Sunday, July 21, 2024

Morning Warm-Up: Toronto 2024

Colton Herta took his third pole position of the 2024 NTT IndyCar season with a lap of 59.5431 seconds in the final round of qualifying in Toronto, leading a promising qualifying session for the Honda teams. It is the seventh consecutive race Herta will be starting on one of the first two rows. He only has one podium finish during this streak. It has been 40 races since Herta’s most recent victory. His average finishing position when starting on pole position is 8.135, and he has finished outside the top ten his last three times starting on pole position. Herta has finished in the top ten in all three of his Toronto starts, and he has finished on the podium the last two years.

Kyle Kirkwood made it an Andretti Global sweep of the front row, as Kirkwood was 0.1304 seconds off his teammate Herta. This is Andretti’s first front row sweep since the 2023 St. Petersburg season opener. Kirkwood has an average finish of seventh in the three street course races this season. His career average finish on street courses is 11.384 and he has finished 22nd and 15th in his first two Toronto starts.

Felix Rosenqvist makes it three Hondas in the top three positions. Rosenqvist was 0.2821 seconds slower than Herta. This is Rosenqvist’s sixth top five starting position this season. He had started outside the top ten in four of the last six races. Rosenqvist has finished in the top ten in all three of his Toronto starts. The Swede has finished worse than his starting position in four of his five top five starts in 2024. 

Scott McLaughlin is the best Chevrolet starter in fourth. After being disqualified from St. Petersburg, which left McLaughlin with zero points, he has scored only 15 points in street races this season, ranking him 27th out of 32 drivers that have participated in street races. 

Romain Grosjean makes it two Chevrolets in the top five. This matches Grosjean’s best starting position of the season. Grosjean has finished outside the top twenty in four of the last six street races, which includes a 22nd-place finish at Toronto last year.

David Malukas survived causing a local yellow flag in the second round of qualifying to advance to the Fast Six, and Malukas will take sixth starting spot. He has yet to finish in the top ten through four races with Meyer Shank Racing. His only top ten finish in ten street course starts was tenth at St. Petersburg in 2023. Malukas' average finish in street races is 19.1.

Josef Newgarden was 0.019 seconds off making the final round of qualifying and starts seventh. Newgarden is tied for 15th in street course points this season. He has scored only 40 points in the first three street races, 33 of those points came for finishing fourth at Long Beach. Newgarden is tied with Christian Lundgaard and Pietro Fittipaldi. Newgarden has five consecutive top ten finishes at Toronto.

For the second consecutive race, Graham Rahal starts eighth. Rahal was eighth in the second Iowa race last Sunday. He has four top ten finishes in the last five Toronto races. His finishes during this stretch have been ninth, 21st, ninth, fourth and ninth.

Will Power takes ninth on the grid. After his victory last Sunday in Iowa, Power has a shot for consecutive for the first time since 2018 when he won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500. However, Power has only eight top ten finishes in 17 Toronto starts.

Agustín Canapino benefited from a penalty on Álex Palou in the second qualifying group, allowing Canapino to advance to round two. The Argentine matches his career-best start in tenth. He started tenth in the most recent race from Iowa. Canapino has finished outside the top twenty in three consecutive races. the only time he has finished outside the top twenty in four consecutive races was from Long Beach through the Indianapolis 500 last year.

Marcus Ericsson finds himself 11th on the grid. Ericsson has finished in the top ten in five of the last seven street course races. This was only the fourth time Ericsson had made it out of the first round of qualifying this season. This is his seventh time starting outside the top ten in 2024. 

Christian Rasmussen starts 12th. Rasmussen returns for his penultimate start of the 2024 season. His final scheduled start is Portland as Ed Carpenter will run the oval races in the #20 Chevrolet. Rasmussen is currently the third-best rookie on points with 104. He is 52 points behind Linus Lundqvist and 21 points behind Kyffin Simpson. Rasmussen is 25 points ahead of Nolan Siegel in the rookie championship. 

Marcus Armstrong was 0.0258 seconds short of advancing out of group one, and Armstrong will start 13th. He was the top Chip Ganassi Racing qualifier. Armstrong scored his first career podium finish in the most recent street course race when he was third in Detroit. He started 19th in that race. 

Patricio O'Ward ended up 0.1242 seconds off making it out of group two, and the Mexican will start 14th. O’Ward had started in the top ten for four consecutive races and in eight of the first 11 races. O'Ward enters Toronto with seven consecutive top ten finishes. He has 18 top ten finishes in the lsat 21 races.

For the first time in his career, Scott Dixon starts outside the top ten at Toronto. Dixon will start 15th. He had started in the top ten in all 17 visits to Exhibition Place prior to this weekend. Dixon has 11 consecutive top ten finishes at Toronto, and he has finished in the top five in the last four Toronto races.

Defending Toronto winner Christian Lundgaard has more work to do this year, as the Dane occupies 16th on the grid. Lundgaard could become the first driver to win consecutive Toronto races since Scott Dixon swept the 2013 doubleheader weekend. Lundgaard could become the first driver to win at Toronto in consecutive years since Michael Andretti in 2000-01. Michael Andretti is responsible for three of the four times a driver has won consecutive Iowa races. Andretti won at Toronto in 1991-92 and 1994-95.

Santino Ferrucci is in 17th, his fifth time starting outside the top fifteen in the last six races. Ferrucci has finished in the top ten in two of three street course races this season. A.J. Foyt Racing has failed to have a car finish better than 17th in the last three Toronto weekends with an average finish of 21st for a Foyt entry.

After losing his fastest two laps in the first round of qualifying for blocking, Álex Palou will start 18th, his worst starting position of the season and his worst start since 22nd at Toronto in 2022. Prior to finishing 16th at Detroit in June, Palou had six consecutive top five finishes in street races, and 15 consecutive top ten finishes in street races.

Nolan Siegel makes his first Toronto start in 19th. Siegel had improved on his starting position over the previous three races. Two of Siegel's three victories in Indy Lights were on street courses. He won at Detroit in 2023 and at St. Petersburg this year.

Kyffin Simpson makes it an all-rookie row ten in 20th. This is only Simpson’s three start inside the top twenty this season. He started 23rd or worse in his first three street course races this season. Simpson never competed at Toronto in Road to Indy competition.

Toby Sowery makes it three consecutive rookies on the grid with the Dale Coyne Racing driver in 21st. Sowery is back for his second career start after finishing 13th on debut at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago. Sowery has also been confirmed for the Portland race next month in this entry. He was fifth and second in the 2019 Indy Lights race at Exhibition Place. Aaron Telitz and Oliver Askew split the victories that weekend.

Rinus VeeKay has his worst starting position since Barber Motorsports Park, as the Dutchman is in 22nd. VeeKay is coming off consecutive top ten finishes after finishing fifth and ninth at Iowa. It is his first time with consecutive top ten finishes since the opening two races of the 2022 season.

Pietro Fittipaldi is down in 23rd. This is the seventh time this season Fittipaldi is starting outside the top twenty. His best start on a street course this season was 15th at Detroit. Fittipaldi has finished 13th in two of the first three street races this season, at St. Petersburg and Detroit. Thirteenth is his best finish of the season.

Linus Lundqvist is down in 24th, his worst starting position in the last six races. Lundqvist is coming off his second-best finish of the season after he was 12th in the second Iowa race. His best finish on a street course was 13th at Long Beach. He has finished worse than his starting position on the prior two occasions he has started outside the top twenty. 

Hunter McElrea brought out a red flag on his first lap of qualifying, meaning McElrea will start 25th. McElrea makes his IndyCar debut in the #18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. The New Zealander becomes the ninth driver to race for Dale Coyne Racing this season, and the sixth debutant to drive for DCR in 2024. He is 92nd driver in DCR history. McElrea has not raced at Toronto since the 2019 U.S. F2000 weekend when he finished third and 13th.

A broken right thumb took Alexander Rossi out of the #7 Chevrolet after Friday practice and Théo Pourchaire returns to Arrow McLaren. Due to the late call-up, and Pourchaire being in France on Friday evening, his only laps in the car were in qualifying, and he will start 26th. Rossi misses a race for the first time in his IndyCar career. The American had made 142 consecutive starts. 

After getting his best career start at Iowa, Sting Ray Robb will start in 27th, dead last for Toronto. Prior to his accident on the final lap of the Sunday race from Iowa, Robb had four consecutive top twenty finishes, the longest top twenty finish streak of his career.

Peacock's coverage of the Ontario Honda Dealers Indy Toronto begins at 1:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 85 laps.

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Track Walk: Toronto 2024

The 12th round of the 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season is the regular trip North of the Border to Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario. This will be the 38th Ontario Honda Dealers Indy Toronto. Only Long Beach is a longer running street race in IndyCar history. This will be the fifth race in a 15-day span for IndyCar. A 26-day break begins once this weekend is over with the next race weekend taking place at Gateway Motorsports Park on August 16-17. With only six races remaining, there are 324 points available from now until the end of the season. After the Iowa weekend, only 26 drivers are mathematically alive for the championship.

Time: Coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday July 21 with green flag scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET.
Channel: Peacock
Announcers: Kevin Lee, Townsend Bell and James Hinchcliffe will be in the booth. Dillon Welch and Charlie Kimball will work pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
First Practice: 3:00 p.m. ET (75 minutes)
Second Practice: 10:30 a.m. ET (60 minutes)
Qualifying: 2:45 p.m. ET 
Warm-up: 10:00 a.m. ET (30 minutes)
Race: 1:30 p.m. ET (85 laps)

* - All sessions will be available live on Peacock

Final Street Race
It might be the middle of July, but we are already at the final street course race of the season. After Toronto, five races will remain in the 2024 IndyCar season, four on ovals and the road course in Portland. This will be the last chance for a number of drivers to take advantage of their street skills and hopefully improve their position in the championship before the final quarter of the season begins. 

