Two opportunities for NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams to race are on the table this weekend in the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Weekend at Iowa Speedway, and with that comes:
- Two opportunities to gain on series leader Alex Palou;
- Two opportunities for Scott Dixon and Will Power to extend their streaks of races won in a season;
- Two opportunities for Josef Newgarden, the winner of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, to add to his near-perfect dominance on oval tracks over the past calendar year;
- Two opportunities for a winless driver to reach victory lane in this series.
The opportunities begin with Saturday’s Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart, the first of the two 250-lap races on the short oval. Airtime on NBC and Peacock is at 3 p.m. ET with the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning its coverage at 2:30 p.m. The weekend’s second race, the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade, is set for Sunday at 2 p.m. on the same outlets.
Much is at stake, beginning with these Five Things:
Palou’s Path to Another Title
If Alex Palou is to be denied his second series title in three years, significant gains need to be made by his rivals this weekend as nearly 30 percent of the season’s remaining points are offered.
Palou enters the weekend with a 117-point lead over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda). Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) is another nine points back in third place while CGR’s Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda) and Arrow McLaren Racing’s Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) are 142 and 143 points out of the lead, respectively. After that, it’s a long climb to the Astor Challenge Cup.
Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) remains in defense of last year’s series title, but he is 175 points out of the lead in eighth place. That might be too much to overcome in the final seven races.
Assuming Palou participates this weekend, as expected, the most any of his rivals can gain on him in these two races is 98 points. Thus, the Spaniard driving the No. 10 The American Legion Honda will still be the series leader heading to the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 6 in Nashville.
Newgarden’s Best Chances
Newgarden has won all but one of the five oval races held over the past 12 months, and the one he failed to win was last year’s second race at Iowa Speedway, when a mechanical failure sent his car into the Turn 4 wall after leading 148 of the first 234 laps.
Newgarden certainly is capable of having a big points weekend at this track, where he has won four series races (with two different teams) since 2016. In addition to these two races, Newgarden should also be considered the favorite to win the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline on Sunday, Aug. 27 at World Wide Technology Raceway. He won last year’s race at that track by leading 78 laps.
Newgarden won the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 2 before coming from behind late in the “500” to win May 28. While the two-time series champion has shown he can win at any venue on the schedule, the fact is this weekend’s races and the race at World Wide Technology Raceway represent his best remaining chances this season.
Interestingly, Newgarden is one of only four drivers who have won series races at Iowa Speedway. Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 20 Bitnile.com Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing) has won three times with Helio Castroneves (No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing) and O’Ward winning once each.
Dixon, Power Still Seeking No. 1
Difficult as it is to believe, Dixon and Power remain in pursuit of their first wins of the season.
Dixon holds the series records for most consecutive winning seasons (18) and most winning seasons overall (20). Power’s streak of 16 consecutive seasons with a race win is second all time.
Both drivers are familiar with going deep into the year before winning, and then they often win a lot. In 2007, Dixon won the season’s 10th race, then made it a three-peat to win four in seven starts. In 2013, he got similarly hot beginning with the 11th race, winning three in succession and four in seven starts. In 2014, he won his first race of the season in the 15th start as part of two wins in the final four races.
Power also has finished several seasons with a bang. His first win of the 2013 season didn’t come until the 15th race, and he packaged that in a stretch that featured three wins in the year’s final five races. In 2014, the win in the 14th race was part of his two in the final four races. He did something similar in 2020 by winning two of the final five races.
Perhaps more surprising is Power’s lack of NTT P1 Awards this season. He leads the sport with 68 career poles, including at least one each year since 2009. But only one other year, in 2021, has he gone this deep into the season before earning one. That year, it was the 13th race. Part of that streak is tied to winning a record nine poles in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which is often the first race of the year.
The good news for Power’s pole pursuit: He was the fastest qualifier for both Iowa Speedway races last year, part of his four poles in the season’s final seven races.
Like last year, qualifying will be held at 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday (Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network), with each driver getting two green-flag laps in the session. The driver’s time posted for the first lap will set the starting position for Race 1; the time posted for the second lap will determine alignment for Race 2.
O’Ward, Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda) and Alexander Rossi (No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) are the other race winners from last year still seeking their first win of this season.
Who’s Next to Victory Lane?
Christian Lundgaard’s victory in last weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto pushed the series’ total number of active drivers competing this weekend who have won races in this series to 17.
Lundgaard (No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) is the second first-time winner this season. Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood (No. 27 AutoNation Honda) won the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16.
So, who’s next among potential first-time series race winners?
Conor Daly, who is replacing Simon Pagenaud in Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda, has produced some of the best performances of his career at Iowa Speedway, particularly in qualifying. He won the pole and finished eighth in Race 1 of 2020 for Carlin, then qualified third in that weekend’s second race. He qualified in the third position for both last year’s races in an Ed Carpenter Racing entry.
Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean (No. 28 DHL Honda) finished seventh and ninth in last year’s Iowa races. David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda for Dale Coyne Racing w/ HMD) finished eighth in last year’s second race and chased Newgarden to the checkered flag to finish second at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott (No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet) finished 12th and 11th in last year’s Iowa races.
Honda on the Charge for Now
Led by Palou, Honda-powered drivers have won the past four races and seven of the season’s 10 races with four different drivers (Ericsson, Kirkwood, Palou and Lundgaard).
Honda drivers took the top four finishing positions in last weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place, and they finished first and second in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2023 Accord Hybrid. Honda is riding a four-race winning streak.
Chevrolet will look to change things up this weekend, as its drivers took top honors last year at Iowa Speedway, with Newgarden and O’Ward winning the races. Chevrolet also swept the top four positions in Race 1 and the top three in Race 2.
The field has three changes from last week in Toronto: In addition to Daly, Ed Carpenter (No. 33 Bitnile.com Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing) and Takuma Sato (No. 11 Deloitte Honda for CGR) continue their oval-only schedules this season.