The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the bullring known as Iowa Speedway this weekend, for the Iowa Corn 300. Track conditions for qualifying improved as the day went on, and Will Power earned pole position as he was the last one out to qualify. It is the 48th career pole for Power, and his fourth this season. The two-lap average for Power was 185.210 mph, as only three other cars were even able to crack the 183 mph barrier on Saturday.
Just narrowly missing out on his first career pole was JR Hildebrand. It was an eventful day for the Californian, as he lost control of his ECR machine in the first practice session, making contact with the outside wall. The crew was able to get the car repaired, and he held the top spot throughout qualifying until Power made the final run. The front row is a Penske/ECR pairing, and so too is the second row. Helio Castroneves starts on the inside, with Ed Carpenter alongside him. Row 3 featured the first Honda cars, driven by Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato, and SPM driver Mikhail Aleshin. Tony Kanaan, Ed Jones, James Hinchcliffe, and Graham Rahal rounded out the top ten qualifiers.
Qualification Results for the Iowa Corn 300
Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi share Row 11, and aren’t the only big names starting back in the pack on Sunday. Ryan Hunter-Reay has won three of the last five races here, but will start 15th tomorrow. Josef Newgarden’s last three finishes at Iowa are 2nd, 2nd, and 1st, but he will start from 16th. Behind him in 17th is points leader Scott Dixon.
Carlos Munoz spun during his qualifying run, and will start last on Sunday. Marco Andretti has finished on the podium in four of his first six races at Iowa, including his win in 2011. He had major issues during qualifying, and will be starting 20th tomorrow. The good news is they appear to have a solution in the works.
There is some good news for those contenders starting near the rear of the field. Three of the ten IndyCar races at Iowa have been won by a driver starting outside of the top 12, and no driver has ever won the race from pole position. If Power is able to break that streak, he will also give Roger Penske his first win on this short oval.
The race distance is 300 laps, which is 268.2 miles around the 0.894-mile oval. Pagenaud earned pole position for last year’s race, and Newgarden is the defending race winner.
There will be one final 30-minute practice session at 7:15 ET, where teams and drivers will be able to prepare for the race. Coverage for the Iowa Corn 300 begins at 5 PM ET tomorrow on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “That was a bit of a scary ride. I don’t know if it was the different kind of rubber laid down by the other series or what, but the Menards Chevy was a little loose. That can happen when you go out first. You’re just never really sure what you’re going to get. I’m not worried about anything though. I know the car is strong. My teammates that went out later in the session had good runs, so we’ll just need to work through some traffic to get to the front. There’s a lot of laps in this race, so there’s time to get there.”
Josef Newgarden: “With the order, Simon (Pagenaud) and I were guinea pigs. The track was a little slick and the Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet was loose, but I’m really confident we’ll be good for the race. This was all about timing and having to go out third. I’m very excited to have Fitzgerald on board since that is who was on the car when I got my first Team Penske win at Barber back in April. I’m looking forward to a great race tomorrow. We just need to pass a bunch of people.”
Conor Daly: “We made a lot of changes to be closer to Carlos’ (Munoz) setup from the first practice, so the car was a lot different for me in qualifying. I didn’t want to take too big of swing at it, too big of chance. I think we improved the balance, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, and I think we were a little bit light on downforce for the conditions because the car was definitely sliding around and was difficult to drive. We’re making progress, it was difficult for everyone.”
James Hinchcliffe: “For two laps of a 7/8-mile oval, it’s amazing how out of breath you are qualifying here in these conditions. It was really loose for us in the Arrow car – just trying to battle that and trying to keep your foot on the throttle as much as you could. Luckily we were able to help Mikhail (Aleshin) a little bit and give him a heads up. This isn’t our best type of track, so for the two of us to be ahead of some of the Ganassi and Penske cars, that’s a good start.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “I’m happy with our run; the No. 7 Lucas Oil car did a pretty good job. Qualifying isn’t everything on an oval, but it’s nice to have some speed within our Honda group, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Max Chilton: “This whole year we’ve been improving with the Gallagher car. I like to get in a car, drive it and get up to speed, but it takes that first year. Then the second year I think we can get some good results and show some pace. Then the third year is when you get after it and can really do the business. It’s a disappointing result overall today because we qualified a career-best fourth here last year. We just don’t have the package here, but I felt I got the most out of what we had. The increase in temperature didn’t help during our run, but we can definitely have a good shot at the race tomorrow.”
Scott Dixon: “We didn’t have much running time today here at Iowa. And then we had a 20-minute penalty to serve from Road America, which turned into a 25-minute penalty for us. Definitely a tough day when you lose that much running time in one day. We didn’t have any testing here, and I think we expected the track to not degrade as much with the track temps and ambient coming up a bit. But it was just all over the place on my run. Not a whole lot of grip and we were all over the place in the No. 9 NTT Data car unfortunately.”
Tony Kanaan: “That first lap was a hell of a lap. I actually got sideways between Turns 1 and 2, but was able to catch it. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle here with the aero package, but with six of the top-10 qualifying spots being Honda I think we showed it’s not going to be one-sided tomorrow night. The No. 10 NTT Data Honda is good in race trim, so I think we’re going to be competitive and be able to make some moves toward the front tomorrow night.”
