In A Nutshell: James Hinchcliffe utterly whipped the field. Ontario’s favorite started P2, got the lead early, and never really looked back. The race was largely uncompetitive at the front of the field but featured lots of jockeying for position from third on back, much to the advantage of Mr. Hinchcliffe. Ryan Hunter-Reay staged a spirited rally late in the race, in hopes of battling Hinchcliffe, but it wasn’t quite enough as he was able to cruise to a modest, 1.5-second victory over Hunter-Reay. Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, and Graham Rahal rounded out the top-5 finishers.
Key Moment: Despite having arguably the best car, Ryan Hunter-Reay started deep in the field and battled with adversity for most of the day. As a result, it wasn’t until very late in the going that he was able to mount any sort of charge toward perennial leader Hinchcliffe. Hunter-Reay sliced his way up to second with around 10 laps to go, and it appeared that he might be able to put some pressure on Hinchcliffe for the win, but Hinchcliffe kept his pace and was able to hold off Hunter-Reay.
- We don’t often see debris cautions in the IZOD IndyCar Series, but this race was something of an anomaly. Two legitimate debris cautions were thrown, one on lap 38 and the other on Lap 155, and they served as two out of the three caution flags on a day in which clean green-flag racing ruled the afternoon.
- As for the other caution, it came out on Lap 138 for Alex Tagliani, who went for a spin in Turn 2. It was the only on-track incident of the day, a stark contrast to last year’s race which was an absolute wreckfest.
- Graham Rahal delivered what was unquestionably he and his team’s greatest performance of the season. Rahal methodically worked his way through the field early in the going, then ran in the top 3 for the duration of the race, even managing to lead on lap 160. He tapered off late, to finish fifth, but it was still a solid performance for a driver that desperately needs momentum.
- Dario Franchitti’s miserable season continued on Sunday, as he ran 18th, one lap off the pace. The worst part of it was that Franchitti actually finished better than where he ran. He was closer to a 20th or 21st-place car for most of the day, simply inexcusable for a high-powered team like Ganassi. Something needs to be fixed in that camp.
- Ryan Hunter-Reay once again proved why he is arguably the best driver in the sport of American open-wheel racing right now. After starting a distant 12th, Hunter-Reay quickly moved through the pack before contact with Graham Rahal forced Hunter-Reay to have to make extensive repairs on a pit stop, forcing him back to 21st. He and his team were unfazed by this obstacle, though and almost robotically plowed through the field to rebound to second. Hunter-Reay could very well be a back-to-back champion when it’s all said and done after Fontana.
- Ed Carpenter once again proved that he is among the series’ best oval drivers on Sunday. On a track that has not been overly kind to him in the past, Carpenter ran top 5 for the whole race and even challenged for the lead on a few occasions. The development of both he and his fledgling single-car team has been both refreshing and quite fun to watch over the past year and a half; you can bet he will see Victory Lane before the year is out.
- A series of Heat races were run on Saturday night to determine the starting lineup of Sunday’s race. The first two Heats determined the lower half of the starting grid, and high-placing finishers in the first two heats earned a spot in the final one with the fast six qualifiers. Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal won the first two heats, while Helio Castroneves won the last, pocketing some precious bonus points in the process. Castroneves had to give up his first-place starting spot for Sunday, however due to a penalty for changing engines.
- On the points front, series leader Castroneves was somewhere between decent and mediocre for most of the race and earned a finish that reflected his performance: eighth. He is still on top of the standings, but Hunter-Reay is starting to close in on him, as the defending champion is now only nine points behind.
Notable Driver: James Hinchcliffe. In a year in which Andretti Autosport has been the class of the field seemingly each week, Hinchcliffe has not disappointed. The young Canadian driver has had some tough luck on a few occasions this season, but by and large, 2013 has been his finest year yet, and it’s only getting better. Hinchcliffe’s win on Sunday was his first on an oval, and for a guy that started off as something of just a road course specialist, that win was a testament to the driver’s growth. Now established as a winner in this series, it’s only a matter of time before he rises to “superstar” status.
Quotes and Tweets
“We just had to go off of experience and this all goes to the team.” James Hinchcliffe on his victory
“When they told me I came in eighth, I was like ‘What?’ I certainly felt we had a better car than that. I guess in traffic, we got held up coming in and out of the pits, which cost us some positions. The Hitachi car really came alive with about 50 laps to go and it felt great. Maybe it was a little too late for us. But we still have the points lead and we will look for a better result in Pocono.” Helio Castroneves on finishing eighth
“Congrats to @Hinchtown on the win today. @FollowAndretti cars have been so strong at Iowa. 4 for 4 @iowaspeedway” Ryan Hunter-Reay (@RyanHunterReay) congratulating his teammate on his win
“I genuinely think we could have won that race, hence the reason I’m bummed, but at least we were finally in the hunt!” Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal) lamenting on what could have been
What’s Next: The series will take a week off before heading to Pocono Raceway for the much anticipated inaugural Pocono IndyCar 400. This race figures to look a lot like Indianapolis, meaning that passing will be happening quite a bit. You won’t want to miss this one, so tune in to either ABC or Sirius/XM Channel 211 on July 7th at noon to catch all of the action.
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