NEWTON, Iowa – The field is chasing Team Penske heading into Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300, but Alexander Rossi feels good about his chances for rival Andretti Autosport.
While Josef Newgarden paced practice Saturday evening for the 300-lap race at Iowa Speedway – a few hours after Will Power and Newgarden swept the front row in Verizon P1 Award qualifying for Team Penske – Rossi was second fastest in the final practice.
Newgarden’s top lap in the last practice was 176.772 mph in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden also led the first practice with a lap of 183.711 mph.
IOWA CORN 300: Practice 2 results; Combined practice results
Rossi, however, felt confident after running second in the evening session with a best lap of 176.271 mph in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.
“I think we have a really good car,” Rossi said. “We were disappointed to (qualify) fifth so that shows kind of the hope that we have for our performance. It was a good warmup for us. More than just the timesheets, I feel like we passed pretty much every car out there at one point or another.”
Rossi was quick to add that conditions in the early evening practice were better than what he expects in the midday sun during the race on Sunday.
“It’s a lot nicer conditions now than it’s going to be (in the race), so you’ve got to take everything with a grain of salt,” added Rossi, who, with teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, trails championship leader Scott Dixon by 45 points. “In general, I think Ryan and I have been pretty strong ever since we rolled off this morning, so hopefully we can carry that forward and take points away from Scott. I mean, that’s the main goal right now is to try and reel him in a little bit.”
Hunter-Reay was third in the final practice at 174.643 mph. He will start the race third in the No. 28 DHL Honda. Dixon was fourth in the final practice at 174.133 mph, and will start the race sixth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
The 22 drivers completed a total of 1,472 laps in the session. Most spent time working through traffic, testing out the high and low lanes on the 0.894-mile, high-banked oval and feeling the effects of the lower downforce produced by the 2018 car. Rossi is confident viewers are in for an exciting race.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about downforce and all this stuff,” the 2016 Indy 500 winner said. “Really, the downforce is fine as long as we have two lanes. I think that Iowa has done a great job kind of making sure that remains a possibility. … It’ll be a great show tomorrow.”
The lone incident of the final practice occurred when Simon Pagenaud’s car trailed a huge plume of smoke exiting Turn 2. Pagenaud was able to pull the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet safely off course.
“I guess we’ll see what happened, but we probably lost an engine,” said Pagenaud, who will start fourth on Sunday. “It’s great that we were able to qualify and put a good time in and it’s obviously the best time for (an engine issue) to happen. No question we’ll be in good shape with Team Chevy to turn the situation around.”
NBCSN will telecast the Iowa Corn 300 beginning at 2 p.m. ET Sunday. Radio coverage starts at the same time on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network that includes network affiliates, Sirius 217 and XM 209, and is also available on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.