Through the first three street course races, Scott Dixon has been the clear leader on the road. With two victories, Dixon has scored 132 points over St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Detroit. He is the only driver to score more than 100 points over the first three street races. Dixon has won at least two street races in two of the last three seasons. He will have a shot to win three street course races in a single season for the first time since 2013 when he swept the Toronto doubleheader and then won the first race at Houston. That is the only time Dixon has won three street races in a season.

Patricio O'Ward and Colton Herta are tied on 90 street pints this season. O'Ward holds the advantage with the credit of victory at St. Petersburg though he finished second on the road. Herta is classified with podium finishes in the first two street course races, but his best street race was Detroit. He started on pole position and led the first 33 laps, but he was shuffled back after a number of cautions forced him to make a pit stop under caution when many had already stopped. Herta added insult to injury when went into the tires attempting to pass Álex Palou and Tristan Vautier. This left the American to finish one-lap down. 

Will Power has been no worse than sixth in all three street races this season, and this gives Power 87 points from the street races. Power is a three-time winner at Toronto tied for the third-most victories in the history of the race. However, he has failed to finish in the top ten in the last five Toronto races, and Power has an average finish of 17.2 over that span.

Álex Palou holds the championship lead and he can thank 82 points from the first three street races for helping him hold the top spot in points with six races remaining. In the most recent street race in Detroit, Palou had his top ten streak end at 23 races when he finished 16th. He was classified in the top five of the first two street races this year. 

Kyle Kirkwood sits on 80 street points this year as Kirkwood has finished tenth, seventh and fourth in the first three street races. He won two street races last year with victories at Long Beach and Nashville. In four Road to Indy starts at Toronto, he won three times.

Mathematically, Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist each have a chance of finishing level with Scott Dixon for most street course points, but that would require Dixon not starting this race with either Rossi or Rosenqvist winning Toronto with the maximum 54 points. The Amercian and Swede each have scored 78 points in the street races. Rossi has not won a street race since Long Beach 2019. Rosenqvist's best street course result is third, which came at Toronto in 2022 and at Detroit in 2023.

There is an interesting drop-off in street course points. Marcus Ericsson has scored the ninth-most points in street races this season with 77, but there is a 29-point drop off to Marcus Armstrong in tenth. Ericsson was second in Detroit and fifth at Long Beach. Armstrong was third in Detroit and finished outside the top ten in the other two street races. 

If Dixon starts the Toronto race, only the top four drivers could end the season with the most street course points. 

Who Will Be The First To Three Victories?
IndyCar enters Toronto with an interesting distribution of the race victories. Five drivers have won exactly two races through the first 11 events. There is a chance IndyCar could head into its Olympic break with six drivers each having two victories. 

Championship leader Álex Palou has won twice, at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May and at Laguna Seca in June. Palou also won the exhibition race held at The Thermal Club in Southern California in March. The Catalan driver has been the first to three victories in two of the last three seasons. In each of those seasons, Palou went on to win the championship. His third victory came in race #14 in 2021 and in race #8 in 2023. 

Will Power is fresh off his second victory of the season in the second Iowa race. this has Power up to second in the championship, but he is 35 points behind Palou. Both of Power's victories have come in the last five races. He won at Road America in June. Power has not won three races in a season since 2018, the year Power won the Indianapolis 500. The Australian has been the first to three victories in a season three times, but he has not done it since 2012.

Patricio O'Ward scored his second victory of the season at Mid-Ohio, though it was his first on the road after he was awarded the St. Petersburg over a month after the race took place only Josef Newgarden was disqualified. O'Ward has never had three victories in a season. If he wins at Toronto, it would be the first time he has won multiple street races in a season. 

Scott Dixon was the first to two victories this season after he won at Long Beach and Detroit. Despite this, Dixon is fourth in the championship, only five points behind O'Ward in third, but 57 points off his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Palou in first. Despite Dixon's record, he has only won three races or more in four of the last ten seasons. Last year, all three of his victories came in the final four races. Five times has Dixon been the first to three victories in a season. He won the championship in four of those five seasons.

Scott McLaughlin won at Iowa last week, taking the first race of the doubleheader. McLaughlin had previously won at Barber Motorsports Park in April. McLaughlin won three races in the 2022 season. If he were to win this weekend, McLaughlin will have won on all three track disciplines this season, having won on a road course, oval and street course. Power is the only other driver that could match that accomplishment this weekend. 

While these five go for three, Josef Newgarden looks to make it a sextet on two victories before the break. Newgarden has technically taken the checkered flag first in two races this season, but with the St. Petersburg victory struck from the record book after Team Penske's push-to-pass violation, his only official victory this season was the Indianapolis 500 in May. Newgarden has not won on a street course since Long Beach in April 2022. That is also his most recent podium finish on a street course. 

The first to three victories has won the IndyCar championship in four of the last five seasons, and in seven of the last nine seasons.

For 21 other drivers, they hope to get on the scoreboard before the break and pick up their first victory this season. In the last two seasons, the driver that won Toronto was picking up his first victory of the season. Prior to that, only twice in the previous 16 Toronto races had the race winner been picking up a first victory that season.

Featuring the Frenchmen
Toronto marks the final race before IndyCar takes its Olympics break. This summer's Olympics are being held in Paris, France, the third time the capital city has hosted the Summer Olympics, and the first time in 100 years. Paris joins London as the only cities to host three Summer Olympic Games. 

IndyCar has a history with Frenchmen in the series, and there is only one entered this weekend. Romain Grosjean is the lone Frenchman competing, but there have been two other French competitors this season. Théo Pourchaire made five starts with Arrow McLaren with his best finish being tenth at Detroit. Tristan Vautier made his first IndyCar appearance since 2017 when Vautier drove for Dale Coyne Racing at Detroit. Vautier was 18th in the Motor City. 

Grosjean sits 14th in the championship through the first 11 races with one top five finish and four top ten finishes, three of which have come in the last five races. In 58 career starts, Grosjean has yet to win an IndyCar race, but he has six podium finishes, five of which have been runner-up results. Eighteen drivers have taken 59 starts or more to get their first career victory in IndyCar. The last most recent driver to have their first career victory come in his 59th start or later was Ed Carpenter at Kentucky in 2011. It was Carpenter's 126th start, the second-most before a first career victory behind only Michel Jourdain, Jr.'s 129 starts.

Grosjean has made only two Toronto starts. He was 16th in 2022 and retired from last year's race after hitting the barrier, leaving him classified in 22nd. Grosjean has finished outside the top twenty in two of three street course races this season. He had a gearbox problem at St. Petersburg and he was spun at Detroit, dragging a damaged car to the finish three laps did. He did finish eighth at Long Beach in April.

If Grosjean were to win, he would become the seventh French winner in IndyCar history, and it would be the 60th French victory. Sébastien Bourdais is responsible for over half of those victories. Bourdais won 37 times, placing him seventh all-time in victories. Simon Pagenaud has 15 career victories, tied for 30th all-time with Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. 

Three of the remaining four French winners all won over a century ago, and those three were all Indianapolis 500 winners. Gaston Chevrolet won four times in his career, including the 1920 Indianapolis 500. Jules Goux and René Thomas won the 1913 and 1914 Indianapolis 500s respectively, and those were the only IndyCar victories for each of those drivers. The remaining past French winner was Nelson Philippe, whose only victory was the 2006 Surfers Paradise race. 

Toronto has been a place for French success. Bourdais won twice at Exhibition Place in 2004 and 2014. Pagenaud won the 2019 race. The only countries with more Toronto IndyCar victories are the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. France is tied with Australia with three Toronto victories. Ten different nationalities have won at Toronto in its first 37 editions.

Overlooked Facts
We have completed 11 races this season, and there are a few facts that have gotten overlooked this season that should be properly acknowledged before we get into the Toronto weekend. 

For starters, Álex Palou has nine top five finishes this season. The only other driver that has finished in the top five in at least half the races is Scott Dixon, who has six top five finishes. 

While Palou is alone and has some daylight between him and second in top five finishes, Palou has company when it comes to top ten finishes. Palou is tied for most top ten finishes with Kyle Kirkwood. Each driver has nine top ten finishes. Entering this season, Kirkwood had eight career top ten finishes. 

Despite Kirkwood's top ten finish record, he has only been the best finishing Andretti Global driver in three races. Colton Herta has led the way seven times for the Andretti Global organization. Herta has also been the top Andretti starter seven times while Kirkwood has been the top qualifier four times. Marcus Ericsson has yet to be the top Andretti starter.

Scott Dixon might have two victories and sit fourth in the championship, but he is also tied for the seventh-best average starting position with a 9.5454. Dixon is level with Alexander Rossi. Rossi has been the best Arrow McLaren starter in five of 11 races. Dixon has been the best Chip Ganassi Racing starter in zero races this season. However, Marcus Armstrong has been the best Ganassi starter in two races and Linus Lundqvist has been the best Ganassi starter once, his pole position at Road America. 

Santino Ferrucci enters Toronto tenth in the championship. Ferrucci has seven top ten finishes through 11 races. That is more top ten finishes than Scott McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson, Christian Lundgaard and Graham Rahal. Ferrucci's average finish this season is 12th, the ninth-best in IndyCar, better than Newgarden and Lundgaard, who are tied on 13.273, and Ericsson at 13.909. 

Ferrucci could become the first A.J. Foyt Racing driver to have eight top ten finishes in a single-season since Kenny Bräck in 1998. 

