The Frontstretch: IndyCar Preview: Iowa Corn Indy 250 by Matt Stallknecht -- Thursday June 21, 2012

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IndyCar Preview: Iowa Corn Indy 250

Matt Stallknecht · Thursday June 21, 2012


Whats News?

The IZOD IndyCar Series heads to the fan-friendly Iowa Speedway this week for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. Last week, Ryan Hunter-Reay delivered an impressive victory in a race that was promoted by team owner Michael Andretti. Of course, the race was not without controversy as yet another questionable call was made by IndyCar officals, this time a drive through penalty given to Scott Dixon. The incident was just one of many questionable calls made by Beaux Barfield and Co. this season, and one can’t help but wonder when IndyCar will clean up its act on the officiating side of things.

One interesting piece of news that did come out this week is that Michigan International Speedway has stated its willingness to bring IndyCar back to the historic 2-mile oval. Michigan used to host the second most prestigious race in American Open-Wheel Racing, the Marlboro 500, and a return to Michigan would be a boon for a motorsport that is in desperate need of more oval tracks.

Even in its short history, the Iowa Speedway has become a staple locale for American open-wheel racing.

Track Preview: Iowa Speedway

NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace brought major league racing to the state of Iowa back in 2006 with the construction of the ultra-modern Iowa Speedway, and the .875 mile track which has been described as “the perfect racetrack” by some motorsport enthusiasts has quickly become a staple on the IndyCar calendar. The track is extremely short by IndyCar standards, making it a unique challenge for drivers who are used to wide-open ovals and sweeping road courses. Couple that with the heat racing format that will be debuted for this week’s race, and the intensity level is sure to be on overdrive at a little track in which one driver’s mistake can lead to a pile of wrecked race cars.

What’s the Points (Driver Standings)

Will Power continues to lead the series standings with a 31-point advantage over new 2nd place driver James Hinchliffe, who is putting together a fine season in his first year at Andretti Autosport. Scott Dixon fell to third last week after his troubles in Milwaukee, as he now sits 35 points behind the leader. With his win in Milwaukee, Ryan Hunter-Reay surged up to fourth in the standings and sits a manageable 41 markers behind the leader. Helio Castroneves rounds out this week’s top 5, sitting 43 points behind his series-leading teammate.

What’s the Points (Engine Manufacturers)

Chevrolet finally was able to stop the bleeding last week with a win in Milwaukee courtesy of Ryan Hunter-Reay, and for the first time since Sao Paulo in April the American engine supplier has been able to pad its lead over Honda. Honda is still in second and only sits 12 points behind Chevrolet. Lotus is…well, let’s just say that their IndyCar project needs to be deep-sixed before it gets any worse (if that is even possible). They sit 31 points behind leader Chevrolet.

Featured Driver: Ryan Hunter-Reay

It is my personal belief that Ryan Hunter-Reay is the most underrated driver on the IndyCar circuit. Hunter-Reay added another victory to his win total last week in Milwaukee, yet it seems like every time he wins it is met with little fanfare. Many folks aren’t aware of this, but RHR is the most accomplished American driver in terms of race wins on the IndyCar circuit right now. Hunter-Reay has won 12 races across three major American Open Wheel Championships (CART, ChampCar, and IndyCar), and he has won more IndyCar races over the past three years (three) than any other American driver on the circuit. RHR currently sits fourth in the series standings and based on his performance over the last few weeks, it appears that he and his No. 28 team are trending upward. How a guy with those kind of stats can be so underrated is mind-boggling to me. Nonetheless, you can expect to see Ryan Hunter-Reay again in the winner’s circle this season, and it may very well just happen again this week at Iowa.

Weekly Picks

Continuing on my high praise of Ryan Hunter-Reay, he is my pick this week to win at Iowa. RHR has proven to be a force on short ovals with wins at Milwaukee and New Hampshire, so this week’s race at Iowa ought to be right in his wheelhouse. Toni Montgomery is staying with Tony Kanaan, her pick from last week. Kanaan won at Iowa in 2010 and has been running strong during the current oval track swing for the IndyCar Series.

Any Other News

Keep on the lookout for more news in regards to the replacement race for the cancelled race in China. It appears that IndyCar officials have narrowed things down to Road America and Texas for the open spot. Either track would be a brilliant choice. Also, silly season ought to be starting sometime soon, and with lots of uncertainty in terms of who will be driving for whom next season, there could be some big moves being made this off-season that are likely in the discussion phase as we speak. Keep your eyes peeled for rumors in regards to new teams and driver moves for next season.

Upcoming: After what is sure to be an excellent race in Iowa, the IndyCar Series will be taking a one week break before kicking off a three-week trek through Canada. The Streets of Toronto is the next race on the schedule after Iowa, and after a wreckfest of a race there last year, the teams and drivers will likely be focusing on putting together a clean race in hopes of leaving the treacherous circuit with their cars in one piece.

Contact Matt Stallknecht

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06/22/2012 09:14 AM

This and Edmonton are the two IRL races I look forward to most, every year. Can’t wait.

06/22/2012 01:50 PM

“Hunter-Reay has won 12 races across three major American Open Wheel Championships (CART, ChampCar, and IndyCar)”

Actually, 6. He has 1 CART win, 1 CCWS win, and 4 IndyCar wins. The quote on his Wikipedia page is very confusing: “He is also the most successful American driver currently competing in open wheel competition, with more race wins than all of the other current American IndyCar drivers (12) combined.” What apparently that means based on the citation is that he has more wins than the other 12 American drivers combined, not that he has 12 wins…

He is underrated and that’s because the media chooses to hype “name” American drivers (Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti) over drivers who can actually win races (RHR, Buddy Rice, A.J. Allmendinger – who also didn’t get enough of hype when he was in Champ Car…)

However, I’d say Oriol Servià is even more underrated than RHR, and Bruno Junqueira even more so, as he is COMPLETELY forgotten of late…