidents like the one that happened to Dixon last week.
- Hunter-Reay used a setup in his racecar that he got from Andretti. How much does it suck to help your teammate out by giving him your setup only to have him beat you with it?
Notable Driver: Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud has been featured in this spot several times this season but there’s a good reason for that. Pagenaud is the real deal. He has completed 99.8% of laps this season which translates to all but two. That’s one lap more than veteran Castroneves. He ran a stellar race yet again in Iowa where he started 25th and last and simply drove it hard all day to make it to fifth by the finish.
It’s important to remember that Pagenaud is a rooke and he has no oval-track background at all. He turned his first oval laps in a rookie test at Texas this spring and this is his fourth oval-track start.
How Did Our Picks Fare?
Matt Stallknecht correctly called the winner, picking Hunter-Reay to make it back-to-back victories. Toni Montgomery and Kanaan just missed again with a third-place result.
Quotes and Tweets:
“Yeah, it was making a very strange noise. I’d actually just come on the radio to say “Is this thing making an odd noise?” And then it let go. Really disappointed. I believe this was our Indy winner engine. A real shame that it let go.” – Dario Franchitti
“I just lost it. I feel bad for EJ because I took him with me, he said to me in the car that I was down low on him or something and I didn’t understand, but oh yeah, now I see. I didn’t get the call that he was underneath me, so I feel, man I didn’t even know he was there, I feel bad for him.” – Will Power
“Will was definitely on the pace, he just doesn’t use his mirror. I had a run at him, I was into corner one and he just blocked me, blocked me, and I couldn’t get lower, I already had my front left tire inside the apron and the yellow line. He just kept going lower and I had nowhere to go.” – EJ Viso
“He was coming out on tires with stickers about two seconds a lap quicker, and we were going down the straight — I went low early in the straight to show him that I was giving him the high line and when we got there he just never lifted and just came barreling in.
“It’s disappointing, my spotter didn’t have time to tell me that that’s where he was going, I don’t think anyone saw that coming. It’s tough, then he tried going low, and he’s coming from way too far back there, it’s too late to make a pass like that. So, it’s disappointing, but he’s a rookie and he’ll learn from it, and it’s a shame because I think on fuel we were in position to when the thing.” – Ryan Briscoe
“That was very challenging. We were sliding around a little bit more today. I have to thank Marco [Andretti]. They came here and tested. Marco put the set up on the car. When we came here, we tweaked it just a little. From there, we basically raced with what he tested with. We got another win for Chevy, DHL and Sun Drop. Marco and I raced really hard out there, really clean. It’s great to have a teammate like that and we’re just so happy to be in victory lane twice in a row.” – Ryan Hunter-Reay
“I’ve never started last before! When I saw everyone in front of me at the start, I couldn’t believe I was back there…My thought process starting the race was ‘just to move forward.’ It was really difficult at the beginning. We were already a lap down before I got confident with the car. Something just clicked and everything unlocked and we started moving forward. I’m really starting to enjoy the ovals. It’s close racing and it’s fun.” – Simon Pagenaud
What’s Next: The IZOD IndyCar Series has been working hard, racing every week since the Indy 500, so teams and drivers get a well-deserved week off next week. Then it’s a return to road courses with two stops in Canada in July. The first will be the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8. Coverage returns to ABC at 1:00 p.m. ET. Listeners can also tune in to Sirius XM channel 94 for the radio broadcast. The Edmonton Indy will follow two weeks later on July 22.
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