Preview: 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Iowa Speedway

4 Mins read
Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

Things are continuing to heat up in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, as the teams and drivers head to Iowa Speedway this weekend for the eleventh round of the championship; the 2018 Iowa Corn 300. Including this weekend, only seven races remain until the champion will be crowned, with Scott Dixon currently holding a sizable advantage over his numerous rivals. Here is everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s event.

What happened in 2017 at Iowa Speedway?

As was the case in many races of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar SeriesTeam Penske put in a great performance in qualifying. Will Power put in a stunning lap right at the end of the session to take pole position, with a sizable advantage of three-tenths of a second over his nearest rival, JR Hildebrand in the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Power led early on in the race, but it soon became apparent that he did not quite have the pace of others around him. Hildebrand jumped Power later on in the race and led some laps for himself, but ultimately, it was Helio Castroneves who would get out front and stay out front.

Castroneves would go on to lead 217 of the 300 laps that made up the race distance, a dominant display from the Penske driver. The Brazilian veteran would take the chequered flag to win the race, with just under four seconds separating him from second-placed Hildebrand.

For Castroneves, it was a long-awaited return to victory circle, having endured a three-year winless streak up until that point. The win may well have been his last ever in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Helio being moved by Penske from a full-time IndyCar seat to a full-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship ride for 2018.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, a previous three-time victor at Iowa Speedway, defied a poor qualifying performance to finish in third place for Andretti Autosport. Pole-sitter Power would finish fourth, with Graham Rahal completing the top five.

You can read the reports from last year’s qualifying and race at Iowa by following the links below

What should I look out for this weekend?

With seven races remaining until the 2018 champion is crowned, every race from here on out could be crucial for the outcome of the season. Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon currently leads the championship with a big lead of forty-five points over second-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi.

Dixon will be hoping that he can keep his championship advantage as high as possible with a strong finish this weekend. However, Iowa Speedway remains one of the few tracks that Dixon has yet to win at in his Verizon IndyCar Series career. In eleven previous starts, he has only had two podium finishes.

On the other hand, Dixon’s nearest title rival, Hunter-Reay, has scored three victories at Iowa, the most of any active driver. He last won this race back in 2015, just before he began a near three-year winless streak. That streak was broken back in Detroit last month, with Hunter-Reay now on a run of great form that has seen him jump up toward the top of the standings. A fourth Iowa win this weekend would see Ryan eat into the advantage that Dixon currently holds, which could be important by the time the final race of the year comes around at Sonoma.

Alexander Rossi, too, currently sits forty-five points behind Dixon in the championship. The Californian driver, who led the way in the opening stages of the season, has had an unlucky run during the last few races. He has finished on the podium twice since his dominant win at Long Beach in April, but he has also had three finishes outside the top ten; including the last time-out at Road America when he suffered a puncture whilst running in the top five.

Rossi has raced at Iowa twice in his short IndyCar career, finishing sixth in 2016 and eleventh last year. He will be hoping to be contending for a win so he can try and come back toward the top of the standings. He will also hope to stay out of any trouble, having attracted criticism after the last race due to incidents with both Robert Wickens and Takuma Sato.

One final driver to keep an eye on will be Penske’s Will Power. The Australian is hoping to make a comeback for the second time this season. After a tough start to the season, Power rocketed up to the championship lead after winning the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500, but after two successive retirements in the last two races at Texas and Road America, he has slumped back to fifth place. Iowa has not always been a happy hunting ground for Will, who has finished on the podium just once in his eleven starts there, but a turnaround in fortunes this weekend could do wonders for his potential championship bid.

Taking a step back from the drivers, it will be interesting to see the kind of racing we see on-track at Iowa Speedway this weekend. Whilst the new-for-2018 universal aero-kit has been met mostly with praise, there have been some who have not been so happy with how it has affected the oval races, with drivers stating that it is harder to overtake now. With any luck, those issues will not come again this weekend, so that we can be treated to another exciting instalment of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar series.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Saturday 23 June

11:15 ET / 16:150 GMT – Practice one
15:30ET / 20:30 GMT – Qualifying
18:45ET / 23:45 GMT – Practice two

Sunday 24 June

14:40 ET / 19:40 GMT  – Race

Where can I watch the Iowa Corn 300?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to Iowa Speedway’s website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the races only. Race day coverage will start at 19:00 on BT Sport ESPN.

In the United States, television coverage for the race at Road America will be provided by NBCSN.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided for all via IndyCar’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

How can I keep up to date with all the race action?

If you cannot make it to Iowa for this weekend’s race, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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