For the second straight weekend, Saturday’s race was halted by rain. For the second straight weekend, Ryan Hunter-Reay found victory lane.
On a night where the Championship contenders were dropping like flies, Hunter-Reay made a statement. With his win at Iowa, he is now just three points behind Will Power for the Championship lead. The Andretti Autosport stable got a first and third last weekend at Milwaukee, and a first and second at Iowa tonight with Marco Andretti’s runner-up finish. Tony Kanaan completed the podium, with Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top five.
It was another great run for rookie Simon Pagenaud. After starting the race in last position, the Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports driver put on a clinic on his way to a fifth place finish.
The heat races Friday afternoon at Iowa gave us a nice glimpse of what we would see on Saturday night. Graham Rahal, Kanaan, and Dario Franchitti each won their respective heat races on Friday, which were aired before the start of the 250-lap race. The third heat race that Franchitti won decided the top eight starting positions of the race. It was an impressive eight-car field, with all three Penske, all three Andretti Autosport, and both Target Chip Ganassi cars.
The heat races were 30 laps, and took about 11 minutes to complete. Though the racing was follow-the-leader for about 20 laps, it was still better than doing single-car two lap qualifying runs.
After the short rain delay, we were set for the green flag to start the race around 10:45 ET when Franchitti’s car began to smoke. His engine was gone before the race even started, and so too were his hopes of another championship. Helio Castroneves led the first 51 laps before James Hinchcliffe took the lead on lap 52. Trouble then found Will Power once again, as he got tangled with EJ Viso on lap 69. Power didn’t see Viso down low, and came down on him. To his credit, Power said he didn’t know Viso was there.
Luckily for Will, he only has one more oval race to run this year.
On lap 179, the second Penske bullet found the wall. Josef Newgarden tried to make a late pass underneath Ryan Briscoe, but there just wasn’t any room. Ryan was leading at the time of the incident. What looked like a great points night for Hinchcliffe turned sour on the next restart. He lost control of his GoDaddy machine, ending his race after running in the top five all night long. With Franchitti, Power, and Hinchcliffe all unable to finish the race, Scott Dixon looked ready to cash in.
A few drivers behind him had other ideas though. The two remaining Andretti cars got by him, and Kanaan got around him just before the final caution came out. With his fourth-place finish, he sits in third in the Championship, just 15 points behind Power.
Just as we said after Indy, Texas, and Milwaukee, the racing at Iowa was outstanding. There were a record number of passes, many of them for the lead. The side-by-side racing was still there, and the two grooves allowed passing on either side, making for great racing.
Next up for the IndyCar is a much deserved weekend off. The series hasn’t been idle since early May, before Indianapolis. The next race is the Honda Indy Toronto, set for Sunday, July 8. The race begins at 1:00 ET and can be seen live on ABC.