Thursday, July 7, 2016

Track Walk: Iowa 2016

IndyCar heads to Iowa for an afternoon race
The tenth round of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season takes place at Iowa Speedway. This is the tenth time IndyCar has run at the 7/8-mile oval in Newton, Iowa and this will be the sixth time the race has been held on a Sunday. Simon Pagenaud remained the championship leader after Road America and his 74-point lead to Hélio Castroneves assures the Frenchman he will be the championship leader when IndyCar heads to Toronto next week. Will Power has won the last two races and has vaulted to third in the championship, 81 points behind his Penske teammate.

Time: Coverage begins at 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday July 10th. Green flag at 5:40 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: NBCSN.
Announcers: Brian Till (Leigh Diffey is on Formula One duty), Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will be in the booth. Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis, Kate Hargitt and Robin Miller will work the pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET (75 minutes).
Qualifying: 3:00 p.m. ET (NBCSN will have live coverage)
Final Practice: 7:15-7:45 p.m. ET (30 minutes).
Race: 5:40 p.m. ET (300 laps).

Back to Andretti's Backyard
Andretti Autosport has won six consecutive Iowa races and seven of nine Iowa races with five different drivers.

Ryan Hunter-Reay leads Andretti's four horsemen to Iowa having won the last two Iowa races and three of the last four with his lone non-victory being a second in 2013. Despite Hunter-Reay habit of finding victory lane, the American has only led 54 laps at the track and 37 of those laps came last year. Hunter-Reay has won every Iowa race he has led a lap in and outside of an 19th in 2009 after a lap three accident, his worst finish at the track is eighth, giving him the best average finish of all drivers with at least three starts at 6.0. While Hunter-Reay has been one of the best at Iowa, he has never started better than seventh at the track.

Marco Andretti's last IndyCar victory came at Iowa 85 races ago. Iowa has been a bastion of hope for the third generation driver. Along with his 2011 victory, Andretti has four podiums and six top tens in nine starts and has one retirement for an engine failure in 2014. Andretti's average finish of 7.7 at Iowa is only behind Hunter-Reay and Dan Wheldon all-time among drivers with at least three starts. He also has seven top ten starts at the track but ironically his victory came from 17th on the grid. He has not led a lap in the last three Iowa races after leading in five of the first six races.

Carlos Muñoz has started fifth and finished 12th in his first Iowa start and last year he started 12th and finished fifth. He has yet to lead a lap at Iowa but has completed 600 of a possible 600 laps in his two starts. Ovals have been kind to the Colombian. In 16 starts, he has three podiums, which include two runner-up finishes in the Indianapolis 500, six top fives and eight top ten but his fifth last year at Iowa is his only top ten on a short oval. His best finish in two Milwaukee starts was 15th and he had an accident end his race before halfway at Phoenix earlier this season.

Alexander Rossi has looked good in his brief time racing on ovals. While winning the Indianapolis 500 on fuel strategy, he did qualify 11th for that race and spent a fair amount of the race around the top ten before two bad pit stops. At Phoenix, he was on his way to a top ten finish before being caught out by a caution and skimming the wall in the closing laps. At Texas, Rossi charged into the top five from ninth in the opening laps before slipping back with a race car that was a handful. At the time of the postponement, Rossi had the fastest lap during the first 71 laps.

Who Can Ruin the Andretti Party?
Josef Newgarden has finished second in the last two Iowa races and last year he led 111 laps, the most in the race. Newgarden has finished five consecutive short oval races in the top ten with his worst finish in that stretch being sixth at Phoenix earlier this season. His only career pole position was last year at Milwaukee, where he led 109 laps and finished fifth. Newgarden has been doing well on ovals in general since last summer. Not including the yet to be completed Texas race, which Newgarden will not be allowed to rejoin because of his accident, he has three podiums in his last five oval starts and his sixth at Phoenix is his worst finish in that stretch.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the only other team to win at Iowa but Tony Kanaan is the only one of the four Ganassi drivers to win at the track in IndyCar and Kanaan won there in 2010 when driving for Andretti Autosport. Kanaan led 70 laps last year before a drivetrain failure with 111 laps to go. Scott Dixon also had mechanical issues hamper him last year at Iowa. Kanaan had five consecutive podiums at Iowa before last year's retirement and Dixon has seven top tens in nine Iowa starts but he has finished outside the top fifteen in two of the last three Iowa races. Iowa has not been one of Charlie Kimball's better tracks. His best finish is tenth and his average finish is 15.4 with one lead lap finish. Max Chilton won last year's Indy Lights race at Iowa from pole position.

James Hinchcliffe won at Iowa with Andretti Autosport in 2013 when he led 226 of 250 laps from second on the grid. He has three top tens in four Iowa starts and he went from 14th to sixth in his most recent Iowa start in 2014. Hinchcliffe started 22nd at Phoenix earlier this season after a practice accident kept him from qualifying. He would finish two laps down in 18th.

Newgarden's boss Ed Carpenter has four consecutive top ten finishes at Iowa but he has only led 18 laps in his career at the short oval. His fourth place finish from fourth place on the grid in 2013 is his best start and finish at Iowa and all 18 laps he has led at Iowa came in that race. Carpenter has failed to finish his last three starts and since the start of the 2015 season, Carpenter has retired from six of his last eight starts.