Another thing that should be noted is Ferrucci has been carrying A.J. Foyt Racing this season. He has been the best Foyt finisher in nine races and he has been the best Foyt starter in all 11 races.

It has been a quirky season for Josef Newgarden. Newgarden won the Indianapolis 500, but he has finished outside the top fifteen in six of 11 races this season. However, Newgarden is tied for the sixth-most top five finishes this season with four. He is one of seven drivers with at least three podium finishes this season. He is also entering Toronto with the most fastest laps this season, as he has scored fastest lap in three consecutive races. It is the first time a driver has scored three consecutive fastest laps since 2007 when Sébastien Bourdais had a run of six consecutive races with fastest lap. 

Through 11 races, there have been enough races to separate the field. As long as Álex Palou shows up this weekend and starts the Toronto race, he can head into the Olympic break no worse than second in the championship. There are 26 points between Colton Herta in sixth and Kyle Kirkwood in seventh. There are a further 27 points between Kirkwood in seventh and Newgarden in ninth with Alexander Rossi sandwiched between them, nine points below Kirkwood and 18 points above Newgarden.

However, there is one tight part of the championship. Romain Grosjean, Rinus VeeKay and Graham Rahal are 14th, 15th and 16th in the championship respectively. All three drivers have 177 points. Even better is these drivers finished the second Iowa race in tenth, ninth and eighth respectively. 

Something else you likely have not noticed but would likely not be surprised to find out is through 11 races, only once has there been consecutive races where all the same drivers started. That would be Barber Motorsports Park and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. All 27 drivers from Barber were at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Luca Ghiotto started both races in the #51 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and Théo Pourchaire was in the #6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet for both races. After the other nine races, there has been at least one change. 

From St. Petersburg to Long Beach, Nolan Siegel and Pourchaire joined the grid replacing Colin Braun and Callum Ilott respectively. 

Luca Ghiotto made his IndyCar debut at Barber in place of Siegel. 

At the Indianapolis 500, you had a number of one-off entries, but you also had Ilott returning and tagging out Pourchaire, and Katherine Legge running the #51 Honda.

Then Pourchaire was back in Detroit, and he wasn't the only new Frenchman as Tristan Vautier returned to IndyCar for the first time since 2017 to drive for Dale Coyne Racing. There was also Hélio Castroneves taking over for Tom Blomqvist at Meyer Shank Racing 

Then Vautier was out, Ghiotto was back in for Road America, while Agustín Canapino was taken out of the #78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet for Siegel. 

Canapino would be back for Laguna Seca with David Malukas joining Meyer Shank Racing and taking over for Castroneves. 

Ghiotto stepped out of the #51 Honda for Toby Sowery at Mid-Ohio.

Sowery was out for Legge returning at Iowa.

But Jack Harvey had back and neck issues that forced him out mid-weekend and allowed Conor Daly to slide into the #18 Dale Coyne Racing entry for the second Iowa.

This weekend, Daly is out of the #18 Honda, and Hunter McElrea will make his IndyCar debut. McElrea will become the sixth driver to make their IndyCar debut with Dale Coyne Racing this weekend. Sowery will be back in the #51 Honda in place of Legge. 

Road to Indy
The lower two rungs of the Road to Indy are joining IndyCar at Exhibition Place, and it is a pivotal weekend for both USF Pro 2000 and U.S. F2000 as this is each series' penultimate weekend before each concludes in Portland next month. 

In USF Pro 2000, there are seven drivers alive for the championship entering this weekend's doubleheader. 

Lochie Hughes holds a 26-point lead over Nikita Johnson after Johnson swept the Mid-Ohio races two weeks ago. Hughes has won three races while Johnson has six victories. Jace Denmark was second in both Mid-Ohio races and Denmark is 32 points off Hughes. Denmark remains looking for his first victory of the season, but he has seven podium finishes from 14 races. 

Christian Brooks is 62 points off Hughes for the championship lead, but with Brooks now racing the #39 HMD Motorsports entry in Indy Lights in place of Nolan Siegel, Brooks has ended his USF Pro 2000 season. Glenn van Berlo takes over Brooks' #19 Pabst Racing entry at Toronto. 

Any driver hoping to have a shot at the title in Portland will need to be within 66 points after Toronto. Liam Sceats is on 211 points, 93 points behind Hughes. Danny Dyszelski is 115 points back and Simon Sikes is 124 back. 

The first USF Pro 2000 race is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday July 20. The second race will be Sunday July 21 at 8:55 a.m. ET. Each race is scheduled for 25 laps.

There are five races left in U.S. F2000 as after the Toronto doubleheader will be a triple-header in Portland. With 165 points left on the table, ten drivers are still mathematically alive for the championship. 

Max Garcia holds a 42-point lead over Max Taylor. Taylor has won three of the last four races. Garcia has not won in the last six races and he has only one podium finish in that stretch. Sam Corry is 45 points back in third. Evagoras Papasavvas picked up his first victory of the season at Mid-Ohio, but Papasavvas remains 56 points off the championship lead in fourth. 

Joey Brienza is fifth, 100 points off the championship lead. To remain championship-eligible heading into Portland, a driver will need to be within 99 points of the championship lead. Elliot Cox is 115 points back in sixth. Nicolas Giafonne and Hudson Schwartz are tied on 164 points, 140 points behind Garcia. Michael Costello has two runner-up finishes in the last four events, and Costello is 158 points back. Ayrton Houk is the final driver mathematically alive, 160 points behind Garcia, but Houk is not entered this weekend.

U.S. F2000's first 20-lap race will be at 12:40 p.m. ET on Saturday July 20, and the second will be at 8:00 a.m. ET on Sunday July 21.

Fast Facts
This will be the sixth IndyCar race to take place on July 21 and the first since 2001 when Buddy Lazier won at Nashville. That was the inaugural race held at Nashville Superspeedway.

There has been one previous Toronto race held on July 21. That was in 1991, which Michael Andretti won. Andretti went on to win the championship that year. 

The other three races held on July 21 were won by Unsers. Al Unser swept the Indy 200 doubleheader held on the Indianapolis Raceway Park road course in 1968. Bobby Unser won the Michigan 200 on this day in 1974.

Chevrolet has the most Toronto victories with 13, but Honda has won the last two years. Honda has not won three consecutive Toronto races since engine competition returned in 2012. Honda has 12 Toronto victories.

Chip Ganassi Racing has the most Toronto victories with eight. Newman-Haas Racing is second with seven victories. Team Penske has five Toronto victories.

Last year, Christian Lundgaard became the third driver to pick up a first career victory at Toronto. Adrián Fernández and Justin Wilson were the first two drivers to do it.

No rookie has ever won at Toronto.

The average starting position for a Toronto winner is 3.7027 with a median of third.

Eighteen Toronto races have been won from the front row, including four consecutive Toronto races. Twenty-eight Toronto races have been won from inside the top five. 

Three Toronto races have been won from outside the top ten (Michael Andretti from 13th in 2001, Mike Conway from 11th in 2014 race two and Josef Newgarden from 11th in 2015). 

The average number of lead changes in a Toronto race is 4.305 with a median of four. 

Last year's race had seven lead changes. It was the ninth time a Toronto race had at least seven lead changes. Four of the last six Toronto races have had at least seven lead changes.

Five times has a Toronto winner led every lap (Michael Andretti 1991-92, Dario Franchitti 1999, Cristiano da Matta 2002 and Paul Tracy 2003).

The average number of cautions in a Toronto race is 3.5277 with a median of three. The average number of caution laps is 14.277 with a median of 12.5.

There has never been a caution-free race at Toronto.

The last Toronto race to have only one caution was in 1992.

Only one of the last 11 Toronto races has had more than four caution periods. That one race was the second race of the 2014 doubleheader, a race that was shortened due to the Saturday race being postponed to Sunday, and then ended early due to a time limit due to the race taking place in wet conditions. 

Kyle Kirkwood heads into the Olympics break as the most recent IndyCar winner, as he takes victory in Toronto. Álex Palou's championship lead will be a little greater than it was prior to the trip to Canada. There will be at least one caution for an incident in the final set of corners. Josef Newgarden has a good day but not a great day. At least one comment will be made on the broadcast about this weekend being a 180º change from last year for Christian Lundgaard. Alexander Rossi will not run out of gas. Sting Ray Robb will not fly through the air. Someone will be complaining about the total passing figures when this race is over. Sleeper: Felix Rosenqvist.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Musings From the Weekend: A Complicated Brick in the Wall

Here is a rundown of what got me thinking...

Spain is European champions. Álex Palou could not add to the Spanish triumphs, but Scott McLaughlin and Will Power had the Antipodean nations covered with a split of the Iowa doubleheader. There were cars at Goodwood, simultaneous sports car races in the Western Hemisphere, and a fuel mileage race that wasn't in Pocono. Of course, rain made an appearance. Firestone had a weekend. Ed Carpenter said some things. There is an event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that is where our attention will be focused.

A Complicated Brick in the Wall
A summer tradition returns this weekend as the Brickyard 400 will take place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NASCAR's date at 16th and Georgetown started 30 years ago, and the series is back for its final race before a two-week break for the Olympics. However, this year's race is back on the oval, a 160-lap race around the 2.5-mile circuit, after the last three years were run on the IMS road course. 

This is a move that is largely celebrated as the Brickyard 400 is seen as one of NASCAR's "crown jewel" events alongside the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500. It is an event every driver has wanted to win since year one, when 86 cars attempted to qualify for 1994 and saw Jeff Gordon take a pivotal victory in NASCAR history.

Since Gordon, all the major names of late-20th century NASCAR and early-21st century NASCAR have won the race. Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch. All past Cup champions, all Brickyard 400 winners. 

