Thursday, July 16, 2015

Track Walk: Iowa 2015

Iowa is the preantepenultimate round of the 2015 IndyCar season
The penultimate oval race of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place under the lights at Iowa Speedway. This will be the ninth running of the Iowa Corn Indy 300 but only the second year of the race being a 300-lapper. Sébastien Bourdais picked up his first oval victory in over nine years at Milwaukee last week and he looks for consecutive victories for the first time since 2007. This will be the final race in the month of July and final night race of the season before the series enters Astor Cup August.

Time: Coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday July 18th. Green flag at 8:50 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be in the booth with Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Kate Hargitt and Robin Miller working the pit lane.

Championship Picture
Seventeen drivers enter Iowa with a shot at the Astor Cup.

Juan Pablo Montoya continues to lead the championship as the past champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner has 439 points from 12 starts. The Colombian holds a 54-point lead over Scott Dixon. Both drivers have won two races this year. Sixty-nine points back of Montoya are Graham Rahal and Hélio Castroneves with Rahal holding the tiebreaker over the Brazilian thanks to his victory at Fontana. Will Power makes it three Penske drivers in the top five, as the defending champion is 70 points behind Montoya.

Sébastien Bourdais jumped to sixth in the championship after his victory at Milwaukee, however the Frenchman is 96 points behind Montoya. Past Iowa winner Marco Andretti is seventh in the championship, 107 points behind Montoya. Tony Kanaan, another past Iowa winner, is 18 points behind his former teammate Andretti. Two-time winner this season, Josef Newgarden is 130 points back of Montoya in ninth. Simon Pagenaud bookends the top ten in the championship for Penske as he trails by 161 points.

Charlie Kimball is 12 points outside the top ten. Carlos Muñoz sits on 251 points in 12th. Takuma Sato is 13th with 229 points and Ryan Hunter-Reay trails the A.J. Foyt Racing driver by two markers. James Jakes and Gabby Chaves are tied with 197 points. Jakes owns the tiebreaker with his best finish being third at NOLA to Chaves' best finish being ninth at Belle Isle 2. Jack Hawksworth is the final driver mathematically eligible for the championship. The British driver is 255 points behind Montoya with a maximum of 266 points remaining on the table.

Andretti's Backyard
Andretti Autosport has won six of eight Iowa races, including the last five. Five different drivers have won at Iowa for Andretti with Ryan Hunter-Reay being the only driver to win multiple times at Iowa for the team. Dario Franchitti won the inaugural Iowa race in 2007 driving for then-Andretti Green Racing and Franchitti won the 2009 Iowa race driving for Ganassi. The only other non-Andretti victory at Iowa came by a former Andretti driver, Dan Wheldon, who won on his birthday in 2008.

Other Andretti winners at Iowa are Tony Kanaan (2010), Marco Andretti (2011) and James Hinchcliffe (2013).

While Hunter-Reay has won two of the last three Iowa races, he has failed to finish in the top ten in the last four races and has only three top tens this season. In the 18 races since his Iowa victory last year, Hunter-Reay has one podium, two top fives and five top tens with an average finish of 13.333 and only 31 laps led.

Iowa is the sight of Marco Andretti's most recent IndyCar victory, 72 starts ago. When Andretti won at Iowa in 2011, it had been 77 starts since he scored his first career victory at Sonoma in 2006. That stretch from Sonoma 2006 to Iowa 2011 is the third most starts between victories in IndyCar history behind Graham Rahal (124, St. Petersburg 2008-Fontana 2014) and Johnny Rutherford (97, Atlanta 1965-Ontario H2 1973). Fun fact, those three streaks are all between a drivers first and second career victories.

Carlos Muñoz will be making his second career start at Iowa. He finished 12th last year after starting fifth. In two Indy Lights starts at Iowa, Muñoz finished seventh in a field of 14 in 2012 and eighth in a field of eight in 2013, despite starting on pole position.

Justin Wilson will be making his eighth start at Iowa. His best finish at the 7/8th of a mile oval is tenth, which occurred in 2012. His best start at Iowa is tenth, which occurred in 2009. His average finish at Iowa is 14.285.

Road to Indy
Indy Lights will be on track for the second consecutive weekend with Pro Mazda returning to competition for the first time since Toronto.

Jack Harvey continues to lead the Indy Lights championship with 261 points and a 14-point lead over Spencer Pigot. Twenty-nine points further back is Ed Jones. RC Enerson is 69 points behind his teammate with Juan Piedrahita rounding out the top five, 104 points behind Harvey. Scott Anderson is a point behind Piedrahita with Milwaukee winner Félix Serrallés a point behind Anderson. Kyle Kaiser is three points behind Serrallés. Ethan Ringel and Max Chilton round out the top ten with 144 and 141 points respectively. Shelby Blackstock is two points behind Chilton.

