IndyCar heads to Iowa
Newton, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - The IndyCar Series is running at its shortest track on the schedule -- Iowa Speedway -- this weekend.
Measuring seven-eighths of a mile, this track has been on the IndyCar calendar each year since 2007.
Andretti Autosport has won five of the seven races at Iowa, including the last four (Tony Kanaan 2010, Marco Andretti 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay 2012 and James Hinchcliffe 2013).
Team Penske has yet to win an IndyCar race here but has scored three poles at this track.
Right now, all three Penske drivers are in the top-four in IndyCar points. Helio Castroneves took advantage of a double points weekend at Pocono Raceway to tie teammate Will Power atop the point standings with a second-place finish. Power, though, leads Castroneves by virtue of the wins tiebreaker.
Simon Pagenaud from Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports is third in the rankings (-44).
Juan Pablo Montoya won at Pocono, scoring his first victory in a North American open-wheel race since September 2000 (CART event at Gateway International Raceway). He moved up to fourth in points (-55).
Montoya, who spent the past 13 years competing in Formula One and NASCAR before joining IndyCar full-time this season, has scored the most points in the series over the last six races. The Team Penske driver has finished seventh or better in the previous four events, including three podium appearances.
"I know there were a lot of people that thought I would be able to come into the Verizon IndyCar Series and win right away, but they didn't realize how different the cars are to what I had been driving and what the cars were like in this series when I was first competing in it," Montoya said. "I feel really good about the strategy we had for this season, and how we gradually built it up over time. Now we are peaking at the right time to push for the championship."
Iowa will be Montoya's first open-wheel race on a short track since qualifying first and finishing 12th at Chicago Motor Speedway in July 2000. He has tested at Phoenix International Raceway and at Iowa in preparation for Saturday night's 300-lap race here as well as the Aug. 17 event at The Milwaukee Mile.
Castroneves is one of four drivers who has competed in all seven IndyCar races at Iowa. Scott Dixon, Andretti and Kanaan are the others. Castroneves has recorded six top-10 finishes at this track, with his best finish of second occurring in 2010.
"Iowa Speedway is a rush," Castroneves said. "You can really feel the speed because it is such a short track, but it has enough banking that you are basically flat out the entire time. But with the track being so small you have to really stay alert because you are in traffic a lot. One slip and you can easily find yourself behind the wall losing a lot of points.
"Team Penske has not yet won a race at Iowa Speedway, but we've had fast cars. I feel like this could be the weekend."
Power came to Pocono with a 39-point advantage. He led 69 laps but ended up finishing 10th after he received a drive-through penalty for blocking Castroneves late in the race. Power has struggled at Iowa lately, finishing 17th, 21st and 23rd in the last three races.
"We definitely have a bit of work to do this weekend," Power said. "The short ovals are probably the weakest part of my game. We ran really strong at Milwaukee last year, so I hope we are turning a corner with that part of the program. I'm happy for everyone at Team Penske - two cars tied at the top [of the point standings] and all three in the top-four. This is not a time to panic. We still have a lot of racing to go."
Twenty-two teams are entered in the Iowa Corn Indy 300.
Series: Verizon IndyCar. Date: Saturday, July 12. Race: Iowa Corn Indy 300. Site: Iowa Speedway. Track: 0.875-mile oval. Start Time: 8:50 p.m. ET (expected green flag). Laps: 300. Miles: 262.5. 2013 Winner: James Hinchcliffe. Television: NBC Sports Network. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.
07/10 23:02:48 ET