Along with some of the all-time best, there have been feel-good stories in Jamie McMurray winning it the same year as he won the Daytona 500. Paul Menard scoring his only Cup Series victory at a track his father spent a lot of time and money in an effort to win the Indianapolis 500. South Bend, Indiana's Ryan Newman winning in 2013 and Kasey Kahne ending a winless streak in an extended Brickyard 400 in 2017. 

For all the good, the Brickyard 400 has had some bad moments. Once a race that rivaled the Indianapolis 500 in crowd size, the event never recovered from the 2008 tire debacle where tire wear in practice led to cautions being called every ten to 12 laps. The crowd started to thin out, which coincided with the recession. The Brickyard 400 started to have more critics over the lack of passing and good racing. This hit an apex in 2016 after Kyle Busch led 149 of 170 laps. 

From that point forward, a roar grew for the race to change, and moving the race to the IMS road course was the easy fix that many wanted just to see something different and hopefully more competitive. Though the race remained on the oval, those calls change only increased, and there was more visible aluminum in the grandstand with each passing year. 

The wish came true in 2021, but even after getting what they wanted, the voices turned. There was a melancholy over the lost of the Brickyard 400, a landmark event in NASCAR's rise in the 1990s. When the new generation car was introduced in 2022, the road course race was not as lively as past road course races. More people wished for a Brickyard 400 return, especially with the new vehicle putting on better races at intermediate tracks where the previous generation of car struggled. 

When the return of the Brickyard 400 was announced for 2024, it was met with overall approval and many saw it as a return of a crown jewel event. However, there is a complicated legacy that must be addressed before we get to this weekend.

It is hard to call it a crown jewel event when the Brickyard 400 was gone for three years. 

Big events don't go away. The Masters isn't taking a three-year break. The Rose Bowl isn't going to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood for a change of scenery. Churchill Downs isn't changing up the Kentucky Derby and running it with greyhounds instead of thoroughbreds just for something different. 

If the Brickyard 400 mattered and racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval was valued, the race would have never moved to the road course, even if the quality of racing was not outstanding. 

When the NASCAR Cup Series first visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was seen as a "we made it" moment for the series. It was on the biggest stage for motorsports in the United States, a place once kept to one race a year. If a driver wanted to compete on the hollowed grounds, they had to show up in May. With NASCAR's introduction, it brought drivers to the track who would never have otherwise had a shot to compete there. These weren't rum-dum drivers either. These were some of the best in the country who grew up in stock car racing and were never on the open-wheel path to the Indianapolis 500. A divide was bridged and it was celebrated. The Brickyard 400 became the hottest ticket in the series. 

It was never a stellar race with side-by-side racing or slingshot drafting, but it was a special race because of the location. A winner had accomplished something remarkable. Every team gave that little bit extra even though it was worth the same amount of points as any other race on the schedule.

Somewhere that got lost along the way. A tire debacle can erase the illusion quickly, but NASCAR was also changing. Race craft was deemphasized in favor of drama. A winner had to be more than the best man and machine. Every race needed a memorable  finish, a "game seven moment." It had to go to the wire and be thrilling with two, three, maybe even four-wide across the line all the time, at every race. 

The Brickyard 400 never lent itself to that kind of race. Many were happy to see it gone. Then everyone wanted it back. 

This is not as simple as picking up as business as usual. The Brickyard 400 went from being one of NASCAR's cornerstone races and then it was tossed to the curb for a carnival trick. It sacrificed every shred of history for a flash in the pan. It is back, but it cannot be ignored that it was disrespected because it didn't fit a mold it was always bigger than. 

Anyone calling it a crown jewel without acknowledging the last three years is telling a lie. No one is allowed to wax on about the prestige and importance of Indianapolis Motor Speedway when this race was deemed worthy to be discarded for something that in no way could come close to matching what the race once was. Switching to the race course was an act of desperation and anyone with half a brain knew it wouldn't be a bump upward.

This might the 30th anniversary celebration of the Brickyard 400, and it might be back on the oval, but let's not act like this was a couple that spent three years separated and sleeping with other people. The celebration should be dialed back at least 30% because there is a three-year period where this race was cast aside that we can never ignore.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Scott McLaughlin and Will Power, but did you know...

Ryan Blaney won the NASCAR Cup race from Pocono, his second victory of the season. Cole Custer won the Grand National Series race. Corey Heim won the Truck race, his fifth victory of the season. 

The #8 Toyota of Sébastein Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryō Hirakawa won the 6 Hours of São Paulo. The #92 Manthey Pure Rxing Porsche of Klaus Bachler, Alex Malykhin and Joel Sturm won in LMGT3.

The #52 Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca-Gibson of Nick Boulle and Tom Dillmann won the IMSA race from Mosport. The #3 Corvette of Antonio García and Alexander Sims won in GTD Pro. The #27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin of Roman De Angelis and Spencer Pumpelly won in GTD. 

Toprak Razgatlioglu swept the World Superbike races from Donington Park. Adrián Huertas swept the World Supersport races.

Louis Foster won the Indy Lights race from Iowa, his fifth victory of the season.

Coming Up This Weekend
The aforementioned Brickyard 400.
IndyCar's final street race of the season from Toronto. 
Formula One will be in Budapest. 
Formula E concludes its season in London.
GT World Challenge America is at Virginia International Raceway.
GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup is at Hockenheim.
World Superbike goes to Most for a back-to-back.
Supercars heads to Sydney Motorsports Park.
Super Formula has a round at Fuji. 
Latvia hosts the World Rally Championship.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

First Impressions: Iowa 2024 Race Two

1. Will Power should probably send Agustín Canapino a bottle of wine, because without Canapino's spin exiting the pit lane in the middle of the second Iowa race, Power does not win. 

Power went longer than anyone on the first stint, over 100 laps, and at that time, the only other car on the lead lap was Álex Palou, who was on pit lane as the caution came out. Power's fuel conservation put him into the picture and on the second stint, Power went a lap longer than Palou. A faster pit stop led to Power leapfrogging Palou and holding on for his second victory of the season. 

You would think 22nd to first is an incredible performance, but this one was more about timing. Power does deserve credit because he has probably found a new way to use the hybrid system on an oval that helps save fuel. I noticed during the opening stint, Power was using the hybrid on corner exit. That is a brilliant time to use it as it gets the car up to speed while using the electricity and not fuel or at least not as much fuel as full throttle would. That likely played into Power being able to go as long as he did in the first stint while others stopped a few laps before Power.

Without that caution, Power probably finishes just outside the top ten, possibly he cracks the top ten, but he would not have won the race. 

2. Álex Palou kind of eases the pain from yesterday's accident with a runner-up finish today. Palou might have finished second anyway as he did catch a break with the Canapino caution. Without it there is a chance Scott McLaughlin remains ahead of Palou through the first pit cycle. Palou was fit for second. Maybe he should have won, but he remains the championship leader. There are still six races left, but does it feel like anyone can be better than Palou for majority of those six races? 

It feels like one or two drivers can beat Palou in a given race, but it is always a different driver or two. Today, it was Power. At Mid-Ohio, it was Patricio O'Ward. It could be Scott Dixon at Toronto. There isn't one consistent challenger for Palou. Everyone takes their turn and then in the next race Palou finishes three spots ahead of them and gets the advantage back in points and then some. There are four oval races remaining, but Palou can do enough to hold onto the championship. 

If Palou loses the title, it is because one driver goes on a tear that currently no driver looks capable of achieving.

3. Scott McLaughlin had the best weekend that is for sure, though third is a bit of a tough pill to swallow after how McLaughlin looked in the opening stint. This was a track position race. If McLaughlin stayed in the front, he was going to lead 245 of 250 laps. He got shuffled back and never fell lower than third. He is creeping back into the championship picture, and he should be thrilled there are four oval races remaining.

4. Nobody really did anything today. For the most part, everyone finished where they ran all day. Scott Dixon was fourth and spent the entire race in fourth. Double fourths for Dixon. Not much more he could do. 

5. Fifth is better than yesterday for Colton Herta. Herta and the Andretti Global team had a better weekend than the team has had in recent years at Iowa. I think this bodes well for Andretti for the remaining ovals as they are all short ovals. It feels like Herta's oval breakthrough is bound to happen.

6. Patricio O'Ward started seventh and I think he spent about 246 of 250 laps in either sixth or seventh. Not a bad day but when Palou is second these are points lost for O'Ward. It just means more work to do in the remaining events.

7. There was an accident on the final lap as Alexander Rossi appeared to run out of fuel exiting turn two on the final lap. Sting Ray Robb had nowhere to go but drive over Rossi's car, which sent Robb flipping through the air. Ed Carpenter and Kyle Kirkwood both spun in reaction to the accident. 

Rossi, Carpenter and Kirkwood got out of their cars under their own power. Robb was put on a stretcher but gave two thumbs up as he was being put into the ambulance. 

Rossi was seventh and Kirkwood was eighth at the time of the accident. Both guys had better days that were lost due to this incident. 

I am surprised Rossi ran out of fuel considering his final stint was 48 laps. It does seem like Rossi's crew puts Rossi in a corner more frequently than others. Considering everyone was doing 90 to 100 laps in the first two stints, there is really no excuse why a car couldn't do 48 laps. That is a half tank of fuel. That is on the crew.

It sucks for Kirkwood because he had a good run and his top ten streak is over. He gets 15th, which is his worst result of the season. Rossi is 16th. 

