Chip Ganassi Racing flexed their muscle on Friday, as Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon were the fastest drivers in both practice sessions at Iowa Speedway. Kanaan led both sessions, with a best lap of 17.7544 seconds in Practice 2. Dixon was behind that by just 0.0043 seconds. Kanaan is no stranger to the 7/8 mile oval, having finished on the podium in each of the last five races here, which includes a win in 2010. Dixon has never won here, but he has started on Pole three times, and has finished in the top six in six of the eight races.
Ganassi has won two of the eight Verizon IndyCar Series races at Iowa, back in 2008 and 2009 with Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti. Their next victory will be number 100 for the boss, Chip Ganassi.
Andretti Autosport has won the last five races here though, and the defending race winner – Ryan Hunter-Reay – looked strong on Friday. Though he has had a dismal season, this could be Ryan’s best opportunity to snap out of his funk. He was third fastest in the first practice session, and 12th during Practice 2. He was the fastest Honda in each session, and is looking to keep Andretti’s winning streak alive at Iowa.
Team Penske had a solid day, with championship leader Juan Montoya sixth fastest in the first session, and fifth fastest in the second. Defending series champion Will Power was 14th and third, while Simon Pagenaud was tenth and fourth. Helio Castroneves was eighth fastest in both sessions.
Ryan Briscoe struggled on Friday, ending up 23rd and 24th (last) on the charts. He has typically run very well at Iowa, but he noted they didn’t really work on any qualifying setup. In his first four races here, he finished seventh, second, fourth, and sixth while driving for Roger Penske. Last year he started fourth and finished ninth driving for Ganassi.
Next up will be qualifying for the Iowa Corn 300, which begins at 4 PM ET on Saturday. Coverage for the race will begin four hours later at 8 PM on NBCSN.
Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy ran strong today. We didn’t get much traffic running. It’s hard to tell where we are at and it’s obviously good by itself, but with all this downforce it would be. But we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s qualifying and with temperature dropping, it should make for some interesting results.”
Juan Montoya: “Very hot today behind the wheel of the Verizon Chevy, but was a good day for us. We learned a lot in the first practice session and were able to make good adjustments for the second one. I was happy with the way we finished the day. The top cars are all very close together on time. The cars behave way different than what we have been used to in the past, even just from this past weekend in Milwaukee. But it’s the same for everyone.”
Helio Castroneves: “The track is fast, but the temperature is much more humid than anything we have dealt with this year. The new aero kit behaves very different from what we’ve had here before. We tried a lot of things today, to be honest. Now it’s time to get together with my Team Penske teammates to see what they found out with their cars, but the Hitachi Chevy is consistent and strong enough to have a good result tomorrow night.”
Ryan Briscoe: “We never got to do a qualifying simulation run. We were going to do it at the end of the session and just didn’t even attempt one because we ran out of time. We felt like we should just focus on the race setup for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car so as far as lap times go, I think we should be decent, and up there with some of the better Hondas. We were just really trying to work on our race prep and hopefully it will pay off in the race tomorrow.”
James Jakes: “It was a frustrating session, really. It seems like the Chevys have quite an edge right now, which is disappointing because we were very quick last weekend. We were two of the quickest cars in the field at Milwaukee, but the No. 7 MediaTech Oculus guys will continue to work hard tonight and see where we end up tomorrow. I think we can still have a strong weekend but it’s going to be tough.”
Sage Karam: “I think we struggled a bit getting the balance of the car where we needed it in practice. The track is bumpy and I had to rely on my teammates’ feedback after the first session to get the car working more how I like it. I love racing here at Iowa. All four cars here are fast and the race should be good tomorrow night for us. I learned a lot today and think we will be looking good for tomorrow night.”
Scott Dixon: “I’m pretty happy so far. We unloaded fast off the truck in the Target car. (Tony Kanaan) and I were fast here last year, but we got beat by others on a tire gamble late in that race. Overall the car is good and I’m looking forward to qualifying and the race tomorrow night.”
Tony Kanaan: “I think the No. 10 Fusion Chevrolet is where it needs to be heading into qualifying tomorrow. The second practice we were able to work through some things we found in the first practice and we worked on a few qualifying runs. These short ovals are where I’m strongest, so I’m hoping we can get our first win of the season tomorrow night.”
