Iowa Race Review: ‘How Is Hinch Ahead?!’ Edition

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In a baffling though entertaining affair at Iowa Speedway, SPM‘s James Hinchcliffe somehow overcame everyone who stood in the way of his first win of the season. It was the second of the Canuck’s career on the diminutive oval, his sixth overall. Taking the lead with less than fifty to go to the surprise of many – not least of which Josef Newgarden – it was a confusing, pro-Canadian conclusion under a Carpenter-induced caution. As usual, everything was the villainous Will Power‘s fault.

Newkid’s teammate was nearly a lap down and not surprisingly acted more like a spoiled schoolchild than a teammate, holding up the defending champ as “lap traffic” with only thirty odd laps to go, handing Hinch the lead and eventual victory. Immediately after being passed for position, an astonished Newgarden asked his crew incredulously over the radio, “How is Hinch ahead?!” Simultaneously, we wondered the exact same thing.

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NBCSN’s pre-race included Townsend Bell telling us day is night and Kevin Lee calling RHR – well over 37 – “young.” On the upside, the until recently MIA Katie Hargitt returned to air. Unfortunately, it was primarily whilst eating during the cooking segment, Continue reading

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Iowa Predictions and Prognostications: The Big Four

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Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 could be the race to end all races – it’s often that entertaining. Hopefully it isn’t the end of IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway, but that’s only if “Bismarck” Miles doesn’t declare war on any more oval tracks. Where’s an ace leader like Eddie Rickenbacker when your series needs him?

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One fact about Iowa that’s likely to blow you away is three different winners in as many years, with the (usually) retired Helio, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay the victors. Make it four of the last five if you throw in Hinchcliffe’s devastating win in 2013. Taken together, they’re who we call The Big Four of Iowa.

Ryan Hunter-Reay has won an impressive three battles on Iowa’s plains, including back to back in 2014-15. Incredibly, his record’s less gaudy than that of his team’s smashing performance overall. Andretti Autosport’s enjoyed an unrestricted seven wins – out of only eleven races in the track’s history – sinking the competition as effectively as a u-boat wolf pack. Hinch’s win was with AA, too and even Marco managed top of the podium for his dad’s outfit, somehow. It was his last win, now seven years ago. Seems like a century, doesn’t it?

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Our special prognostication for Sunday is related, though far from neutral. Continue reading

Iowa Preview: Wanted – For Wantonly Wasting Ovals

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If justice remains an issue of any importance, then the focus of the sporting world this week should be squarely upon IndyCar’s brass in Iowa. Specifically, how they handle oval tracks starting Sunday and going forward. If Phoenix – and a years’ long slide away from ovals and towards curvy courses – are any indications, then we truly tremble for the future of our beloved egg shaped circuits.

Racing’s routinely riveting at this rural redoubt, like all ovals the series doesn’t ruin with regrettable rules and regulations, then promptly abandon. At Iowa, three wide, edge of your seat action with near constant passing’s the norm. It used to be even better as a night race which it was until 2016, both for the racing and the fans. The move to a daytime race represents yet another major Mark Miles era schedule regression. Unfortunately, so too does Road America, where even more unfortunately that so called race was recently extended into the foreseeable future.

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It’s imperative that Miles and other IndyCar scheduling geniuses do the same with Iowa, whose contract is also up, Continue reading

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

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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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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. Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Predictions and Prognostications: Marion Morrison Edition

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Get ready for some fast paced, action packed oval track racin’ Sunday, Pilgrim. IndyCar visits the birthplace of Marion Morrison, a.k.a. John Wayne this weekend, so expect a satisfying shootout of a race and one helluva good show.

We’re burnin’ daylight, so let’s get straight to it. Our special prediction is that the good guys at Iowa Speedway will be winners after another stellar show at the tiny track. We think local boy Wayne would have approved of the passing and high speed action mere miles from his former home.

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Born in nearby Winterset, Iowa, the Duke’s former stompin’ grounds overlap with Andretti Autosport‘s, a team that’s won 70% of the races held there. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s won three times – hell every Andretti driver has, even Marco – although this weekend’s script will be different.

Our pick for pole sitter is young gunslinger Josef Newgarden. It’ll be just his second ever pole after he started second at Iowa and won last year. A southerner and Team Penske member, Newkid’s definitely an outsider on the high plains and the field will be targeting his back all afternoon.

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First out’s gotta be Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan. Continue reading

Iowa IndyCar Preview: A 7/8s Mile Slice of Heaven

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Among the dwindling oval tracks remaining on the schedule, Iowa Speedway routinely puts on some of the most riveting racing of the entire year. You could say it’s the nearest thing to IndyCar bliss outside Circle City and Texas.

The Iowa Corn 300 has witnessed some unforgettable moments in a decade of IndyCar racing. Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam’s confrontations in 2015 – both on track and post race – top our list. We termed the race at the time “Sage Gone Wild,” seemingly a breakout moment for the young Pennsylvanian. Perhaps it was his angelic features that drew us in, if not his devilish driving.

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Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. Now Sage is relegated to one off status at Indy, and unfortunately won’t be racing at Iowa after finishing 28th in the 500 this year. At least the other half of the duelin’ duo, owner/driver Carpenter, will be driving (as if that’s any consolation). We do have an idea for a new arch enemy for Ed to do battle with, however.

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Speaking of which, could Iowa turn into another TK induced crash fest like Texas? Tempers still smolder in the wake of Wisconsin, where Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan characteristically blamed Alex Rossi for his most recent crash. Continue reading

Iowa Race Review: Feel Good Edition

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A real feel good story emerged Sunday evening in Iowa, with Josef Newgarden winning his third IndyCar race and first since sustaining serious injuries at Texas in June. As usual, Iowa Speedway provided plenty of passing and thrilling oval track racing. In still more good news, the series announced its return for at least the next two years. The positive vibes were everywhere.

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Newgarden was feeling good in the car Sunday, despite his broken clavicle and hand still healing. He lapped and ran away from the field in the Fuzzy’s Vodka machine that was clearly the class of the field. Starting second, he took the lead from pole sitter Simon Pagenaud on the first lap and never let up. Mad Will Power battled his way up to second, while Scott Dixon equaled his best finish at Iowa in third. Racy Russian Mikhail Aleshin was top Honda in fifth for SPM.

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In a largely clean, green race there were three cautions, two for engines and one for a spin. Ryan Hunter-Reay did his best Simona de Silvestro impersonation Continue reading

Iowa Predictions And Prognostications: Predictable Edition

We hate to admit it about one of our favorite tracks, but Iowa’s grown predictable in IndyCar’s ass pods era. The racing’s still as exciting as all get out, but one team’s dull dominance is indisputable.

Jul 18, 2015; Newton, IA, USA; IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay (28) reacts after winning the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-230374 ORIG FILE ID:  20150718_lbm_ad1_319.JPG

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Iowa Speedway turning ten this year is surreal, as it seems like only yesterday the shiny, new oval was fortuitously added to the schedule. Its awe inspiring oval track racing is spectacular to behold. Thank you, Tony George. With absolutely no transition needed, predicting controversy at an IndyCar race in summertime is like shooting fish in a barrel. Our special prediction for the race is tempers flaring and gestures flying. Anyone can see it coming 7/8s of a mile away.

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It was only a year ago when George’s step son, Ed “never finishes” Carpenter, showily stomped into Sage Karam‘s pit after taking exception to his driving – and to being out driven. Fingers waved and tongues wagged, but no punches were thrown – it’s IndyCar not NASCAR, after all. Continue reading