8. The final lap incident lifted a number of drivers up the finishing order. Josef Newgarden got seventh. This wasn't a typical Newgarden Iowa weekend. He wasn't going to win every Iowa race from now until the end of time. Even Scott Dixon hasn't won at Mid-Ohio in five years. Considering how this weekend started, third and eighth is a good weekend for Newgarden, especially since he has more finishes outside the top fifteen than inside the top ten this season. Newgarden needed two good days even if neither was a victory.

9. While Newgarden got up to seventh, Graham Rahal jumped up to eighth. Rahal was in the top ten the entire race after starting eighth. Again, if you didn't do anything wrong, never got off the bottom, had clean pit stops, you were likely going to finish where you started. Rahal needed this day, as did the entire Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing organization. It isn't a great weekend for the Hy-Vee sponsored team, but it is better than last year.

10. With the final lap accident, Rinus VeeKay and Romain Grosjean were elevated to top ten finishes. This race wasn't nearly as good as yesterday for VeeKay. He spent most of the race outside the top ten, same for Grosjean. Nothing special for either but they benefit from other's misfortune.

11. If it wasn't for a slow second pit stop, Santino Ferrucci would have finished in the top ten. Instead, one bad stop dropped Ferrucci from eighth to 14th as the race entered its final stage. For the second consecutive race, Ferrucci was the one driver making moves. That is a common theme in some oval races. Ferrucci takes chances and makes them work. For all the risks he takes, he never goes over the limit. 

12. The remaining lead lap finishers were Linus Lundqvist, David Malukas and Nolan Siegel. Yeah. That is about where all three of those guys ran for the entire race. None of them should feel hard done with this results.

13. We covered Kirkwood and Rossi. Christian Lundgaard was caught a lap down after the Canapino caution. Lundgaard basically ran 17th the entire race. Kyffin Simpson and Marcus Armstrong started at the back and cracking the top twenty was as good as it was going to be. Pietro Fittipaldi was 20th. That is about as good as it gets for Fittipaldi at the moment.

14. Sting Ray Robb and Ed Carpenter take 21st and 22nd after that final lap accident. 

15. On Marcus Ericsson's first pit stop, one of his tire changer had his air gun fail on him and that ruined Ericsson's race right then and there. He spent the final 150 laps a lap down, but he was mostly two laps down in this race. 

Katherine Legge was 24th. That is all you could ask from her in a race like this with Dale Coyne Racing. She did finish ahead of Conor Daly, who substituted for Jack Harvey, as Daly's car had a mechanical failure and was last. Dale Coyne Racing is solidly in the cellar this year in IndyCar. 

Agustín Canapino had a lazy spin on cold tires. Canapino didn't hit anything but it took some time to restart him. He ultimately ended his race 29 laps early. 

Felix Rosenqvist had his right rear suspension break while running 13th. This wasn't a great day for Rosenqvist as he was letting another top five starting spot go to waste, but 13th is more fair than 26th, where the Swede will be classified.

16. This was a rough weekend in Iowa, and it was not an ideal situation for IndyCar. I don't think anyone knew about the Iowa re-pave until it happened and we saw the NASCAR test in May. Then IndyCar was left to scramble, organize a test and get Firestone to produce a tire compound for the new surface. 

Unfortunately, IndyCar and Firestone didn't like the results of that test and we went into this weekend with Firestone bringing an untested right side compound and IndyCar regulating lower downforce levels in hopes of less cornering speed.

The bad thing is we got a product like this, which were two rather pathetic races. But it was a lose-lose situation. If Iowa had announced a proper re-pave schedule instead of something spur of the moment, we could have avoided this situation. 

Eventually, every race track will need to be re-paved. Iowa had not been touched since it hosted its first races in 2006. If it was due then Iowa could have decided after last year's IndyCar race to rip up the track, re-pave the entire place instead of only the lower lanes in the corners, and IndyCar could have probably gotten a test in last autumn before having another test this spring. 

There was not much the series, but it still feels like it made the wrong choices across the board.

17. That is harsh to say but the decisions made in the days leading up to the Iowa race to mandate lower downforce levels, which were not tested, and bring a right side compound that was not tested look more like panicked decision in response to the test after a few tire failures. 

That is understandable, but this does feel like a decision made that was too focused on safety. Firestone has an incredible reputation building safe tires, but it brought a softer right side compound today in hopes of more tire degradation and we didn't really see that. I don't think it was expected for the tires to fall off like they did last year, but cars did 100 laps easily and probably could have gone longer before experiencing any significant fall off. 

It is great we didn't have any tire failures that could have led to drivers being hurt, but stepping back and considering that IndyCar is a racing series and it needs to provide good races that give people a reason to watch, it didn't do that over two days this weekend. It never made an attempt to put on a decent race.

Prior to this weekend, the average number of passes in an Iowa race since 2017 was 807.667. If you just take since 2018 when the universal aero kit was introduced, that number increases to an average of 861.375 passes. 

Saturday night's race had 192 total passes. Today's race had 204 total passes. There were 100 passes for positions on Saturday and 95 passes for positions on Sunday. The average number of passes for position since 2017 was 276.888. Last year's races had 319 and 379 passes for positions respectively. 

IndyCar couldn't even have the total number of passes in this year's races match what was the average number of passes for positions over the previous nine Iowa races. 

That is not great. That is actually dreadful. Actually, it is an embarrassment. 

It is understandable if this year's races were not going to match the 1,502 passes and the 1,168 passes that we saw last year. It is understandable if it didn't quite hit that 807 average, but there is a wide margin between 807 and what we saw in these two races. Hell, even the 2017 race had 378 passes and that was an ok Iowa race. 

IndyCar must consider what Iowa is and what IndyCar is as a series. It is selling racing. It wants people to be race fan, but if you have a 250-lap race around Iowa Speedway and cannot average a pass per lap, you are in big trouble. No one is going to come out and see that, especially when all the drivers are anonymous and have zero cachet even with the regular followers of the series.

There is going to be another year at Iowa in 2025, but this year definitely did not sell the people on the racing. The concern is IndyCar does not have a great track record of turning around the on-track product at ovals. There were three bland years at Phoenix where nothing changed year-to-year despite it being obvious from year one that the racing was bad. Gateway has never been breathtaking racing, and there is extra legroom in those grandstands than when IndyCar returned in 2017, if you catch my drift.

It is going to be immensely difficult to get people sold on attending again because of the racing. Unless IndyCar does a complete 180, those musical acts better be dynamite next year. 

18. How about we end the experiment of starting races at 11:30 a.m. local time? That is one of the reasons the Texas race is no longer on the schedule. Last night looked good. Today looked like most of the crowd decided to wait until about 2:00 p.m. to show up, just before the first musical act took the stage. 

IndyCar wanted a network television window. I get that, but this was the window available and it makes the series look amateur. Until the average rating at least doubles (probably more like triples), IndyCar isn't going to get to pick its start time if it wants network races. 

This could have been a late-afternoon race or a night race, but then it would not have been on NBC. Considering what the crowd looked like today, what would have been better? 

An NBC race that started at 11:30 a.m. local or a USA race that started at 6:00 p.m. local that followed the NASCAR Cup Series race? 

Especially considering IndyCar raced last night and there was about 14 hours between the checkered flag Saturday night and the green flag Sunday morning. All we heard was how little sleep the teams got and how much work they did and how unfair it was.

One, wait until they find out about the 24-hour endurance racing. Two, you cannot clutch your pearls and say, "think of the crews" but at the same time demand...

An Iowa night race...

On network television...

During a doubleheader weekend.

At some point, a compromise must be made. 

If you want an Iowa night race, great, but if you want both races to be on network television then the Sunday race is starting at 11:30 a.m. local. We could have had two afternoon races, but that would not have been acceptable to an entitled fanbase. We could have had two night/evening races but then at least one would not be on network television and that is also seen as not good enough for IndyCar. 

The world is not black-and-white. There is success that can be found in the grey. When it comes to scheduling, IndyCar must be smart, but it should know by now when to trade a run for an out. It is almost illogical to think the only way IndyCar can succeed is if every race is on network television. It is smart to have a network-heavy component, but there must be some recognition that a few races on cable or streaming can also be beneficial for the series. 

I guess it doesn't matter anyway. Someone is always going to be indignant. 

19. Things can be two things. IndyCar was put in a bad spot and it was going to be tough to find the right package, but it also didn't do enough to at least ensure a race was suitable for presentation to the masses. I don't know how close every IndyCar race is from verging on a debacle, but it feels like Iowa was either going to be what we saw this weekend or what happened at the test and the series was worried that would be a black-eye. 

I got bad news for the series. That face isn't that pretty to begin with. It could probably take a few more punches if it is for the sake of something compelling. 

No one is tuning into IndyCar or any motorsports series for its safety record. 

NASCAR's best race this season is arguably a race where the tires weren't working at Bristol and the teams had to be given an extra set during the race. The tire issues didn't look good as neither NASCAR nor Goodyear could figure out why the tires that were run at the track the previous August with no issues all of a sudden could barely make it 50 laps, but the racing was good. There were passes, drivers chasing down other drivers and making moves. That is why people tune in.

We can forgive a little ineptitude from a series if the racing is at least good. It is a bold strategy but perhaps IndyCar should have tried it. 

20. Maybe we should just have a three-hour high line practice and not allow anyone to run the bottom until their qualifying run. I think that is what it would have taken to have the high line be functional this weekend. But it shouldn't take that much far a track like Iowa to have two functional lanes. 

21. It didn't help that because the tire could last forever that it made it advantageous to just save the tire and make this a two-stop race. If this was a 300-lap race, like Iowa was for a good period of time, it would have at least opened it up to teams trying to save and do it on two stops or run hard and make it a three-stop race.

