Sunday, July 8, 2018

Morning Warm-Up: Iowa 2018

Will Power leads Team Penske charge at Iowa
Will Power has another record: Most IndyCar pole positions at Iowa Speedway. The Australian picked up his fourth pole position at the 7/8th-mile oval with a two-lap average of 182.391 MPH. It is Power's 52nd career pole position, putting him one behind A.J. Foyt for second all-time. The pole-sitter has never won at Iowa Speedway. In fact, the pole-sitter has never finished on the podium in this race. The best finish for a pole-sitter is fourth, which occurred in 2008, 2014, 2016 and 2017. The average finish for the pole-sitter at Iowa is tenth. In Power's prior three Iowa pole positions he finished fifth, 17th and fourth but he only led 32 laps, zero laps and 23 laps in those three respective races. Power has won the 11th race of a season three times in his career but all three of those victories came on temporary circuits in Canada. He won at Edmonton in 2009 and 2011 and he won at Toronto in 2016. All five of Power's podium finishes that came in the 11th race of a season occurred in Canada with the Australian finishing runner-up at Edmonton in 2010 and third at Edmonton in 2012.

Josef Newgarden qualified second in what is the third consecutive front row lockout for Team Penske and it is the second consecutive race with Power and Newgarden on the front row. Newgarden qualified 1.231 MPH slower than Power over his two-lap qualifying run. Newgarden has not had a top five finish that wasn't a podium finish since the first Belle Isle race in 2017 when he finished fourth. Only eight of Newgarden's 30 career top five finishes have not been podium finishes. Four of those were on street circuits and four were on ovals but those four finishes on ovals are evenly split between Milwaukee and Pocono. Newgarden's most recent top five finish that wasn't a podium on an oval was fourth at Pocono in 2016. While he starts second, Newgarden had the fastest practice lap yesterday and it was the fastest lap run all day yesterday. His quickest lap was 17.5188 seconds. Newgarden won the 2016 Iowa race from second and he led 282 of 300 laps.

Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified third in what is his career-best starting position in this race. Hunter-Reay's prior best starting spot at Iowa was seventh. Last year's race was the fourth time the Iowa winner started in third position. No starting position has produced more Iowa winners. Simon Pagenaud will start fourth. He has never finished in the top five in the 11th race of an IndyCar season. He does have five consecutive top ten finishes in the 11th race of a season with sixth being his best finish, which occurred at Pocono in 2013 and 2014. Pagenaud did lose an engine in final practice yesterday. Alexander Rossi has his first career top five starting position at Iowa with Rossi rolling off from fifth. Rossi or Hunter-Reay have been the top Andretti Autosport finisher in all ten races this season with Rossi holding a 6-4 advantage over Hunter-Reay. Scott Dixon will start on the outside of row three. Dixon could get his 149th top five finish this weekend and it would tie him with A.J. Foyt of second all-time in top five finishes.

Robert Wickens was the top rookie qualifier in seventh. This is Wickens seventh time being the top Schmidt Peterson Motorsports qualifier this season. In five of the prior six races where Wickens was the top SPM qualifier he ended up being the top SPM finisher. The one exception is the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Ed Jones started eighth in last year's Iowa race and this year he starts eighth again. However, last year he finished three laps down in 18th. Ed Carpenter will start ninth. He has finished in the top five only five times in the start following a Texas start and he has never finished in the top five in his next start after Texas. His best finish in a start after a Texas start was seventh at Phoenix in 2017 when Texas was his final start of 2016. Takuma Sato rounds out the top ten. Sato's fourth place finish at Road America was only the second time he was the top Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing finisher this season. The only other time Sato was the top RLLR car was the first Belle Isle race, where Graham Rahal retired after an accident and Sato finished fifth. Sato has been the top RLLR qualifier in seven races this season.

James Hinchcliffe qualified 11th. He has five top ten finishes in six Iowa starts but his only top five finish at the track was his 2013 victory, where he led 226 of 250 laps after starting second. Graham Rahal joins Hinchcliffe on row six. He has seven top ten finishes in ten Iowa starts but he has never finished on the podium at this track. His best finish was fourth in 2015. Tony Kanaan will start 13th. Kanaan has seven top ten finishes in the last eight Iowa races. Zach Veach could become the second driver to win at Iowa in car #26 but he will have to do it from 14th on the grid. Marco Andretti won in car #26 at this track in 2011. Dan Wheldon won three short oval races with car #26 with victories at Richmond and Nazareth in 2004 and a victory at Pikes Peak in 2005. Paul Tracy had two short oval victories with car #26 and both came at Milwaukee in 1999 and 2002. The only other short oval victory for car #26 was in 1957 when Jim Rathmann won at Milwaukee.

S├ębastien Bourdais improves his average starting position at Iowa in 15th but it is only a minimal gain. His average starting position in his first four Iowa starts was 16.2. This is Bourdais' first top fifteen start at Iowa since he started sixth the 2014 race. Gabby Chaves starts 16th, his best career starting position at Iowa. He has never started nor finished in the top fifteen at Iowa. His best finish was 16th in 2015. Chaves did finished second in the 2013 Indy Lights race at Iowa to Sage Karam. This will be Chaves' fifth short oval race in his IndyCar career. His only lead lap finish on a short oval was his first career short oval start at Milwaukee in 2015 when he finished 11th. Charlie Kimball will start 17th with Spencer Pigot making it an all-American row nine. Kimball's most recent top five finish came 38 races ago when he finished fifth in the 2016 Indianapolis 500. Spencer Pigot is still looking for his first career top ten finish on an oval. He finished 11th at Texas last month with his other oval finishes this season being 14th at Phoenix and 20th in the Indianapolis 500.

Marco Andretti won from 17th at Iowa in 2011 and if he wants to win this year's race he will have to do it from 19th, which would break the record he holds for worst starting position for an Iowa winner. Andretti has not had multiple top five finishes in a season since 2015 when he had four top five finishes. He has not had multiple top five finishes on ovals in a season since 2013 when he finished fourth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas. His most recent top five finish at Iowa was second in 2012. Zachary Claman De Melo will be making his Iowa debut in IndyCar from 20th position. He made two starts at this track in Indy Lights. He finished a lap down in eighth in 2016 but he finished on the lead lap in sixth last year. In Claman De Melo's first eight career starts he has only been the top Canadian finisher once and that was on his debut at Sonoma last year where he finished 17th after James Hinchcliffe was the first retirement of the race due to electrical issues.

Max Chilton is looking for his first career lead lap finish at Iowa but he will have to start 21st. This is the third consecutive race where Chilton has started outside the top twenty. He has finished a lap down in seven consecutive oval starts with his most recent lead lap finish on an oval being his fourth place finish in last year's Indianapolis 500. He has only four lead lap finishes in 14 oval starts. Matheus Leist rounds out the grid in 22nd. This is Leist's worst starting position in his IndyCar career. He won last year's Indy Lights race at Iowa. The young Brazilian suffered an accident in the first practice yesterday prior to the qualifying session.

NBCSN's coverage of the Iowa Corn 300 from Iowa Speedway begins at 2:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 2:40 p.m. ET. The race is schedule for 300 laps.