At the rate Ryan Hunter-Reay is going right now, the staff at Iowa Speedway may have to eventually rename the Newton, Iowa short track in his honor.
Hunter-Reay inherited the lead following a caution on lap 262 and held off a hard-charging Josef Newgarden over the final 22 laps in a battle reminiscent of their duel last July at Iowa. His victory was his first of the IndyCar Series season, but his third in five years in the Hawkeye State.
Hunter-Reay took the top spot by .5046 seconds to become the ninth different winner in 13 races this season. Sage Karam finished a career-high third but angered many of his peers in the process.
Here’s a quick look at the Iowa Corn Indy 500.
How it Happened: Takuma Sato hit the wall on lap 262, resetting the field for a frantic 22-lap dash to the finish. Graham Rahal was the leader at the time of the caution, but held the top spot only because he was the only driver to not pit under green over the previous 20 laps.
Prior to the exchange, Rahal was a lap down due to gearbox issues and desperately needed a caution to return to the front of the field.
Hunter-Reay pulled away from Newgarden on the final restart but Karam made several aggressive and dicey moves on Rahal and Ed Carpenter, drawing the ire of both veteran contenders on pit road after the race.
Hunter-Reay cruised to Victory Lane while the drama unfolded on pit road.
Carpenter was the first to reach Karam after the cool down lap and told the Rookie of the Year contender to “grow up,” and that he was “a (expletive) weapon out there.” Rahal also confronted Karam and later said of their battles for position that Karam was going to kill someone with his driving style.
“He’s going to kill somebody if it doesn’t give anybody room like that,” Rahal said. “Sage has got a reputation for being that sort of driver. When you get up to the big leagues you need to be a little bit smarter. Honestly just careless driving, absolutely careless driving.
“Until he gets penalized by the series, he’s not going to care. Until they make a penalty out if, it he will keep doing it.”
Carpenter left the confrontation and made an immediate beeline to IndyCar race control where he was seen having a discussion with series competition chief Derrick Walker. For his part, Karam said he was simply racing for the win and competing with Carpenter and Rahal the way they have done him this season.
“Ed is a professional and Graham is a professional,” Karam said. ‘I know how to drive and they know how to drive. Give them 10 minutes and they will be fine – they will cool down.
“It’s close racing, it’s IndyCar Racing… this ain’t go-karts or anything anymore. We are going to race each other hard and we are professionals. We know each other limits. I mean tough luck for him. I don’t know.”
Championship Shakeup: Juan Pablo Montoya had been perfect this season up until lap 9 of the Iowa Corn 300, when he lost control of his Team Penske Chevrolet and hit the wall, ending his chance to put the IndyCar championship out of sight for his rivals.
Montoya entered the weekend with a 54-point lead – more than a full race over second-place Scott Dixon. Luckily for Montoya, who finished 24th and last on the grid, Dixon also had troubles (mechanical) and could only nurse his Chevrolet to 18th.
As a result of finishing fourth on Saturday night, Rahal moves into second in the standings and is just 42 points out with three races remaining. It’s worth noting that while the winner receives 50 points in IndyCar, the finale at Sonoma is a double-points event.
Rahal lost a lap to the leaders on two separate occasions on Saturday night, making his march to a top-five finish all the more remarkable. That achievement is not lost on the Ohio native either.
“A day like today when the car won’t shift and we’re down and out like that – to fight back like that, that’s what this team is made of,” Rahal said on pit road.
Meanwhile, Dixon fell to third in the standings and is 48 points out of the championship.
What it all means: Saturday night was exactly what IndyCar needed approaching the stretch run of the season. The Iowa Corn 300 ran unopposed to any kind of rival motorsports event and the drama and intensity translated to social media where fans praised both the series and speedway for one of the most exciting races of any discipline this season.
Ovals are once again becoming a rare breed in open-wheel racing and the Iowa event on Saturday night served as a reminder why they must remain a part of the tour moving forward.
Additionally, the top-four finishers were all American, the first time such an occurrence has happened in IndyCar since the 2006 Indianapolis 500, when Sam Hornish Jr. defeated Michael Andretti and Marco Andretti to score a patriotic podium for the USA.
IndyCar has often used the slogan, “this is America and we race IndyCar.” On Saturday night, the bark was backed with bite.
- Ryan Hunter-Reay
- Josef Newgarden
- Sage Karam (R)
- Graham Rahal
- Carlos Munoz
- Ed Carpenter
- Marco Andretti
- Ryan Briscoe
- Sebastien Bourdais
- Will Power
- Helio Castroneves
- Tristan Vautier
- Jack Hawksworth
- Simon Pagenaud
- James Jakes
- Gabby Chaves (R)
- Justin Wilson
- Scott Dixon
- Takuma Sato
- Stefano Coletti (R)
- Tony Kanaan
- Charlie Kimball
- Pippa Mann
- Juan Pablo Montoya