Today's race was an hour and 26 minutes and 38 seconds. It would have taken about 15 to 18 minutes for 50 more laps to be run at this pace. It still would have been completed in under two hours. Last night's race with all the cautions would have likely gone a little over two hours if it was 300 laps, but it still would have been done within two hours and ten minutes. 

I know this is a physical weekend and two races alone is a lot on the drivers, but 300-lap races would likely be better in terms of strategy and likely would have forced the drivers to drive harder than they did this weekend. That wouldn't have entirely saved the racing, but it would have helped a little bit.

22. We are going to pick more at the Iowa weekend over the next few days, weeks, months, and probably until next year's Iowa weekend. We got one more race in Toronto before the Olympic break. That break is much needed. 

Morning Warm-Up: Iowa 2024 Race Two

Scott McLaughlin gets to follow up his victory Saturday night from Iowa with a start from pole position for the second race of IndyCar's Iowa doubleheader. McLaughlin ran a lap of 17.0966 seconds (188.248 mph) on the second lap of his qualifying run. The lap set the track record around the 0.875-mile oval. It is McLaughlin's third pole position of the season and his third pole position in the last four oval races. The New Zealander is going for his third consecutive podium finish. The only time he has had three consecutive podium finishes in his career was in 2022 at Nashville, Gateway and Portland. 

Álex Palou missed out on pole position by 0.0615 seconds, but the championship leader will start second for today's race. Palou will look to rebound from his first retirement since the 2022 Road America race. His 23rd-place result last night was his worst finish on an oval since he was 28th in the 2020 Indianapolis 500. Palou has never had consecutive finishes outside the top twenty in his IndyCar career. His championship lead is down to 36 points over Patricio O’Ward. 

Scott Dixon makes it two Chip Ganassi Racing cars in the top three spots. Dixon was 0.0992 seconds off his fellow New Zealander McLaughlin's time. Dixon's fourth-place finish last night was his eighth consecutive top ten finish at Iowa. However, during this streak, he has led only a combined five laps over the 2,100 laps run.

Despite a minor hybrid issue, Colton Herta ended up qualifying fourth for the second race of the weekend. Herta was 0.1159 seconds off sweeping the pole positions for the weekend. Last night, Herta led the first 86 laps in last night's race before he lost the lead in the lane to McLaughlin. It was the most laps Herta has led in a race since his 2021 Laguna Seca victory, where he led 91 of 95 laps.

Felix Rosenqvist starts fifth, Rosenqvist's best starting position on an oval this season. After starting 11th and finishing 13th last night, it was the fifth time this season Rosenqvist has finished worse than his starting position. This is the fifth time he has started in the top five this season. He has finished worse than his starting position in three of his for top five starts in 2024.

Alexander Rossi takes sixth position. Prior to this weekend, Rossi had not started better than 18th in the last five Iowa races. He will have started in the top seven of both races this weekend. With his eighth-place finish last night, Rossi now has seven top ten finishes in his career at Iowa, but he still has not finished in the top five at the track.

Patricio O'Ward will start a position behind his Arrow McLaren teammate Rossi in seventh. O'Ward's runner-up finish last night was the 12th of his career. It was also the first time O'Ward has finished better than seventh in the race following a victory. In 2022, he was second in the first Iowa race and followed that one with a victory in race two.

Graham Rahal has his best starting position on an oval this season in eighth. Rahal's 16th-place finish last night was the fourth consecutive Iowa race he has finished outside the top ten. He has finished off the lead lap in five consecutive Iowa races. The last time he finished on the lead lap here was when he was third in the second race of the 2020 doubleheader.

David Malukas starts in the top ten for the second time this year as Malukas will be on the inside of row five. He was the final drier within a quarter-second of the pole position time. Malukas was unable to complete a lap in last night's race as he spun after clipping the apron in turn two. 

Agustín Canapino rounds out the top ten of the grid, Canapino's best starting position in his IndyCar career. His previous best was 13th at Laguna Seca three weeks ago. Canapino's 17th starting position in race one of this doubleheader was his best oval starting position, surpassing him starting 19th at Texas last year, his first career oval start.

Nolan Siegel will start 11th in his second career oval race. This comes one night after Siegel finished 12th in his first career oval start. He was the best finishing rookie last night. Siegel has been the top finishing rookie in two of his three races with Arrow McLaren. He was 12th at Laguna Seca last month.

Kyle Kirkwood makes it an all-American row six. Kirkwood went from 19th to seventh in last night's race. That gives Kirkwood nine top ten finishes this season and six consecutive. He has been the top Andretti Global finisher in only three races this season, but he has been the best Andretti car in both oval races in 2024.

Linus Lundqvist has the 13th starting position. Last night's retirement due to a mechanical issue means Lundqvist has finished outside the top ten in seven consecutive races. Four of those results have been finishes outside the top twenty. 

Josef Newgarden has been struggled for speed this weekend, and after starting 22nd in the first Iowa race, Newgarden starts a little better for race two in 14th. Prior to this weekend, Newgarden had not started outside the top ten at Iowa since 2016. This is the fourth consecutive race he has started outside the top ten, his longest top ten starting drought since 2014 when he started outside the top ten in both Houston races, Pocono and Iowa. 

Rinus VeeKay is two spots worse than he started for race one with VeeKay in 15th position. VeeKay's fifth-place finish last night was his first top five result since he was fourth in the first Iowa race two years ago. VeeKay went 32 races between top five finishes. 

Romain Grosjean has himself in 16th starting position. This is Grosjean's best starting position on an oval this season after starting 16th at Indianapolis and 20th yesterday. With a 24th-place finish last night, the Frenchman has finished outside the top twenty in two consecutive races. The only time he has had three consecutive results outside the top twenty in his career was last year between the Indianapolis 500, Detroit and Road America.

Pietro Fittipaldi started 17th in race one, and Fittipaldi starts 17th in race two as well. He is the only driver starting in the same position for both races of the Iowa doubleheader. Fittipaldi was spun out of last night's race after contact with Will Power coming to a restart. In ten races this season, Fittipaldi has finished off the lead lap in half of them.

With Jack Harvey stepping out of the #18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing due to back and neck pain, Christian Lundgaard moves up to 18th starting position. Lundgaard has never started better than 17th at Iowa and his average starting position in six races is now 19.667. The only track where the Dane has a worse average starting position, with a minimum of three starts, is Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His average starting spot there is 29.667.

After taking eighth starting spot with his first qualifying lap, Santino Ferrucci ran much slower and will start 19th for the second race of the doubleheader. Ferrucci overcame a restart violation and falling a lap down to finish sixth in the first Iowa race. He has three consecutive top ten finishes. Only once in his career has Ferrucci had four consecutive top ten finishes. 

After 27 consecutive races starting outside the top ten, for the first time in his IndyCar career Sting Ray Robb will start inside the top twenty, thanks to Jack Harvey’s withdrawal from the race. Robb moves up to 20th position. His previous best starting position was 21st in the 2023 Long Beach race, his third career start. Robb started 24th for the first Iowa race.

Marcus Ericsson is 21st on the grid, his worst Iowa starting position. Including starting tenth yesterday, Ericsson had started tenth in three consecutive Iowa races and he had six top ten starts in his first eight Iowa races. His previous worst starting spot at this track was 15th. Ericsson does have five consecutive top ten finishes this season after finishing ninth last night. 

Will Power skimmed the wall exiting turn two on his second qualifying lap yesterday, and that means Power slots into 22nd on the grid for the Sunday race. This is Power's worst ever starting position for an Iowa race. After starting fourth yesterday, he had started in the top five in ten consecutive Iowa races, and he had started in the top ten of 17 consecutive Iowa races. His previous worst starting position at the track was 11th in his first visit in 2008.

Kyffin Simpson is on the inside of row 12. Simpson was 14th last night, his best finish since he was 14th at Barber Motorsports Park in April. He had finished outside the top twenty in five consecutive races prior to last night's result. Simpson is 24 points behind his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Linus Lundqvist for best rookie in the championship. 

Katherine Legge starts two places did that she did last night in race one. Legge is starting 24th for today's race. Legge was able to make it to the finish in race one, albeit a lap down in 17th. It was the second-best finish for the #51 Dale Coyne Racing entry this season, one week after the #51 car scored its best finish with Toby Sowery in 13th at Mid-Ohio.

Marcus Armstrong had a strong qualifying run for race one, starting ninth, but a brush with the wall on his second lap meant Armstrong was relegated to 25th on the grid for the second race this weekend. Armstrong is coming off finishing tenth last night. It ended a three-race slump of finishing 17th or worse. 

Ed Carpenter will be in 26th at the green flag. This is Carpenter's worst starting position since he started 27th at Gateway last August. This is the third time in the last four oval races Carpenter is starting outside the top twenty. He has not started in the top ten on an oval outside of the Indianapolis 500 since he started ninth for the 2018 Iowa race. 

With Jack Harvey stepping out of the car due to a back and neck injury around, Conor Daly will take over the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the second race of the weekend. Daly ran at Iowa last year substituting for Simon Pagenaud. Daly was 21st and 17th in those races. This is Daly’s 19th start with Dale Coyne Racing. He made one start in 2015, ran the entire 2016 season with the organization, and the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Daly is the eighth Coyne driver this season. Harvey did qualify 18th for today's race. Despite his ailments, Harvey was only 0.4585 seconds off pole position on the second lap of the qualifying runs. 

NBC's coverage of the Hy-Vee One Step 250 begins at 12:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 250 laps.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

First Impressions: Iowa 2024 Race One

1. It was a long time coming, but Scott McLaughlin's first career oval victory was bound to happen sooner rather than later. McLaughlin's oval record, for a man who had never run an oval prior to 2021, is remarkable. More times than not he is finishing in the top ten and pushing for a top five finish. He was second in his first oval race at Texas. Just over three years later, he is on the top step of the podium for the first time, on a night when even McLaughlin admits the pit crew won the race.

