Iowa IndyCar Race Review: ‘Like The First Time’ Edition

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Photo from sports.usatoday.com

For one driver, rumors of his series demise proved as motivational as his pre-race quote was prescient.

Forty two year old Helio Castro-Neves won his thirtieth IndyCar race Sunday at Iowa Speedway after being asked by Robin Miller if his remarkable twenty year career were coming to a close. “We just gotta make sure we not only win this race, but win the championship,” Helio answered with characteristic panache. It proved predictive, at least partially.

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Photo from indycar.com

J.R. Hildebrand matched his best career finish in second, recovering strongly from a Saturday practice crash for Ed Carpenter. Three time Iowa winner Ryan Hunter-Reay advanced a dozen spots to steal a podium for formerly dominant Andretti Autosport. Pole sitter Will Power and Graham Rahal, who disparaged other drivers’ “courtesy” as being “awful” afterward, rounded out the top five.

The Team Penske fixture led over two thirds of the race for his first triumph in fifty four races, or over three years of futility. It’d been so long since the Brazilian had visited victory lane that many people began to think it unlikely, if not impossible.

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Photo from twitter.com

Russian Mikhail Aleshin brought out the first of four cautions involving three single car incidents into the wall. A.J. Foyt Racing‘s dubious duo both kissed the barrier in another grim day for the team. A brief rain shower brought out the fourth yellow, which became a red flag stoppage for a few minutes. The four cautions totaled forty four laps, a little shy of average for the track.

Interestingly there were only two penalties – both significantly deferred to post race – for “pit safety infractions” against Coyne rookie Ed Jones and Helio. Unfortunately, the needed late race caution Paul Tracy predicted from the booth failed to materialize and the last stint – once Helio got around J.R. in traffic – was a foregone conclusion.

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Photo from indycar.com

The early start times of the last couple races need to be reevaluated, as heat of the day temps again kept the crowds away from Iowa Speedway. The racing and fan amenities were both more enjoyable under the lights in previous years. NBCSN managed to miss several passes for the lead and – almost as bad – didn’t bother to replay some of them, either.

“What a great car, what a great team! . . . It’s just like the first time, man! . . . Everything [t]hat happened behind the scene is behind the scene,” Helio gushed post-race.

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Photo from twitter.com

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