For the first time in four years, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is heading back to Iowa Speedway for an exciting short track Saturday afternoon of racing July 23.
The 12:15 p.m. (ET) race (live on Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network) is a part of the HyVee INDYCAR weekend July 23-24, when the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will host its only doubleheader of the season on the .875-mile oval.
The full Indy Lights field took to Iowa Speedway June 22 for an organizational test to prepare for the close-quarters action. Here are five takeaways from the test:
Andretti Picks Up Where It Left Off
The last time Indy Lights raced at Iowa Speedway, now NTT INDYCAR SERIES star Pato O’Ward drove to victory lane in a dominant performance.
He led all 100 laps in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport car. His fellow Andretti Autosport teammates, Colton Herta, Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett, all finished in the top five.
Fast forward to 2022, and all four Andretti Autosport cars were again dominant at Iowa Speedway, this time in the form of the 13-car test.
On the combined speed charts from the morning and afternoon sessions, rookie Christian Rasmussen topped the charts with a best lap of 161.630 mph in the No. 28 car. His three fellow Andretti Autosport teammates Hunter McElrea (No. 27), Matthew Brabham (No. 83) and Sting Ray Robb (No. 2) followed him in second, third and fourth.
Rasmussen led the morning session with that best lap, while fellow Andretti Autosport rookie McElrea topped the afternoon chart with a best lap of 160.832 mph. Brabham and Robb were close behind their younger teammates in both sessions.
Christian Rasmussen finally broke through and found victory lane two weekends ago at Road America for his first career Indy Lights win. The victory came after many instances of bad luck and misfortune that plagued the first half of his season.
Now that he’s broken the seal, Rasmussen was back on top of the charts Wednesday morning, one-tenth of a second quicker than teammate McElrea and almost a second and a half over the slowest in the field from the early morning hours.
His lap time of 19.9122 seconds around the short track was just shy of a second faster than the 13th fastest driver on the combined practice charts at the end of the day.
“Very happy being the overall fastest at my first ever test at Iowa,” said Rasmussen, the 2021 Indy Pro 2000 champion. “The Andretti cars looked really strong both in qualifying and race trim. I’m excited to bring the experiences we got to the race weekend later this year.
Brabham Leads Veterans
The fastest veteran Indy Lights driver at the test was Matthew Brabham, who posted the second-fastest time in the morning session and the third-fastest time in the afternoon.
On the combined charts, Brabham had the third-fastest speed at 160.639 mph in the No. 83 Andretti Autosport car.
Brabham competed in Indy Lights full-time in 2014 and returned for another full-time run this season. He won the season opener in St. Petersburg and is fifth in the standings.
When you factor in his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, Brabham has plenty of oval experience, which makes his speed no surprise.
In Indy Lights alone, Brabham has three oval starts. He finished second on the IMS oval, fourth at Pocono Raceway and second at Milwaukee, all in 2014. He finished 22nd in the 100th Indy 500 six years ago.
Moral of the story: Expect Brabham to be one to beat come July 23.
Could Iowa Play Pivotal Role in Championship?
Championship leader Linus Lundqvist drove his No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car to sixth on the combined practice charts Wednesday with a top speed of 159.444 mph.
Given Lundqvist’s domination of the 2022 season thus far, as he has won four of seven races this season and leads the championship by 82 points over Sting Ray Robb, his mid-pack speed was a little surprising.
Lundqvist has just two oval Indy Lights races under his belt from his rookie season last year. Both starts came at the doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway, where he finished ninth and fourth, respectively.
Now, this was just a test, so how much of what we saw Wednesday will translate to the actual race weekend is far from certain. However, if Lundqvist’s performance during the Iowa test is any indication, it could pose as an opportunity for Lundqvist’s championship contenders, like Robb and Benjamin Pedersen (third in points, 97 back), a chance to close the gap in the second half of the season.
Going Around in Circles
The summer race in Newton, Iowa, will be a 75-lap affair for Indy Lights. All 13 drivers in the field combined for 2,455 laps completed in the full day of testing.
Rookie Kyffin Simpson, who is a development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, completed the most laps on the .875-mile track. He logged 249 laps on the day in the No. 21 TJ Speed Motorsports car and was 10th fastest on the combined practice charts with a top speed of 157.534 mph.
For those counting, 249 laps is more than three times the length of this summer’s race.
Three other drivers eclipsed the 200-lap mark: Matthew Brabham at 221 laps, Linus Lundqvist at 216 laps and Jacob Abel at 207 laps. Rookie Christian Bogle completed the fewest laps, still turning more than a race’s worth at 121.