Takuma Sato: “Very hot day. Not an easy day because we are struggling with the grip and balance so we’re not fast. The aero package is totally different from last year. We have more downforce so we went faster but so has everyone else. To optimize the package isn’t easy and we need to work on it tonight.”
Graham Rahal: “All in all I think it was a decent session. Obviously we have some catching up to do. Our car’s strength is the long run. It seems very consistent. This weekend is reminding me a bit of Fontana in that we just seem to be lacking the qualifying sort of speed but over the long run the car feels really good so we’re going to keep working at it and keep plugging away. Our strength this season has been keeping the rears (tires) underneath us over the stint. I hope that plays out because we need it. We need to have a good day. We can’t have a bad one anymore. This team has been doing a heck of a job. We’ll keep working hard and hope it goes our way. Obviously in the race when the sun goes down it will be different conditions so we’ll see what happens.”
Ed Carpenter: “It was a pretty good day. We made quite a few changes and tried quite a few things. We were ninth in both sessions. I think we are better than that, but you always think you’re better than you are. I feel better here than Milwaukee, but it’s tricky. When you’re running by yourself versus when you’re in traffic is very different. I think qualifying is going to be critical, getting it right is going to be hard since the conditions are going to be different. Definitely a lot of pressure to qualify well, that will go a long way for the race.”
Simon Pagenaud: “The Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet is quite good this weekend and we feel consistent on the race run after both practices. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen with the new Chevy aero kit as we don’t get much testing, so we’re still trying to understand some things. But we were able to have a very strong pace out there today. With it being a night race tomorrow, it’ll be a different forecast with the temperature dropping, but it will be great for the fans and we’re looking forward to it.”
Justin Wilson: “I’m really pleased with the way the car feels – it’s driving well, can change lanes and run all over the track. We have to find a little bit more speed, but it’s definitely in the ballpark to be a challenger. Now it’s just a case of putting it all together and getting ready for qualifying and (we’ll) see what happens.”
Carlos Munoz: “For sure another hard day. We just seem off the pace. I think we ended up better than where we started today. We have to do our best tomorrow. Qualifying is what it is, but in the race you have to have a good car, so we’ll see what we have tomorrow and get past these two tough tracks (Milwaukee and Iowa).”
Marco Andretti: “We ended our day pretty good actually. I thought we got the front working well and the rear is good and solid, so I’m pretty pleased with the race car. We haven’t really been focusing on qualifying, which has been a trend for us; I think it’s boded well for us in the races. In my opinion, you have to start mid-pack or forward to not risk going a lap down, but if you have a good car you should be able to march forward pretty quickly.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had a pretty good day in the No. 28 DHL. P3 in the first session which was a highlight of the day, and we felt pretty racy that session. In the second session we got kind of behind on timing, but ended up as top Honda. We feel decent. It’s just going to be tough. Right now we just feel like we’re overcoming a deficit even on a perfect lap.”
Jack Hawksworth: “The car felt pretty good. I was actually happy with the balance and grip. I think we have to look at downforce levels for tomorrow and try to improve the rear of the car for qualifying and I think we should be in pretty good shape. Overall in that session the car gave me a good feeling and although it doesn’t look great in the times, it felt pretty good so I’m pretty optimistic for tomorrow.”
Josef Newgarden: Iowa is a tough track. It is super fun though. I think it’s one of the most high-speed places that we go as far as the way the banking works here and how tight of a course it is. You’re flying. You don’t go this fast this short of a place anywhere else. Iowa is one of the best. You definitely want to have a car you’re comfortable with, if you don’t you’re going to have a long night. As far as the No. 67 Wichita State University Chevrolet, we had an OK day. We have a good idea for tomorrow. We just have to stay on top of it. It’s very important that we qualify well and hang on to it for the race. We’ll see what we have tomorrow night!”
Charlie Kimball: “Overall I feel pretty good with where the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet is after two practices today. I feel like we made a lot of progress throughout the two practice sessions. All four of the Chip Ganassi Racing Team cars are strong this weekend and our stable is definitely competitive leading into tomorrow’s race. It’ll be interesting tomorrow with having our first on-track run being qualifying, but we’ll get it done and hopefully start tomorrow’s night race in good position.”
Highlights from Friday’s action at Iowa Speedway can be seen below, courtesy of IndyCar.
Practice Photos via IndyCar