Indy Lights did not run at Iowa last year. None of the 11 drivers entered this weekend have raced at Iowa in Indy Lights. Seven different drivers have won the seven Iowa Indy Lights races and that streak will expand to eight this weekend. Previous Indy Lights winners at Iowa are Alex Lloyd, Dillon Battistini, Ana Beatriz, Sebastián Saavedra, Josef Newgarden, Esteban Guerrieri and Sage Karam.

The Indy Lights race will take place at 6:20 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Pro Mazda also makes their return to Iowa after not running the 7/8th of a mile oval the last two seasons with 14 cars entered. Santiago Urrutia leads the championship with 234 points. Thirty points back of the Uruguayan is Neil Alberico. Timothé Buret is 36 points behind Urrutia. Weiron Tan won the only other oval race on the Pro Mazda schedule at Indianapolis Raceway Park back in May. The Malaysian driver trails Urrutia by 43 points. The most recent winner in Pro Mazda, Garret Grist rounds out the top five by 49 points. Pato O'Ward is four points back of Grist. Florian Latorre sits on 172 points with Will Owen 11 points behind the Frenchman. Jose Gutierrez has 149 points and is ninth in the championship. Raoul Owens rounds out the top ten with 122 points. Canadians Daniel Burkett and Dalton Kellett are 11th and 12th with 116 and 105 points respectively. Alessandro Latif is 13th on 100 points. Bobby Eberle rounds out the entry list. He is 15th in the championship.

This will be the fifth Pro Mazda race at Iowa. Peter Dempsey won the inaugural Iowa Pro Mazda race in 2009. Conor Daly won in 2010. Sage Karam won the last two Iowa races in 2011 and 2012. All 14 drivers will be making their first appearance at Iowa.

The Pro Mazda race is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Fast Facts
This will be the ninth IndyCar race to occur on July 18th. The most recent race on July 18th was Toronto in 2010. Will Power won that race. The only driver to win multiple races on July 18th is Gordon Johncock, who won at Michigan on July 18, 1976 and won at Michigan again on July 18, 1982.

Chevrolet has won eighteen consecutive pole positions and the last two pole positions at Iowa.

The pole-sitter has never won at Iowa. In fact, no one starting on the front row has ever won at Iowa. The best finish for an Iowa pole-sitter is fourth (Scott Dixon in 2008 and 2014). The average finish for an Iowa pole-sitter is 11.375, having only finished in the top ten in four of eight Iowa races.

Four of the eight Iowa races have been won from row two with third producing three winners (Dario Franchitti 2007, Dan Wheldon 2008, James Hinchcliffe 2013) and fourth producing one winner (Dario Franchitti 2009).

Three of the eight Iowa races have been won from outside the top ten. Last year, Ryan Hunter-Reay won from 13th. In 2010, Tony Kanaan won from 15th and in 2011 Marco Andretti won from 17th.

The only other position a winner has started from is seventh (Ryan Hunter-Reay 2012).

The average starting position for an Iowa winner is 8.125.

Last year's Iowa race had the fewest amount of lead changes in the race's history with six. Four of eight races have featured double-figures in lead changes with the most being 16 in 2010. The average amount of lead changes at Iowa is 10.25.

The fewest amount of cautions in an Iowa race is three for 29 laps, which occurred in 2013. The most amount of cautions in an Iowa race is seven, which occurred last year. The most amount of caution laps in an Iowa race was 72 laps during five caution periods in 2011. The average amount of cautions at Iowa is 5.25 with the average amount of caution laps being 56.75 laps.

Scott Dixon has the best average finish among average drivers at Iowa at 6.5, just better than Ryan Hunter-Reay at 6.7. Dixon has five top fives and seven top tens in eight Iowa starts but his best finish at the track is third. Dixon has won three pole positions at Iowa.

Only once has there been a green flag run at Iowa to last more than 100 laps. The final 127 laps of the 2009 race were run under green flag conditions.

Possible Milestones:
Hélio Castroneves needs to lead 128 laps to reach the 5,500 laps led milestone.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 138 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 136 laps to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 73 laps to reach he 2,500 lap led milestone

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 58 laps to reach the 1,500 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 14 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

Ed Carpenter needs to lead 96 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 4 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 5 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti protect his father's team's house and picks up his first victory in over four years. There will be at least one green flag run to last at least 100 laps. Ryan Hunter-Reay gets a top ten. Juan Pablo Montoya will be the top Penske finisher. Both CFH cars finish in the top ten. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has at least one car finish in the top ten. No more than a dozen cars will finish on the lead lap. A driver who hasn't scored a fastest lap this season will score fastest lap. Sleeper: Simon Pagenaud.