Thursday, June 20, 2013

Track Walk: Iowa 2013

Ryan Hunter-Reay enters Iowa the same way he did last year, as the most recent winner. Coming off his second win of the season last week at Milwaukee, Hunter-Reay is second in the points standings only sixteen markers back of Penske's Helio Castroneves. Hunter-Reay looks to repeat his performance of back-to-back wins at Milwaukee and Iowa and possibly snatch the points lead.

Andretti's Short Track Dominance
Last week's win at Milwaukee was Andretti Autosport sixth win in the last seven races on short tracks and the team has won four of six races at Iowa including the last three with three different drivers. More importantly Ryan Hunter-Reay has won the last four races on short tracks, dating back to New Hampshire in 2011. Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti are the only two Andretti drivers with wins on ovals, let alone short tracks but it would not be surprising to see one of the other two Andretti drivers picking up a win this weekend.

EJ Viso has seemed to reel in his wreckless ways and is now a sleeper at every race. Viso's best career IndyCar finish came at Iowa in 2010. Viso finished an impressive third behind Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves after starting nineteenth. Last week Viso finished fourth in what was a dominating weekend for Andretti Autosport. However, Viso's results at Iowa are less than respectable. His best finish at the 7/8 mile oval after his podium is thirteenth.

James Hinchcliffe's track record on short tracks is stellar. In six races on short tracks, Hinchcliffe has five top tens with his lone non-top ten coming at Iowa last year. Just like his record finishing short track races, Hinchcliffe's record starting them are identical, with five top ten starts in six short track races with his lone non-top ten starting coming in his first short track race at Milwaukee in 2011. Hinchcliffe is coming off a fifth place finish at Milwaukee, his third consecutive top five at the Mile and Hinchcliffe looks to piece back together his season after a string of retirements. Hinchcliffe has two wins but will need more consistent finishes up front if he wants to make any challenge for the title.

Can Ganassi Turn It Around?
The only other team to win at Iowa is Ganassi Racing when they went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. Neither Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti has had what would appear to be an impressive season but both are in the top ten in points and have been on fire since Indianapolis. Franchitti has finished in the top ten each race since the series left Indianapolis and other than Dixon's gearbox issue at Texas, his team has been up in the top ten as well. Charlie Kimball was the top Ganassi driver for the first four races of 2013 and has scored four top tens but has finished seventeenth the last two weekends.

Dixon has finished every race at Iowa, all being top ten finishes and has two pole positions at the track. Franchitti has the most wins at Iowa with two but since his second win in 2009 he only has one top ten finish at the track, a fifth in 2011. Kimball's record on short tracks is dismal with his best finish being eleventh at Iowa last year.

New Sanctioning Body For Indy Lights
After many questions about the future of Indy Lights, one big question has been answer. From Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, IndyCar will no longer be the sanctioning body for Indy Lights and control of the series will go to Dan Andersen, who currently controls U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda. IndyCar is believed to continue subsidizing Indy Lights during the transition period. A formal announcement will be made at a later date.

Track Facts
Of the five winners at Iowa Speedway, four (Franchitti, Kanaan, Andretti and Hunter-Reay) of them will be in this year's race. The late Dan Wheldon won at Iowa on his birthday (June 22) in 2008.

Four drivers have raced in every IndyCar race at Iowa they are Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Andretti, Castroneves and Dixon have all been running at the finish of every Iowa race. Kanaan has three did not finishes at the track. None have completed all 1500 laps run at the 7/8 mile oval.

In six Iowa races, the best starting position for a winner at Iowa is third on two occasions (2007 and 2008). Marco Andretti came from the farthest starting position to win. He started seventeenth in 2011.

Last year at Iowa six of the top ten finishers started outside the top ten, three of which started twentieth or worse. Twenty-seven of sixty top ten finishers at Iowa have started outside the top ten and seven of eighteen podium finishers have started outside the top ten.

Heat Races
I did a breakdown of the heat race format earlier in the week. Check it out if you have any questions.

In a season that has been as unpredictable as 2013, I cannot see anyone but an Andretti Autosport car winning this race. Their dominance on short track has been thoroughly impressive. I picked him at Texas and I am going to pick him at Iowa, give me Marco Andretti. All the Andretti cars will finish in the top ten. There will be only one Penske car in the top ten. Justin Wilson will be up front. Rahal Letterman Lanigan will continue to struggle. Tony Kanaan will have to race his way into the third and final heat and will then race his way into a top five starting position. Ganassi Racing will come close but fall short of their first win in 2013. Alex Tagliani will get his first top ten since St. Petersburg. Sleepers: Ed Carpenter, EJ Viso and Josef Newgarden.