Saturday, July 20, 2024

PREVIEW: 2023 IndyCar Series – Iowa Doubleheader

This weekend, the IndyCar Series heads to Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa for the sole doubleheader of the season. Over 100 championship points are up for grabs in Saturday’s Hy-Vee Homefront 250 and Sunday’s Hy-Vee One Step 250.

Christian Lundgaard grabbed his first career IndyCar win from the pole last weekend in Toronto, making it the first race since the Indianapolis 500 to not be won by Alex Palou. However, the Spaniard finished runner-up behind Lundgaard, extending his ever-growing championship lead from 110 to 117 over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon.

Team Penske has dominated the 7/8-mile oval in recent years, taking five of the past seven races at the track dating back to 2017. Josef Newgarden captured the first race in 2022 and was 65 laps from becoming the first driver to sweep the doubleheader before a mechanical issue sent him crashing into the outside wall, ending his race and giving the win to Pato O’Ward. Newgarden has reigned supreme on the ovals as of late, capturing the last three oval races, dating back to Gateway last August and stretching to Indianapolis in May.

With just seven races to go in the 2023 IndyCar season, things are heating up on the track. Read on for everything you need to know for this weekend’s action in the Hawkeye State.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

A Lap Around Iowa Speedway

Opening in 2006 just under 40 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa Speedway has played host to IndyCar action since the initial race at the track in 2007, save for one year. Located just south of the city of Newton, the track brands itself as “The Fastest Short Track on The Planet” and is the first IndyCar circuit measuring under a mile in length since Richmond Raceway in 2009. Josef Newgarden has won at Iowa more than any other driver with four victories, including two of the last three races at the track.

A lap around Iowa starts on the banked front stretch of the D-shaped oval. Banked at 10 degrees, the front stretch brings drivers across the start/finish line and dives into the notoriously bumpy Turns 1 and 2. Banked progressively from 12-14 degrees, the first two turns feature multiple grooves for side-by-side racing before spitting drivers onto the relatively flat back stretch. At just under 1/5th of a mile, the back stretch doesn’t give drivers much time to prepare for Turns 3 and 4, which are nearly identical to Turns 1 and 2. After that, it is just a short drive back to the start/finish line to complete one lap at Iowa Speedway.

3 Things to Watch For

A Unique Qualifying Format

With two races in one weekend, the qualifying at Iowa works differently than any other event on the IndyCar calendar. Qualifying takes place on Saturday morning, and instead of having two separate sessions, each driver qualifies over two laps, with the average speed of the first lap deciding the starting order for the first race on Saturday, and the average speed of the second lap deciding the order for the second, held on Sunday afternoon.

Palou’s Electric Run Heads to the Midwest

Alex Palou’s streak victorious streak ended with Christian Lundgaard’s maiden IndyCar victory in Toronto, but the Spaniard did the next best thing by coming home in second. The 2021 series champion now takes a 117-point lead in the points standings to Iowa where he has one top ten finish in just four races.

Daly back in the #60 for Pagenaud

Meyer Shank Racing confirmed Tuesday morning that Conor Daly would fill in for Simon Pagenaud this weekend as the Frenchman continues to recover from a bizarre incident at Mid-Ohio earlier this month. Daly, who parted ways with Ed Carpenter Racing in early June, has qualified within the top three at Iowa in his last four starts at Iowa including winning the pole at the first race of the 2020 doubleheader.

Weekend Schedule and How to Watch

Practice: Friday, 7/21 – 4:30 p.m. EST/8:30 p.m. GMT on Peacock/Sky Sports F1

Qualifying: Saturday, 7/22 – 9:30 a.m. EST/1:30 p.m. GMT on Peacock/Sky Sports F1

Hy-Vee Homefront 250 (250 laps, 223.50 miles): Saturday, 7/22 – 3:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. GMT on NBC/Sky Sports F1 (Green flag at 3:05/7:05)

Hy-Vee One Step 250 (250 laps, 223.50 miles): Sunday, 7/23 – 2:00 p.m. EST/6:00 p.m. GMT on NBC/Sky Sports F1 (Green flag at 2:30/6:30)

Follow Along with the Action

You can keep tabs on all of the weekend’s action by following @gabe_perrin and @thecheckerflag on Twitter.