It’s time for the high-speed dance on the banked short oval of Iowa Speedway as the NTT IndyCar Series heads into its unique doubleheader weekend. The 7/8th-mile track located in Newton, Iowa is home to some of the best racing IndyCar will put on during the season, and considering the show we’ve seen so far this year, that’s saying something.
The track has hosted IndyCar for some time, starting in 2007 through 2020, skipping 2021 before returning with the doubleheader weekend last year. Mixed with top-act concerts, it’s a non-stop, entertaining thrill ride.
Last year, 2023 Indianapolis 500 champion Josef Newgarden was the dominant force, as he has been for a few years now, and he took the first race and well on his way to a sweep of the weekend until he crashed. Pato O’Ward then took advantage of Newgarden’s misfortune and snagged his first win at the short track. Unfortunately for Newgarden, he later had a medical issue and was airlifted to a local hospital after the race was over.
Will the two winners from last year be looking at potential returns to victory lane? Or will it be a first time winner at Iowa?
Dominance At Iowa Is Spelled J-O-S-E-F
Lets not belabor the point, as this was discussed earlier in the week, but Newgarden is the man to beat. Regardless if ran under the hot, Iowa sun or the cooling night time rural sky, he has put his car in victory lane there. The expectations are so high, if you play IndyCar’s fantasy game, you won’t be able to select any of the top-ten drivers in the championship if you select him. Don’t believe us? Check it out for yourself.
O’Ward Will Want To Flip Texas Finish
The young Mexican Arrow McLaren driver started the season great. He almost won at St. Petersburg and then was bested by Newgarden late at Texas Motor Speedway. Last year he jumped on the victory podium after Newgarden crashed, and was competitive in the first race as well. Ovals are starting to be his calling card, with one win, three runner-ups and a fourth in the last six races run. And after settling back into consistent form since a crash at Detroit took him out of the championship chase, he’s hammered one top five and two additional top tens since. He’s ready to strike in corn country.
The Iowa Speedway is one, if not, the only multi-groove race track the IndyCar’s run. Texas is improving to it’s old self, after it’s high-line practice session, but fans might see three lanes of traffic on track this weekend. Last year, IndyCar oval rookie Jimmie Johnson put his No. 48 Carvana Honda on the top lane and in Race 2 raced well into the top five, using the wider entry and exit to save his tires and speed. Look for the same this year, as IndyCar lifers use the same tools and confidence to try it out and find the right set up that will keep their car fast but conserve their Firestone rubber as long as possible. It will be one of the best shows all year.
Championship Chase… Sort Of
Alex Palou enters this weekend with a great opportunity to extend his championship, or possibility to give his competitors a chance to cut into his massive lead. The Spaniard has not quite excelled at Iowa, finishing no better than sixth in his previous four stops there. It’s definitely not an oval skill issue though, as he has been a force at the Indianapolis 500 the past three years and finished third at Texas earlier in the season. He’s just not had the car to lead.
However, don’t count him out because the driver of the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Honda is on a streak nine straight top fives and hasn’t finished worse than eighth all year. If he comes out of this doubleheader with solid finishes, the championship is all but his.
Enjoy the Qualifying Show
With the doubleheader format, IndyCar will continue to use their unique qualifying rule that sets the field for both races in one session. It’s intriguing to watch for several reasons as each driver gets two timed laps, and their placing for the races are based on where they slot in on lap one for race one and likewise for the second lap and race two.
Last year, Will Power used his car to start on pole for both races, but other drivers made mistakes on their first lap and recovered for a better lap afterward – or vice versa. Add this format to the Indianapolis 500 qualifying show and Firestone Fast Six sessions on road and street courses, and IndyCar showcases a diverse, and enjoyable, competition for teams to get pole across the schedule.
The Doubleheaders Can Be Two Unique Races
IndyCar has ran the doubleheader format twice at Iowa, last year and in the dynamic COVID-19 2020 season. They also ran a similar oval doubleheader format at Texas in 2021 and World Wide Technology Speedway at Gateway in 2020 as well. In those eight races, there has not been a sweep by any driver. Each race has played out differently from the day before. It goes to show how competitive and close the racing is when parity in victory lane reigns.
But, this one has to be easy right?
- Newgarden (right?!)
- New….just kidding. Not doing it. Palou. Yes, he gets a win at Iowa and the sighs of frustration from the paddock will be drowned out by the crunch of sweet corn (it’s delicious).
The 2023 Hy-Vee IndyCar Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway will kick off on Saturday, July 22, with the Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart at 3 p.m. ET. The Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade will follow on Sunday, July 23, at 2 p.m. ET.
About the author
Tom is an IndyCar contributor at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.