PREVIEW: 2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Iowa

by Jordan Groves

This weekend, the NTT IndyCar Series goes from the tricky streets of Toronto to the short track oval of Iowa Speedway for the 2019 Iowa 300 night race. Just six races remain until the 2019 champion is crowned, with just four points separating championship-leader Josef Newgarden from his closest rival, Alexander Rossi. Here is everything you need to know ahead of this Saturday’s race.

What happened in 2018 at Iowa?

A superb run in qualifying saw Team Penske‘s Will Power claim pole position for last year’s race at Iowa Speedway. His two-lap combined time of 35.2913-seconds was over two tenths faster than his nearest rival and team-mate, Josef Newgarden.

Power would lead the initial stages of the race when the green flag flew, but Newgarden looked to have the better car in traffic. Josef would work his way into the lead and looked to be on course for a crushing victory as he began to lap drivers who were running inside the top ten.

The race turned on its head just after the halfway point, when Zach Veach hit the wall and bought out a caution. At the restart, just the top ten drivers were on the lead lap, but the likes of Spencer Pigot and James Hinchcliffe looked to have the speed to do something about Newgarden.

Hinchcliffe soon passed Pigot to move into second place but would fall back behind the Ed Carpenter Racing driver after the final pit-stops. However, Hinchcliffe looked massively fast after the pit-stop. He would breeze past Pigot to re-take second and would soon storm his way up to the back of Newgarden who was being held up by lapped cars. Hinchcliffe would soon take the lead of the race, but a caution with just seven laps remaining threatened to throw another spanner in the works.

With the caution coming out so late, it looked as though the race would be decided with a one or two-lap shootout. Hinchcliffe was left with a choice. He could pit for fresh tyres but risk being stuck behind anybody that stays out, or he could stay out and risk being at the mercy of faster cars behind on much fresher tyres.

Hinchcliffe’s team elected to leave him out on the racetrack, whilst second-placed Newgarden and the now third-placed Robert Wickens pitted for fresh tyres. The pair would fall back to fourth and fifth place after their stops, but the race would ultimately not be restarted, with the remaining laps being completed behind the pace car.

As a result, Hinchcliffe would cross the line to take the victory, his first of the 2018 season. After having gone through the agonising pain of failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 a few months prior, the win was a much needed shot in the arm for both James and his team. Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato would be promoted to the podium, with Newgarden and Wickens completing the top five but frustrated to have given away podium positions.

You can read the full race reports from last year’s race at Iowa by following the link below: 

Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher / Courtesy of IndyCar

What should I look out for this weekend?

With just six races remaining in the 2019 season, the main focus this weekend will undoubtedly be on the main championship contenders. Josef Newgarden continues to lead the standings, but his closest rival, Alexander Rossi, is now closer than ever after having trimmed Josef’s advantage down to just four points.

Newgarden has had the better fortune at Iowa Speedway in previous seasons, having taken a win at the speedway back in 2016 whilst racing for Ed Carpenter Racing. Rossi, on the other hand, has only finished as high as sixth in his previous three starts at the speedway. Rossi will be hoping to at least outscore Newgarden this weekend so that he potentially take the lead of the championship heading into the next race at Mid-Ohio; where he dominated last season.

Last weekend in Toronto, Penske’s Simon Pagenaud put his name back into the championship fight. The Frenchman won the race in Canada to put himself thirty-nine points away from the top of the standings. Simon has shown great speed on the ovals so far this season, having memorably won the Indianapolis 500 in May before going on to finish sixth at Texas Motor Speedway last month.

Pagenaud has never finished on the podium at Iowa but has finished in the top five in two occasions. He’ll be hoping to break into the top three this weekend to try and further trim the gap to the top two in the standings.

With only six races remaining until the champion is crowned, time is rapidly running out for any other driver to break into the potential three-way battle for the title. Reigning champion, Scott Dixon, sits almost one hundred points off of Newgarden in the standings and will be wanting to finally take a win at Iowa Speedway to put himself in contention to defend his crown.

Similarly, Will Power will be hoping to finally turn around his fortunes and get his 2019 season back on track. Four finishes outside of the top ten so far this season have left him a long way adrift in fifth-place in the standings, but a well-timed return to form could see the Australian sneak his way back into the fight.

The fight for rookie of the year honours is perhaps just as intense as the fight for the title itself. Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist currently leads the way with a sixteen point advantage over Santino Ferrucci, but Felix has not gotten to grips with oval racing so far this season.

By contrast, Ferrucci’s best races this year have been on ovals, with the Dale Coyne Racing driver having finished in seventh place at the Indy 500 and in fourth place at Texas. Colton Herta, too, could put himself back in the hunt based on his prior experience racing on ovals in Indy Lights. Either way, it will be fascinating to see which of the young guns comes out on top.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 19 July

11:00 ET / 16:00 GMT – Practice one
14:00 ET / 19:00 GMT – Qualifying
19:00 ET / 00:00 GMT (Saturday) – Practice two

Saturday 20 July

19:00 ET / 00:00 GMT (Sunday) – Race

Where can I watch the 2019 Iowa 300?

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

As a part of the IndyCar’s UK coverage deal, both qualifying and the race will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, television coverage for the Iowa 300 will be shown on NBC Sports.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided in the United States by NBC Sports Gold.

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 this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions.

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

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