The new surface in the corners combined with the new tire compound and hybrid system made this race far different than any previous Iowa race. It was a single-lane race. Not much could be done off the bottom lane. That second lane in the middle of the track never developed, and making up positions would likely come down to pit stops and restarts.

McLaughlin got ahead of Colton Herta, who led the opening stint with McLaughlin on his heels, through the first round of pit stops. The first round of pit stops were under caution and McLaughlin got out ahead of Herta by about a foot. That was the race. 

There were a few challenges from Herta and later Patricio O'Ward, but once McLaughlin got through those first two or three laps after a restart, it was all his. No one could make a run and traffic was never a factor. There were a slew of restarts at the end, but at that point, no would could do anything to knock McLaughlin out of the top spot. 

A second victory of the season for McLaughlin and the #3 Penske Chevrolet, this one falling heavily on the shoulders of the pit crew.

2. Patricio O'Ward had a chance to steal a second race in as many weeks in the final pit cycle, but he could only manage second. O'Ward was in the top five the entire race. This was a race where if you had track position you kept track position. O'Ward didn't do anything remarkable other than not make a mistake.

3. When third is a bad day, you know you are pretty good. For Josef Newgarden, third is a bad day, but also a boost after how this weekend started. Newgarden was struggling for speed in practice. He qualified 22nd for this race, and he will start outside the top ten tomorrow.

Like McLaughlin, Newgarden credited the crew after this race for getting him up to third, but Newgarden's gets a little more credit. He made up many spots at the start and on restarts. The pit crew made it easier in the final stage of the race. The final pit stop moved him from eighth to fourth. Newgarden got that final position on his own, passing Scott Dixon in the final run to the finish. It looked like Newgarden was in for one of his worst Iowa races in a long time. Instead, he is on the podium, not a victory but not a disaster either.

4. Scott Dixon probably should have been on the podium. Colton Herta was caught out when he made his second and final pit stop under green and it just so happened Álex Palou spun exiting turn four as Herta was in his pit box. This moved Dixon up to second and he had a shot to leapfrog McLaughlin in the final pit cycle. 

Instead, Dixon had a slow getaway from his pit box and that allowed O'Ward to take second. Then Newgarden got Dixon in the final laps. This should have been at worst a third-place result for Dixon.

5. Rinus VeeKay kept his nose clean and picked up his first top five finish since Mid-Ohio in 2022. This was a team that needed a good result. Ed Carpenter Racing has been bad this year. VeeKay's summer has not gotten off to a great start. He mostly had good pit stops and didn't put a wheel wrong. Sometimes that gets you a great result.

6. Santino Ferrucci likely had the drive of the race. Ferrucci was penalized early for getting out of line on a restart. It was a stop-and-go penalty because he did not serve it quickly enough. Fortunately, Ferrucci got the wave around after Graham Rahal slowed on the circuit to bring out a caution. From that point, Ferrucci picked up a few spots here and there, on restarts, on pit stops. He went on a charge late and got up to sixth. Credit to him as he has seven top ten finishes this season after having one top ten finish all of last season, and there are still seven races remaining. 

7. Kyle Kirkwood survived this race. Kirkwood spent a great deal of this race outside the top ten. The only saving grace was the leaders weren't running down the back of the pack and lapping cars left and right. Kirkwood was the last car on the lead lap for a good 50-lap portion of the early stages, but Herta never got close to lapping him. By staying on the lead lap and out of trouble, Kirkwood could suffer and still finish seventh.

8. While Josef Newgarden gained four spots on his final pit stop, Alexander Rossi lost four positions, and Rossi could not do much to correct it from there. He couldn't go forward. He ended up finishing eighth. He spent much of this race in the top five and directly behind his teammate O'Ward. Eighth is fine but considering how his race was going, Rossi could have had more on this night.

9. Marcus Ericsson overcame only getting three practice laps yesterday before his accident to pull out a ninth-place result tonight. Nothing flashy here. It could have been worse. Ericsson had a brake fire before the final restart. He was looking to finish sixth or seventh before that, but the Swede was able to limp home in ninth. It is better than it could have been.

10. Marcus Armstrong had a peculiar final 40 laps or so. On one of the restarts, Armstrong's caution lights in his rear wing did not go out and kept blinking. He was black flagged for the issue, but that glitch is something that IndyCar controls. It appeared Armstrong was coming to pit lane, but remained on the bottom of the circuit. Directly ahead of him, Colton Herta half-spun and brought out a caution. 

Armstrong never did come in and on the ensuing restart, the problem was gone. It salvaged a top ten finish for him, which is a fair showing of his night.

11. This is a rough one for Colton Herta. Herta was controlling the opening stint and if he doesn't lose a spot in pit lane to McLaughlin on the first stop, his race likely goes differently. McLaughlin had the best car on the night, but Herta could have won with the track position. Herta should have been no worse than second tonight. 

The team had to come early for the second stop because Herta was experiencing a rough vibration and had fallen over three seconds behind McLaughlin. It was well within the pit window to make the finish, but it just happened to be the lap Álex Palou spins out and has his first retirement in over two years. 

Herta was frustrated on the radio about the team stopping that early, but it is easy to get upset when that caution happens literally as the team is changing tires. Herta couldn't hold on much longer and had been begging for a stop for the 20 laps prior to that. It is cruel that the team made the right call and it happened a caution came out as it was making the pit stop. If he goes one more lap, no problem, and Herta is pitting from second and hoping to do the reverse of the first round of stops to McLaughlin. Instead, Herta is caught a lap down and has to get the wave around back to the lead lap. 

The half-spin was another set-back. Maybe Herta finishes in the top ten if it doesn't happen, but this was a night where all the cards went against him. There was not much better he could do than finish 11th.

12. Let's get through the rest of the finishers quickly. Nolan Siegel ran all 250 lap. That is a crucial in your first career oval start. Siegel may have had a shot at the top ten but got swallowed up on those late restarts. He will learn.

Felix Rosenqvist was 13th and didn't do much. The same can be said for Kyffin Simpson in 14th. When nine cars end up retiring from a race, Sting Ray Robb is bound to finish 15th. 

Graham Rahal had a spindle in the rim break on him. Talk about a freak failure. Rahal wasn't going to finish in the top five in this one, but he could have snuck into the top ten. Instead, he was a lap down in 16th. Katherine Legge was also a lap down, which is about as good as we could expect from Dale Coyne Racing.

13. As for the cars that did not finish...

Well, Will Power did finish, but eight laps down after he spun Pietro Fittipaldi, who collected Ed Carpenter. Power also had a pit lane speeding penalty in this race, which he never recovered from. The contact was an error on Power and it ended Fittipaldi's and Carpenter's nights, two of which weren't that notable before the accident. 

Linus Lundqvist had some kind of failure when he was running in the top ten. Lundqvist and VeeKay had similar races going prior to Lundqvist's issue. 

It still isn't clear what happened to Christian Lundgaard. Lundgaard spun on the opening lap but he was well behind the accident where David Malukas spun up the track and collected both Juncos Hollinger Racing cars of Agustín Canapino and Romain Grosjean. Lundgaard was brought to garage and repaired, but returned to the race over 20 laps down. Lundgaard was able to run 178 laps and finish 22nd, but his race was done from lap one. 

Let's cover the opening lap incident here. Malukas clipped the apron and the JHR cars had nowhere to go. Malukas took all the blame. It is an error on him, but not the worst one in the world. Grosjean did get repaired and returned to the circuit.  

14. Álex Palou was already in for a rough night prior to his spin. On the first pit stop, Palou entered in third, but stalled exiting his box. This knocked him out of a top three position and at the back of the lead lap. Palou made up some ground in that second stint, but stalled out before he could get into the top ten and then he spun almost halfway down the main straightaway. 

It looked like something broke at first, but it was just a driver error. It is his first retirement since Road America in 2022. In that race, Palou was spun off after contact with then-teammate Marcus Ericsson. This is truly Palou's first major mistake since the 2022 Grand Prix of Indianapolis when he spun on a damp surface and got stuck in the grass, costing him a lap. Even then there is some forgiveness. Palou doesn't make mistakes often. He will rebound from this. For the moment, the championship is a little tighter.

15. I want to take a second to talk about Jack Harvey. During the week, it was made public Harvey was battling back and neck problems at Mid-Ohio and suffered through that race. He was going to give Iowa ago, but it was clear during qualifying he was not going to be capable of going the full distance. Conor Daly will likely be in the car tomorrow for race two. Daly wasn't in the car tonight because Daly had not completed any practice laps and there was not enough time for a special session. That meant Harvey had to start the race. This was always going to be a start-and-park effort. 

Harvey was just lucky two other cars were knocked out on the opening lap and it gave him two more spots, but effectively no more points because Harvey was 25th and everything from 25th on down pays five points. It at least helps with his average finish. 

Considering Harvey isn't technically full-time as he already missed the Indianapolis 500, and Dale Coyne Racing has no shot at victory, the team should have been proactive and sat Harvey before this weekend even began. If DCR is that concerned about Leader Circle positioning, it should have put a healthy driver in the car from the start and saved the seat for when Harvey was comfortable. 

That might be a little bit of hindsight, but it is also the pragmatic thing to do at this point in the season. Give Harvey Toronto off and let his Olympic break begin early. There is no point rushing him out if he cannot go more than five green flag laps at Iowa. 

16. Night races are rough in terms of writing. It is tougher when it is the first race of a doubleheader and the second race is about 14 hours away. We will have time to write about the track, the tires, the lack of a second lane and more after race two. It could be different tomorrow, but it likely will not be. We will do a more thorough breakdown once this entire weekend is in the books.

