Quick Thoughts on the Iowa Corn 300

This was the best oval race of the season, maybe the best race of the year to date. The lead was not safe, there were battles for position and lots of passing, both high and low. Cars were going different speeds allowing for separation. There were two on track passes for the lead, including one for the win. I don’t know what more anyone could want.

James Hinchcliffe could have done donuts for thirty minutes if he wanted to. He is the master of the comeback after being knocked down by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2016, the year after his near fatal crash, he won the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. This year he gets bumped, but comes back to win a race.

It was evident early that Hinchcliffe had the fastest car. After the first pit stop, the car was not getting off turn 2 well, but the next stop corrected that problem. Josef Newgarden had a very fast car as well, but not as fast as Hinchcliffe’s. newgarden had the early advantage of track position. Once Hinchcliffe caught and passed him with 45 laps to go, it was game over.

Congratulations to Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot on his first career podium. Pigot drove a smooth race after starting 19th and fought with Hinchcliffe for second after the restart. I have expected great things from Pigot. It seemed something always kept him from getting a good result.

The Finish

I have no problem with the way the race finished. A caution with six laps to go on a larger track may not have been a problem to have a one or two lap shootout. A track the size of Iowa chews up laps quickly even under caution. Jay Frye and Ryan Novak explained their case after the race. They just ran out of time. No team was told that the race was going back to green. Those that pitted did so on their own hoping the race would resume.

Fans are not entitled to a green flag finish, Races end at the scheduled distance. I do not want to see this changed in Indycar.

Cutting Into Dixon’s Lead

Scott Dixon should put a table outside his hauler with a sign reading, “Please Put Your Points Here.”  Alexander Rossi and now Josef Newgarden have given back precious points. Rossi lost 22 points in Detroit Race 2 by trying to stay in front of Hunter-Reay. Newgarden lost the runner-up spot today with the late pit stop costing him eight points. Dixon now leads Newgarden by 33 points, but it could be closer.

None of the contenders  besides Newgarden had a good day.

The Crowd

Attendance seemed to be slightly better than the last two years, but still not great. The buzz is that there will be a race  next year and that it will be a night race. Moving today’s race up a couple hours helped, but I know a lot of people who still could not attend because of work Monday.

Watch for my full race recap on Wildfireradiosports.com on Tuesday.

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Power Wins Iowa Pole; Newgarden Completes Another Penske Front Row

Their  positions from Road America are reversed, but the Team Penske duo of Will Power and Josef Newgarden again grabbed the front row spots for tomorrow afternoon’s Iowa Corn 300. Power won his 52nd career pole with an average of 182.371, edging Newgarden  by 0.24 seconds.  Only the top four qualifiers topped 180 mph.  Ryan Hunter-Reay starts third and Simon Pagenaud starts fourth.

In a qualifying session that pretty much followed expectations, the biggest surprises were the performances of Spencer Pigot and Marco Andretti.  Both were in the top ten in morning practice, but huge second lap drop-offs have them starting 18th and 19th respectively. Zach Veach, another front runner in the morning, will start 14th.

Notes

The top five in points will start in the top six positions. Pagenaud is the only top six starter not in the top five.

For the second race in a row, the fifth place driver in the standings won the pole.

Points leader Scott Dixon starts sixth. He has yet to win at Iowa Speedway.

Observations from Final Practice

Alexander Rossi put on quite a show passing lots of cars. he would stalk them for a few laps, then was able to pass on either side. His best pass was on Simon Pagenaud. he chased the Penske driver but quite the run he needed. When the pair came upon the slower car of Matheus Leist, Rossi got Pagenaud to end up directly behind Leist, slowing him enough for Rossi to dart around him. It was a thing of beauty.

Zach Veach looked very good, passing cars and running a consistent line.

Pagenaud lost an engine with less than 10 minutes left in the session.

 

Good Morning from Iowa

Welcome to Iowa Speedway for Indycar’s race weekend. This could be a pivotal weekend in the future of this event. Will the decent temperatures improve attendance? How will the new cars race here? Will Iowa return to a Saturday night race next year? If so, will the date change? We will have the answers to the first two questions by tomorrow afternoon. The last two will take a while.

I will have a qualifying wrapup later tonight. During the day I will be tweet updating. Follow along on @PitWindow.

Rolex 24 Preview- Racing Returns

It’s not Indycar, but many current and former Indycar drivers will be driving in the Rolex24 at Daytona this weekend. IMSA has shown steady improvement since Grand Am and the American LeMans Series merged in 2012 and the new series began racing in 2014. The series begins 2018 with new teams, a very large prototype class, and some new full time drivers. Here is a look at the teams with Indycar connections.

Roger Penske starts a full time entry into the series with two Acura prototypes. Former Indy 500 winners Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya each drive one of the cars. Castroneves is in the number 7, and Montoya is in car 6. For the Rolex, Graham Rahal will co- drive with Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud will team with Montoya. Ricky Taylor is Castroneves’ full season teammate. Dane Cameron is Montoya’s co-pilot for the full season.

