The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will race its first doubleheader event on an oval since 2011 at the Iowa INDYCAR 250s Doubleheader on Friday and Saturday at Iowa Speedway.
Scott Dixon has won the three of the first four races of the 2020 season and his teammate Felix Rosenqvist won the other, giving Chip Ganassi Racing a four-race win streak heading into Iowa, where it won in 2008 and 2009. But Dixon has yet to win at Iowa Speedway despite starting on pole three times and recording 10 top-10 finishes, including second last season.
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The 23 drivers entered in the weekend’s doubleheader will compete in a compacted schedule. The two-day event will feature a 90-minute practice session at 2 p.m. (ET) Friday, followed by an NTT P1 Award qualifying session that will set the field for each of the 250-lap races.
Using a unique format, Lap 1 of each car’s two-lap run will set the field for Friday’s race (8:30 p.m. ET NBCSN), while Lap 2 will set the field for Saturday’s Race 2 (8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.) A one-hour final practice session precedes Saturday’s 250-lap race.
Here are "5 Things To Look For..." heading into this weekend’s Iowa INDYCAR 250s Doubleheader.
Racetrack of Dreams
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson asks farmer Ray Kinsella if he’s in heaven when he arrives in Iowa in the movie “Field of Dreams.”
“No. It’s Iowa.” Kinsella replies.
To some NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers, Iowa Speedway is heaven – including a pair of drivers trying to get back into championship picture.
Defending race winner Josef Newgarden of Team Penske just performs when it comes to “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet.”
Newgarden has finished in the top four in five of the last six races at Iowa and finished sixth 2017 for his only finish outside the top-five.
“We had such an awesome race there last year in the Hitachi Chevy, so I think we have a good shot to turn it back around with two shots for a win,” Newgarden said. “It’s just one of those places that tend to fit my driving style, so I always feel great racing there.”
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay also loves Iowa.
He has won at Iowa three times and finished on the podium in five of the last eight races. But after scoring top-three finishes for four straight seasons from 2012-2015, the Floridian has visited the podium just once since, in 2017.
“Night races at Iowa have always been some of the best INDYCAR racing, and the fans have always turned up to support us” Hunter-Reay said. “We’re looking forward to being back for two races under the lights and are really focused on getting the 28 DHL team back to winning. We’ll be fighting for win No. 4 on this short oval.”
The Scoop on ‘the Scoop’
After being tested on three cars in first practice last weekend at Road America, a modified version of the latest innovation to improve driver cooling in the cockpit will be used on all cars this weekend at Iowa Speedway. Each team has been given a new larger sample size ‘air scoop’ attachment, which must be used for practice, qualifying and the race.
The ‘air scoop,’ which attaches at the top of the Aeroscreen, is designed to increase airflow by accelerating trapped air in the cockpit.
“We’ve found that it’s not just the ambient temperature of the cockpit in conjunction to the outside temperature, it’s about air not moving inside of the cockpit,” said INDYCAR President Jay Frye. “This actually adds more airflow inside the cockpit.”
Teams will still be allowed to utilize an optional second helmet cooling duct and crew member to assist the driver at Iowa. Frye said development on the Aeroscreen and cooling ducts is ongoing, and the “air scoop” is still in development.
“We’re excited to see how it works, knowing that it won’t be the final product,” he said.
Penske Goes #8Wide This Weekend
The Iowa INDYCAR 250s are just part of a hectic weekend for Team Penske, which will see it compete with 13 drivers – including Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power – in eight races in various series across the globe.
This is the only time this year that all five racing teams that operate under the Team Penske banner will be in action on the same weekend - a remarkable fact considering the rescheduling of races across four different motorsports sanctioning bodies (INDYCAR, NASCAR, IMSA and Supercars) worldwide in reaction the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s a look at Team Penske’s weekend by the numbers:
5 – Racing series that Team Penske competes in
8 – Races being held this weekend
13 – Drivers that compete in cars fielded by Team Penske. They account for 256 of the team’s 556 wins (46.13 percent)
33.1 – Average age of Team Penske drivers racing the weekend
352 – Total number of tires that will be used by all teams in their races this weekend. That’s 88 sets.
24,582 – Miles covered by the 26 drivers in the 13 transporters that bring Team Penske’s equipment to each race venue.
39,010 – Air miles required to attend every race if you started at Team Penske’s headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina.
Iowa honors Kanaan, Castroneves
Two of the most popular drivers in the recent history of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will serve as the grand marshals for the Iowa INDYCAR 250s.
Tony Kanaan, the 2004 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, will be honored before Friday night’s 250-lap NTT INDYCAR SERIES race.
Kanaan, the 2010 Iowa race winner, will also deliver the most famous words in racing – “Drivers, start your engines” – from his car on the Iowa INDYCAR 250 starting grid as he gets ready to race the No. 14 Bryant/A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet in the first race of the doubleheader weekend.
“I have great memories of racing at Iowa Speedway, and they have awesome INDYCAR fans there,” said Kanaan. “This will be a special honor to be grand marshal for the Friday night race and help celebrate welcoming the fans back to Iowa Speedway this weekend.”
On Saturday night, 2017 Iowa Speedway NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winner Helio Castroneves will serve as grand marshal. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champ (2001, 2002, 2009) and winner of 30 series races over his distinguished career, Castroneves produced his most recent INDYCAR win three years ago at Iowa. He will share a special video message to the fans at Iowa Speedway and deliver the command for drivers to start their engines remotely as he will be competing in the IMSA sports car race in Sebring, Florida, this weekend.
“Iowa has some of the best fans in racing, and I always had so much fun there,” Castroneves said. “INDYCAR puts on a great show on the Iowa short oval, especially racing at night. Unfortunately, I can’t be there in person because we are racing at Sebring this weekend, but I want to thank all the fans for their support and it will be fun to deliver the command to start the race and think back on all the great moments I’ve had at Iowa Speedway.”
In addition to the two INDYCAR legends serving as grand marshals, there will be some other highlights off the track in pre-race ceremonies this weekend.
On Friday night, Danielle Bradbery, the 2013 winner of NBC’s “The Voice,” will perform the national anthem on a video displayed to the crowd before the first Iowa INDYCAR 250 race.
The daughters of NTT INDYCAR SERIES tech inspection official Sean McCormick, a native of Huxley, Iowa, and an officer with Des Moines Police Department, will perform prior to each race on Saturday at Iowa Speedway. “God Bless America” will be performed by 20-year-old Delaney McCormick just before the ARCA Menards Series Shore Lunch 150 race, while Madeleine McCormick, 24, will sing the national anthem prior to the start of the second Iowa INDYCAR 250 on Saturday night.
Back in the Saddle
Ed Carpenter finished fifth in his 2020 season debut in Texas and returns to the wheel of the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet after yielding the seat to Conor Daly for the road course events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Road America.
Carpenter will race in the colors of the U.S. Air Force that Daly uses for the road/street course races. And despite the layoff, he’s excited to pick up where he left off at Texas and hopefully claim his first gas pump trophy.
“Every year I get excited to race at Iowa,” he said. “It is such a cool racetrack with some of the best racing each season. Having a doubleheader this year is going to make it even better. I have been wanting to win this race for a long time, and I am determined to make it happen this year.”
Carpenter could be a good candidate for the win. In 12 previous starts at Iowa, Carpenter has finished in the top-10 six times. His team, meanwhile, has finished on the podium in three of the last four Iowa races.