Oh! Race control. One quick thing on race control... it policed restarts very tightly tonight. There were multiple penalties for cars getting out of line. We cannot get mad at race control for enforcing the rules and then complain when restarts look like a mess and are a free-for-all. 

It was different. It didn't help that this was a race where passing was nearly non-existent. If this had been any other Iowa race, we likely would not have had any of those penalties or race control would not have been in a position to call any of those. 

Whenever race control gets involved, people automatically get upset. No matter what, it is seen as overreach, but I don't know how else a race should be officiated. Otherwise, it looks like anarchy and everyone is upset that the drivers do as they please. 

Let's just say this race didn't save itself from race control being a headline once it was over. That will likely be the bigger story once this weekend is over. 

Morning Warm-Up: Iowa 2024 Race One

With Iowa being a doubleheader weekend, the one qualifying session, scheduled for 3:45 p.m. ET, will set the grid for both races. Each car will make a two-lap run. The first qualifying lap will set the grid for Saturday night's race and the second qualifying lap will set the grid for Sunday's race.

Scott McLaughlin topped the Friday practice session with a lap of 17.3134 seconds. This was before McLaughlin ended the session with a spin off of turn four. The New Zealander did not make any contact with the wall and he was able to drive the car to pit lane. McLaughlin has started on pole position for the last two IndyCar oval races, at Gateway last year and at the Indianapolis 500 in May. 

Álex Palou was only 0.0331 seconds off McLaughlin and second-fastest in practice. Palou has never started better than seventh at Iowa in six starts. He has finished better than his starting position in three of those races. However, Palou has only led one lap in his career at Iowa. He has been running at the finish of all six Iowa starts, but race two last year was the first time he had finished on the lead lap.

Last week's winner Patricio O'Ward was third in practice, 0.1633 seconds off McLaughlin's top time. O'Ward has never won consecutive races in his IndyCar career. He has finished outside the top ten in four of the five races after victories in his career. His best result in a race following a victory was ninth at Road America in 2021 after he won the second race at Belle Isle. 

David Malukas ended up fourth quickest in a practice session for his third race weekend of the season, 0.1673 seconds from first. This is Malukas' first oval race of the season, and his first oval start since he was third at Gateway last year. In his two Iowa appearances, he has finished outside the top ten in the first race each time and he has finished eighth in the second race of the doubleheader each year.

Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five, 0.1985 seconds back. Rossi has only one top ten finish in the last two years at Iowa. He has never finished in the top five at Iowa in ten races. Rossi has started 18th or worse in the last five Iowa races. The only time he has led in at Iowa was four laps in his first Iowa start in 2016 during the first pit cycle in the race, laps 61-64.

Scott Dixon looks to bounce back after finishing 27th at Mid-Ohio when his car died on the pace laps only for the car to be repaired in time for Dixon to begin the race 21 laps down. Dixon was sixth in practice. He has not had consecutive finishes outside the top twenty since 2005 at Motegi and in the Indianapolis 500. Dixon will be making his 395th start tonight. In doing so, he will move ahead of Hélio Castroneves for second all-time in IndyCar starts. This will also be Dixon's 332nd consecutive start.

Agustín Canapino could be lined up for his best weekend in IndyCar. Canapino ended up seventh in practice, within 0.2144 seconds of the fastest lap in the session. Canapino had his own spin off of turn two late in the practice session, but he avoided contact with any barrier or automobile. His best oval finish was 12th at Texas last year.

Linus Lundqvist made it three Chip Ganassi Racing entries in the top eight. Since finishing third at Barber Motorsports Park, Lundqvist's average finish over the last six races is 19.667, however, the Swede has finished in the top fifteen in two of the last three races. 

Colton Herta took ninth in practice. Herta was seventh in the second race at Iowa last year after he finished outside the top ten in his first six Iowa races. In 26 oval starts, he has only two top five finishes, fourth in the first Gateway race in 2020 and fifth in the second Texas race in 2021. 

Will Power rounded out the top ten, 0.2831 seconds off his teammate McLaughlin. Power has started on pole position in four consecutive Iowa races and he started in the top three in nine consecutive Iowa races. He has five consecutive top five finishes at Iowa, which include four podium finishes. He has led a lap in eight of the last nine Iowa races. 

Graham Rahal was the top Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry in the session in 11th, but Rahal will take on a nine-spot grid penalty for changing to his fifth engine this season. The best Rahal can start for the first race is tenth and that is if runs the fastest first qualifying lap in the session. He has started outside the top fifteen in five consecutive races.

Felix Rosenqvist was 12th in practice, just over three-tenths off the top ten. Rosenqvist was 0.1467 seconds slower than his Meyer Shank Racing teammate David Malukas. After opening the season with four consecutive top ten finishes, including two top five results, Rosenqvist has one top ten finish in the last five races. 

Santino Ferrucci had car #14 as 13th quickest in practice. While Ferrucci has finished third and eighth at the Indianapolis 500 the last two years, his average finish in the other four oval races last year was 20.5 with his best result being 13th at Gateway. In five Iowa starts, his average finish is 18.2.

Rinus VeeKay has not finished in the top 14 in the last three races, but VeeKay was 14th in practice. VeeKay has finished 24th, 26th and 19th in the last three events. While the Dutchman was fourth in the first race of the 2022 Iowa doubleheader, his career average finish at the track is 15.833 with his next best finish being 17th.

The six-time Iowa winner Josef Newgarden only had the speed to round out the top fifteen in practice. Newgarden was 0.4178 seconds slower than his Team Penske teammate McLaughlin at the top. Newgarden has not started outside the top ten at Iowa since 2017 when he started 16th. He has started in one of the top three positions in seven of the last eight Iowa races and eight of the last ten.

McLaren's latest hire, Nolan Siegel, took 16th in practice in what will likely be his first IndyCar start on an oval. Siegel did attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in May with Dale Coyne Racing when an accident in the last chance qualifying session ended his hopes of making the race. He has raced at Iowa before. Siegel was caught in an accident with Hunter McElrea in last year's Indy Lights race at Iowa. Siegel's race ended after 63 laps and he was placed in 15th out of 16 cars.

Pietro Fittipaldi was 17th fastest in practice. Fittipaldi is the best driver in the championship without a top ten finish this season. The Brazilian is 20th in points. His only top ten finish in 18 career starts was ninth in the 2018 Portland race. That race was 2,141 days ago.

Kyle Kirkwood could only muster enough speed to be 18th fastest in Friday's lone session. Kirkwood has five consecutive top ten finishes and eight top ten finishes this season. He entered this year with only eight total top ten finishes in his career. His best finish on an oval is seventh, which came in the first Iowa race last year and in the Indianapolis 500 this past May.

Christian Lundgaard was the slowest RLLR car in practice in 19th. Lundgaard has finished outside the top ten in eight consecutive oval races. His most recent and in fact only top ten finish on an oval in his career was tenth in the first Iowa race in the 2022 doubleheader. Tonight's race is 363 days after Lundgaard's first career victory at Toronto.

Romain Grosjean rounded out the top twenty, 0.5955 seconds off the fastest time. Grosjean's only top ten finishes on an oval were at Iowa. The Frenchman was in the top ten in both races of the 2022, finishing seventh and ninth. In 12 career oval starts, Grosjean's average finish is 16.5.

Marcus Ericsson only completed three laps in the practice session before having an accident in turn three. Prior to the contact with the wall, Ericsson's fastest lap was at 17.9104 seconds, putting him 21st in the session. Ericsson has never finished worse than 11th in seven Iowa races, and he has six consecutive top ten finishes at the 7/8th-mile oval. 

Jack Harvey ended the session in 22nd. Last week at Mid-Ohio, Harvey was battling back and neck pain as he finished 26th out of 27 cars. It was the third consecutive race Harvey has finished outside the top twenty, and the fourth time in eight starts. This is Harvey's first oval of the season as he was absent from the Indianapolis 500.

Marcus Armstrong struggled to find speed and was 23rd in practice. Armstrong was only 0.6127 seconds off the fastest time. After having three top ten finishes within a four-race span, ending with his first career podium finish in Detroit, Armstrong has finished 26th, 22nd and 17th in the last three races.

If 24th wasn't bad enough for Katherine Legge in the lone practice session, she also had a spin off of turn four, but didn't hit a thing. Legge is back for her second and third races of the 2024 season after she ran the Indianapolis 500 in the #51 Honda. Legge's only other Iowa appearance was in 2012 where she finished 15th driving the #6 Chevrolet for Dragon Racing. In her most recent oval start that wasn't the Indianapolis 500, she was ninth in the 2012 season finale at Fontana.

Sting Ray Robb rounded out the top 25 in practice. Robb was disqualified from the second race last year at Iowa after he was sent onto the track with an unsecured tire. A wheel nut came lose as Robb left his pit box and his Dale Coyne Racing crew did not tell Robb to stop the car before returning to the circuit. 

Kyffin Simpson ended up 26th in practice, and he will have some work to do if he hopes to start much better than that for the race tonight. Simpson will take on a nine-spot grid penalty for changing to his fifth engine this season. He has started outside the top twenty in seven of nine races this season. 

Ed Carpenter was the slowest car in the session running at 18.4823 seconds in what is Carpenter's second race weekend of the season. Carpenter will drive the #20 Chevrolet for the remainder of the oval races this season while Christian Rasmussen will run the car at Toronto and Portland. 

Qualifying will be at 3:45 p.m. ET on Peacock. NBC's coverage of the Hy-Vee Homefront 250 begins at 8:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 250 laps.