Chip Ganassi continues to field Ford GT cars in the GTLM class. Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe drive number 67 this weekend. Sebastien Bourdais will be in the 66.

New Indycar team owner Michael Shank-gosh it feels great to write that phrase- has former Indycar drivers Katherine Legge and A.J. Allmendinger in his 86 machine. Bruno Junqueira drives number 93 for Shank.

Bobby Rahal’s BMW team, cars 24 and 25, race in the GTLM class. Connor DePhillippi is one of his drivers.

Spencer Pigot is back in the 55 Mazda with Team Joest in the Prototype class.

Fernando Alonso makes his endurance debut in car 23 for United Autosport. The car is a Ligier Prototype, one of ten LMP2 cars.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is driving car 10 for Wayne Taylor Racing, the defending race champion team.

Two drivers from Indy Lights of note- Pato O’Ward, who returns for a full Indy Lights season this year, will drive the Performance Tech number 38; Felix Rosenqvist, who had a brief run in Lights and is the current pints leader in Formula E, co-drives the Jackie Chan entry number 37.

Fifty cars will start the race Saturday. There are 20 prototypes, 9 GT Le Mans cars, and 21 GT Daytona machines. Gone is the Prototype Challenge class.

I plan to watch the Indycar test at Sebring on Wednesday before going to Daytona. 15 cars are scheduled to test, including newcomers Carlin and Shank. It should be a busy day.

The Cadillacs of Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express will be strong again. I’m interested to see how strong the Penske Acuras are in their first race. They should be contenders later in the year. Ganassi Ford GTs will likely dominate the GTLM class. The GT Daytona class is usually wide open, but I’ll go with the Porsche 911 team for the win.

I hope to post about it Wednesday night and provide update from Daytona this weekend.

 

 

The Future is Retro: Indycar’s New Aero Design

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Top photo: Chevy; Bottom photo: Honda

I was at IMS yesterday to see the new look aero kit debut.  The car’s new look is a beautiful combination of retro style and modern technology. My first impression was that it was smaller than the current look. The lack of the rear bumper makes it appear smaller. I got a closer than anticipated look when the Honda had a gearbox issue and came to a stop on the pit exit lane in turn 2.  This design looks more like a proper race car. I never was a fan of the rear bumper. It gave the cars more of a sports car look.

This iteration is going to be fast. Oriol Servia was turning laps around 220 mph in less than ideal conditions. The track still had Goodyear rubber on it from the Brickyard 400, there was no cloud cover, and the car was not completely seamed together.  It looks racy.

I was hoping both cars would be on the track together to test drafting and passing ability, but each engine manufacturer did separate runs. Both drivers, Servia and Juan Pablo Montoya, praised the new design.  I think Indycar has hit on a great looking car that will also race well.

The road course version will get its first test next Tuesday at Mid-Ohio. That test is also open to the public. It is tempting to stay over for the test, but I don’t think I’ll be able to. I hope to catch the road course version in winter testing at Sebring.

One consequence of seeing the new design is going to the remainder of the races this year and watching the current cars. I think it will be harder to appreciate their look knowing what is coming. But, it is still Indycar and I will enjoy the races anyway.

Back tomorrow with my Mid-Ohio preview. We still have a wild championship fight to decide.

 

The Race of Gentlemen: Movie Review. Some Indycar Tidbits

Just when I think I’ve crossed most items off my bucket list, another thing to add pops up. Friday afternoon at the Indy Film Fest I saw The Race of Gentlemen, a documentary about a race/vintage car and motorcycle festival in Wildwood, New Jersey. It’s not really a race as much as a festival celebrating the hot rods of the 30’s and 40’s. Remember the street racing scene in Rebel Without A Cause?  That’s what this is, kind of.  This race ison a beach.

Created by Mel Stultz after he became head of The Oilers, a club dedicated to preserving pre-World War II cars and motorcycles.  The idea is to keep racing in its purest form. All parts used on the cars must be either pre-war or early post war vintage.

The car must be a 1934 or older model and American made.  Engines from 1948 or earlier are allowed, along with 1949 and 1953 Ford flatheads. No 1949 overhead valve engines are allowed. The newest running gear allowed is from 1953. Cars run only on gasoline. They are stripped down for racing- no fenders.

There is a competition class and a couple exhibition classes. Cars race two at a time along a strip of beach. The starter waves a flag or sometimes just a cloth.  The New Jersey race is in June, and they have added another race in California in October. The event attracts entrants from across the country.

The film mainly interviews the car owners telling their stories of how they got interested in the hobby and how they obtained the car they brought. Some show up with several vehicles and a team of drivers.  The film opens with Mel Stultz telling the story of how the event was created.  There is footage of race action, some from on board cameras.

The event recreates the atmosphere of  a 1940’s carnival with tents and period details. Racers and spectators dress in period attire. It looks like a fun event to attend.  One racer lamented the growth of the weekend, complaining that the increased number of entries has limited the number of times each car can run.

What came through in the interviews was the owners’ love of the cars of the past, their passion to preserve theses machines, and their joy in being able to race them.  I wish I knew enough about mechanics to do this type of thing. I’ll just admire the work of others.