Like Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal also has four consecutive top ten finishes at Iowa and he has only led 19 laps in his career at Iowa, including seven laps in last year's race before finishing a career-best fourth at the track. Rahal has been running at the finish of all eight of his Iowa starts and has completed 2,093 of a possible 2,100 laps. Despite an average finish of 8.8, his average starting position at Iowa is 15.0 with five starts outside the top fifteen.

Penske House of Horrors
Team Penske has yet to win at Iowa in IndyCar. In nine races, Penske drivers have been on the podium twice with Ryan Briscoe finishing second in 2009 and Hélio Castroneves matching the feat the following year.

Simon Pagenaud finished fifth and sixth in his first two Iowa starts but in his latter two starts he has finished 11th and 14th and finished off the lead lap for the first time at the track last year. While Castroneves finished second at Iowa in 2010, his next best finish at the track is sixth. The Brazilian has been in bad form on ovals with four consecutive finishes outside the top ten with three of those finishes being 11th place.

Will Power's average starting position at Iowa is 5.6 but his average finish is 14.1 with his tenth place finish last year ending a run of four consecutive finishes outside the top ten at Iowa. Juan Pablo Montoya has had two accidents in two Iowa starts. In 2014, he and Ed Carpenter made contact in the final 20 laps and last year he had a suspension failure after nine laps.

Indy Lights
Iowa Speedway marks the final oval on the 2016 Indy Lights schedule. This will be the 11th round of the 2016 season and seven races remain after Iowa.

Ed Jones held on to the championship lead after Road America with 214 points but Dean Stoneman scraped off a few points and trails the Emirati driver by 19 points entering Iowa. Jones finished second last year at Iowa to then-Carlin teammate Max Chilton. Stoneman won the most recent oval round, the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jones finished second to Stoneman that day. Santiago Urrutia won the most recent race and is 24 points behind Jones. Kyle Kaiser won at Phoenix in April and led the championship after that victory in the last seven races, Kaiser has fallen to fourth in the championship, 39 points back of Jones and he has one podium and four sixth-place finishes since then.

Félix Serrallés is 44 points behind his Carlin teammate Jones with winner of race one from Road America Zach Veach 45 points back. André Negrão and Shelby Blackstock are tied on 129 points in the championship with Zachary Claman DeMelo on 117 points. Juan Piedrahita was in contention late for victory in the Freedom 100 before dropping back on the restart to eighth. Piedrahita's fall lifted Dalton Kellett to third in that race and they are separated by a point with the Colombian on 105 points to the Canadian's 104 points. Neil Alberico is still looking for his first top five of the season and he has 96 points. Heamin Choi returns for his third round of the 2016 season. He finished 16th at Phoenix and 12th at Indianapolis.

The Indy Lights race will take place at 3:15 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Fast Facts
This will be the sixth IndyCar race run on July 10th and first since 2011 when Dario Franchitti won at Toronto.

Will Power attempts to win three consecutive races for the third time in his career. He won three consecutive in 2012 at Barber, Long Beach and São Paulo. He won the final two races in 2013 (Houston 2 and Fontana) and the 2014 season opener at St. Petersburg.

Honda has won seven of nine Iowa races but two of four in the DW12-era.

The driver to lead the most laps has won at Iowa twice: Dario Franchitti in 2007 and James Hinchcliffe in 2013.

All four Ganassi drivers have scored a fastest lap this season. Tony Kanaan did it at Phoenix, Charlie Kimball did it at Long Beach, Scott Dixon did it at Barber and the first Belle Isle race and Max Chilton did it at Road America two weeks ago.

Of the four drivers who have started all nine Iowa races, Hélio Castroneves and Scott Dixon are the only two to have been running at the finish of all nine races.

Takuma Sato has the most starts all-time at Iowa without a top ten finish. His best finish in six Iowa starts is 12th and his average finish at Iowa is 19.0.

Dale Coyne Racing has one top ten despite entering 15 cars in eight appearances at Iowa. Justin Wilson finished tenth in 2012. The average finish for a Dale Coyne Racing entry at Iowa is 17.333.

The average starting position for an Iowa winner is 8.222 with a median seventh.

The pole-sitter has never won at Iowa and has never finished on the podium at Iowa. The best finish for a pole-sitter at Iowa is fourth. Scott Dixon did it in 2008.

The average number of lead changes in an Iowa race is 10.667 with a median of ten.

The final lead change at Iowa has occurred in the final ten laps only once. Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead with two laps to go in 2014.

The average number of cautions in an Iowa race is 5.333 with a median of six. The average number of caution laps is 58.555 with a median of 64.

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon needs to lead 11 laps to reach the 4,800 laps led milestone and he needs to lead 76 laps to pass Bobby Unser for sixth all-time in laps led.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 22 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 1 lap to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 47 laps to reach the 2,500 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 10 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 49 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead 64 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

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

Josef Newgarden takes the victory with a pass for the lead in the final ten laps. Alexander Rossi finishes eighth or better. There will be 12 lead changes or fewer. Tony Kanaan doesn't finish on the podium but finishes better than at least three Penske drivers. A Honda driver gets fastest lap in the race. The driver who leads the most laps will lead at least 125 laps. Neither Foyt driver finishes on the lead lap but both finish the race. At least five of the top ten finishers start outside the top ten. Sleeper: Sébastien Bourdais.