Will Power: “I was a little worried when I saw my teammates’ data and the gear trace; they were turning more right than left. But when Helio (Castroneves) went, who had a similar car to me, I thought, ‘The track’s coming in,’ and it seemed like people got more and more consistent, so I thought — I actually didn’t even know what speeds JR (Hildebrand) was on, but I did my absolute best. Very happy to start up front. Obviously around short track racing, pole is more important for the next race and good position than it is track position here. You’ve got to be very good in traffic, so we’ve got our eye on that and focusing pretty hard on that.”
Carlos Munoz: “It was super slippery and I lost the rear end of the car and impacted the rear wing. I don’t think the car is that damaged, so it shouldn’t be a lot of work to fix. I had a little understeer, but then the rear end went loose. The lap times are much slower than this morning and it’s not like we were super-trimmed, but it’s a shame. This track, if you have a good car you can go to the front.”
Graham Rahal: “I’m disappointed because I think we had a quicker car than that. We just lost the balance a little bit in qualifying, but the GEHL boys will continue to work hard to give us the best race car they can. We didn’t get a lot of running in this morning in race trim, so hopefully we will be able to do that tonight. It’s not that the car was bad, but I know we had better than that. The balance changed a lot over the run. It looks like we ran more trimmed than most guys, but we wanted to take a swing for the fences.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “Obviously I was finding my way through the run with all the tools in the car. I hope that my experience here can take me further on for the race tomorrow and the next oval as well.”
Ed Jones: “It was a good qualifying session. The track changed a lot from the morning practice, so it was very difficult to drive out there. I think a lot of people struggled, but the engineers did a good job deciding what to do with the car and we were able to end up eighth. Now we just need to make some changes to make the car competitive for the race run and hopefully we can get another good result.” (About how difficult it is to go out and qualify here with such short laps): “You just have to rehearse it in your mind before you go out there so you know exactly what to do because it happens so quickly. It’s a lot of fun, you come out and your shaking a bit because it’s pretty extreme.”
Ed Carpenter: “It was tricky. I think you’re seeing from everyone that it’s a lot different out there from how we practiced earlier. Especially those early guys getting caught out by it, there just wasn’t the same grip. I messed up trying to adjust it and got big loose in Turn 4. It hurt my second lap; I thought it was going to be a pretty good lap. It has been a weird day. JR (Hildebrand) had an accident, now he’s sitting in a pretty good spot for tomorrow. We went a little conservative with him coming off the accident, but when I saw him go out I thought it might be a pretty good just based on the way the conditions were. Both ECR cars are strong and it’s good to see some Chevys up front. We’ll work on having a good practice tonight and be ready to go tomorrow.”
JR Hildebrand: “So much credit to the team for giving me something I could be confident in out there. The first lap back out after the accident and we gotta go qualify the thing! After we crashed in Texas, the guys put the car back together without setting it up on the set up pad. We went back out in the middle of that race and it felt perfect, right on the money, so I will never question the guys getting the car back together again! The Fuzzy’s Vodka boys just did a great job. I feel good about where we qualified, obviously I would have liked to get the pole but I’m happy to be starting on the front row.”
Takuma Sato: “This is a good result for the No. 26 team. Qualifying had tricky conditions – (qualifying was) a lot warmer than the practice earlier today and my teammates who qualified before me had tough runs. We saw their data and tried to learn from (their runs) and make the most of ours. I think we really did a great job pulling things together. Qualifying fifth is really good.”
Marco Andretti: “We looked good in practice and ended up the top Honda this morning, but then something went wrong for us in qualifying. Our starting position is not showing our potential and that’s disappointing. We need to figure out what went wrong and fix things for tomorrow. Luckily we have another practice tonight to work on it.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We’re just missing speed. I don’t get it really. This morning in practice we did the same trim stuff that our teammates did and the speed just wouldn’t come with it, and then again in qualifying – we just aren’t getting the speeds we should be. We’re just not sure what’s going on, but we’ll put our heads together in final practice and overnight to see what we can do. Our goal is to get the DHL car into victory lane for a fourth time here in Iowa.”
Charlie Kimball: “It was a little different outcome than what we were expecting from the No. 83 car today in qualifying. The track was reasonably good this morning and then we went out this afternoon for qualifying and it had definitely gotten hotter and more slippery. A couple of the other series have run and put some different rubber down. We chased balance and grip a little bit. I’m disappointed in our qualifying effort and I think the car is definitely better in race trim than that. I guess the bright side is that bodes well for tonight’s practice and the race tomorrow.”
Alexander Rossi: “It was a pretty greasy qualifying run. I don’t know whether it was the temperatures or the lack of support rubber on track, but I feel like our car had a lot more in it than 12th. Drawing an early qualifying number is never ideal, so that didn’t help us either. It’s a pretty tight field for the most part, so we’ll just have to see what tomorrow holds for the race.”