For those of you who love vintage cars, like me, the film  was great.  It was the best of  the three documentaries I saw at the festival.  I had never heard of this group or this race before. For more information about the event, visit the site http://theraceofgentlemen.com. The group’s history is outlined and there is a great photo gallery. If the film comes to your area, check it out.

Indycar News:

Tuesday is the day. We get the first look at next year’s speedway aerokit at IMS. Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia will test the car for the first time. Viewing is allowed from the turn 2 mounds by the museum.  The first road course test is at Mid-Ohio on August first, two days after the race.

It was great seeing Sebastien Bourdais at Toronto. He is planning to test next month and is hoping to race at Watkins Glen and Sonoma to finish the year.

There is more speculation that Andretti will be a Chevy team next season. That sets all sorts of drivers in motion, particularly Takuma Sato, and likely Alexander Rossi. It may force a Honda team to take Sato instead of a driver they may have had in mind. I certainly hope there are at least two new teams next year, although I’m only optimistic about one.

Marotti racing will again team up Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports for Pocono, Watkins Glen, and Sonoma. They will be supporting the 7 car.  Who will drive for them is unclear, as the Mikhail Aleshin situation is still a bit murky. Aleshin is scheduled to drive at Mid-Ohio next weekend, but after that, we will see what happens. There is no mention of who is driving the car at Gateway.

I’ll be back later this week with a review of Kiss the Bricks and also the mildly anticipated Mid-Ohio preview. I am quickly running out of chances to pick the correct winner.

 

 

Iowa Recap: An Indycar Icorn Snaps a Losing Streak

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It wasn’t the longest winless streak among active Indycar drivers but it was the one that had the most attention. Helio Castroneves hadn’t won a race since Race 2 at Belle Isle in 2014, 55 races ago.  I did not think he would ever win again because of his age, his penchant for getting in-race penalties, and the sometimes strange strategy his team used. Sunday, however, he put it all together for a dominating win, beating J. R. Hildebrand. Hildebrand pitted early on his last stop hoping to cycle to the front when everyone else stopped on schedule. He may have pitted a couple laps too early. His older tires were no match for Castroneveves’ fresh rubber once Helio passed him. J. R. had trouble lapping Alexander Rossi, allowing Castroneves to zip past.

This was the cleanest oval race of the year. Mikhail Aleshin’s single car spin was the only hard hit of the day.  The other cautions were for wall scrapes by the Foyt cars and for rain, which eventually led to a brief red flag.  The long green stints had the leaders in constant traffic which made for a fun race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay had  his best drive of the year, finishing third from his 15th starting spot.  Points leader Scott Dixon, on the other hand, had a difficult weekend, starting 17th and struggling to an 8th place finish.   He leads Castroneves by 8 points heading to Toronto next weekend. Honda should have a better time there than they did in Iowa. It was a decent race, processional at times, with several on track passes for the lead. There were some great battles all day, especially the one between Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal, who finished fifth.

Notes:

Iowa is great track and the racing is a lot of fun.The race needs to be on a Saturday night. Temperatures will be cooler, the cars look so much better, and the racing is so much better. Iowa was a night race before nascar went to Kentucky. Nascar should move their date. I know that won’t happen, so Iowa and Indycar should mutually find a different Saturday. This race works better after dark.

The crowd, while somewhat better this year than last, was still meager. I heard ticket sales were 10% better this year. There is still a long way to go to get the attendance back to the first few years.  I have several friends from Indy who can’t go to this race because they have to be at work Monday morning. Driving straight home from Iowa will get most people back to Indianapolis around 2 am. If it has to be on Sunday afternoon, have the race began  around noon. That time works great for Road America.   But a Saturday night race is the best option.

The red flag for moisture was appropriate. However, at that  late point in the race  I thought the yellow was out too long. Even under caution at Iowa laps go quickly. With less than 100 to go, the red flag should have come out sooner.

Saturday morning there was a lot of confusion at the ticket window. Fans didn’t notice the schedule said the grandstands didn’t open until 1 pm. Most, like me, assumed they would be open for the first Indycar practice at 10.  Fans were allowed to go to the infield and view practice from the fan walk for free. usually there is a charge for the fan walk. Last year I watched the first practice from the grandstand. It seems Iowa Speedway changes their policies every year. they need more transparency about their policies.  On a positive note, they solved my ticket issue smoothly.

I was happy to read that Indycar will conduct a test at the newly repaved Gateway Motorsport Park August 3. Each team is allowed one car and one driver. I’m glad they are attempting to avoid another debacle like the race in Texas. Now about those downforce levels…

Silly season officially began this weekend with Robin Miller’s story about Castroneves running sportscars full time for Penske plus a one-off for the 500. Team Penske stated no decision has been made. Media was requested not to ask Helio about his future at the winner’s press conference last night. I don’t know why they couldn’t ask and get a non-answer.

I’m very excited to hear that Phoenix and Long Beach will be on back to back weekends next year. That is a road trip I would definitely consider. One set of flights, time to go to Vegas and maybe the Grand Canyon make this something to really think about doing.

Back later this week with thoughts on Toronto.