The 7/8 mile Iowa Speedway is the last true oval race on the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Pocono is a triangle, and Iowa resembles that of an egg. Perhaps more fitting, it can be described as a goose egg – which can also be used to describe the number of wins Roger Penske has totaled at the track.
He aims to change that this Saturday, when the lights and the engines are turned on in Newton, Iowa.
The Captain knows where to find Victory Lane at the popular track. as he’s had success in stock cars, but never has captured the checkered flag with one of his dominant open-wheel entries. Despite having some incredibly talented drivers in those seats, the win simply hasn’t materialized yet. Looking at his four-car lineup this year, it would seem this could be his best chance at ending this particular drought.
Juan Montoya is the championship points leader, and has led the way the entire season after winning the season-opening race at St. Petersburg. Last year he crashed with just 20 laps remaining in the event at Iowa. Judging by his performances this season, most people would agree that he is arguably Roger’s best bullet this weekend. He has an average finish of 5.5 though the first 12 races this season, including his two wins. He’s been particularly strong on the ovals, winning at Indianapolis, and placing just off the podium in fourth at Texas, Fontana, and Milwaukee.
Last year’s champion Will Power has improved on the ovals, but he finds himself in a bit of a slump. The last two races have seen the Australian be collected in a crash with another car, resulting in two of his three DNFs in 2015. He won the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, but his history at Iowa is not promising at all.
Power’s last four races at Iowa Speedway have seen him finish 21st, 23rd, 17th, and 14th. He has started from pole twice at Iowa, but the pole winner has never won the race at the track. Put simply: if he wants to have any sort of chance to repeat as champion this season, he’s going to have to finish at the front on Saturday night.
As odd as it may sound, Helio Castroneves might actually be the dark horse for Team Penske this weekend. After his incredible run at Milwaukee last week where he finished in second after starting last (24th), he is riding a nice wave of momentum. Looking at his eight races at Iowa, he doesn’t have a DNF, and his average finish is 7.5 with four front-row starts. The Brazilian is still winless this season, though, and currently sits in third place in the standings. The stars just might finally align for Helio in Iowa this year.
Obviously this is the first time Simon Pagenaud will be driving for Roger at Iowa. In three starts with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports though, he finished fifth, sixth, and 11th respectively. He has completed all 800 laps in those races, and, just like his veteran teammate, he too is searching for his fist win this season. To say it would get the monkey off his back would be a massive understatement.
Penske also had the services of Ryan Briscoe for five races here, which netted good results. He finished seventh, second, fourth, and sixth in the first five races before suffering a crash in the 2012 race. The problem for Roger is the dominance of Andretti Autosport at Iowa Speedway. Michael Andretti’s team has won the last five races at the track, and six of the eight that the series has completed, with the remaining two seeing Chip Ganassi Racing entries be victorious.
If The Captain is going to end that streak and end his drought here, he is going to have to beat the best. Fortunately for him though, he has plenty of experience doing just that.