Iowa is filled with corn, but tonight it was oozing with drama. There was plenty to go around at Iowa Speedway, where Ryan Hunter-Reay ended his drought, and finally returned to victory lane. It’s the 15th career win for Hunter-Reay, and his first since winning this race last year. He has won three of the last four races at Iowa, and his team, Andretti Autosport, has now won the last six races here, and seven of the nine overall.
Josef Newgarden continued his impressive season, finishing in second behind Hunter-Reay, just as they did in last year’s race. He led a race-high 111 laps. Sage Karam earned his best career finish, coming home in third to complete the All-American podium. The top four finishers were American drivers as Graham Rahal and Carlos Munoz rounded out the top five. Six of the top seven finishers were American drivers.
Even with Hunter-Reay and Andretti’s incredible stories, perhaps the biggest takeaway from this race was what happened with the championship contenders. Entering this race, it looked as though Juan Montoya was going to run away with it. Just nine laps into the race though, he suffered a suspension failure on his car, and was out of the race. Interestingly enough, Will Power (who finished 10th) was the only Team Penske car to finish in the top-ten tonight.
After Montoya’s incident, it appeared as though Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and Helio Castroneves (who were all battling for the lead) were going to make up significant ground on the championship leader. That was not the case, as each one of them had their own problems that proved costly. Kanaan had a mechanical/electrical issue that ended his night, Castroneves slowly slipped to the back and finished 11th, and Dixon had something break on his car that landed him an 18th place finish.
The big winner tonight as far as the championship went, was Rahal. He battled adversity all night, dealing with a flat tire, and multiple pit stop problems after only being able to use sixth gear. They went down a lap multiple times but kept fighting back. At the end of the night, he found himself finishing fourth, and moving up into second place in the championship with just three races remaining in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
There was some close racing between Karam and Ed Carpenter in the closing laps, which prompted the owner/driver to march directly toward the Rookie’s car on pit lane right after the race. He had some choice words for Karam, and told him that he needed to grow up.
Here is what the top of the championship standings look like heading into the final three races of the season:
- Juan Montoya
- Graham Rahal -42
- Scott Dixon -48
- Helio Castroneves -54
- Will Power -55
The next race on the schedule is the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on August 2. CNBC will provide coverage for this event, which begins at 1:30 PM ET on Sunday. It could shape up to be another great weekend for Dixon, who has won there five times. For now though, it’s a week off for the series. After Mid-Ohio, there will be a three-week hiatus until the final two races of the season.
Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy was really good from the middle to the end of stints, but we struggled to get going there on restarts and so we lost some track positions and we weren’t able to make that back up. So we need to have a better car when the field is bunched up and the traffic is heavy. But we’ll take this and just focus on better results in Mid-Ohio.”
Helio Castroneves: “The Hitachi Chevy was unbelievable the first half of the race until we had a huge moment on the exit of Turn 3 while leading the race. I’m still not sure how I was able to catch it. After that it was all downhill because we adjusted the car for the oversteer, but then it really cooled off and we developed an understeer. Then we lost a lot of positions on a restart after I felt we got chopped off numerous times. We were able to minimize the damage a bit over the last few laps but, man, I really thought we had a Chevy that could win the race.”
Ryan Briscoe: “I think we should be pretty happy with the race we ran today. Man, we fought hard. All weekend, we were struggling with the balance in the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car since first practice and I think we pretty much threw the kitchen sink at it for the race today. We made improvements all weekend and I was really proud of the guys. No one ever gave up. I think a top 10, P8, was a great result. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really make the most of new tires today so I think we could’ve been a bit better, but on new tires we were just hitting the ground too much. We had a very consistent car, very racy, and had a lot of fun out there. It was really physical tonight and I’m proud of the team for bringing home a P8 for me.”
James Jakes: “It was a very difficult night for the No. 7 SPM MediaTech Honda. The first stint was pretty good. We managed to get pretty close to the top 10 but just struggled a bit with the balance all night. It’s a shame. It was a long night but we’ll take the weekend off now and regroup before we go to Mid-Ohio.”
Sage Karam: “I am so excited to get my first podium finish in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The team did a great job tonight all around. I think we really put together an entire race, and that meant from start to finish we executed. It’s such a great feeling and running up front is our goal. I’ve felt this momentum was starting to build in Fontana and Milwaukee and am glad we were able to finish things off here at Iowa with a strong showing for the COMFORT REVOLUTION/Big Machine Records car.”
Scott Dixon: “I think we had a really fast car this weekend. The Target car was good and in the top three, and I thought it was a contender all night. We had to overcome some challenges during the race but we stuck with it. We made a ton of changes and were really trying to just keep up with the track all night. I thought we were getting a break with (Juan Pablo Montoya) going out early, and then we had a weird problem with the right rear axle. The Target team did a great job getting us back out and that’s all you can ask for in that situation.”
Tony Kanaan: “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be for us here today. The Fusion car was really awesome and we had a really fast car all weekend. When mechanical problems happen, there’s not much you can do. I’ve had a ton of these races go my way, and a ton that haven’t gone my way. There’s just not much you can do in that situation.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a really good effort from the Mistic E-Cigs Chevy team. We did everything we could hope for. I had a massive vibration on the second-to-last stint, so we came in on the early side of the window. I ran really hard laps on that set of tires to try and make up some ground, and we did getting up to sixth, but that last yellow really hurt us. Unfortunately, it gave some guys the opportunity to get a new set of tires and we couldn’t because we had used up so many tires early in the race. Then the restart was such a mess. We got bottled up by guys that were a lap down who were fighting like they were trying to win the race. That allowed all the guys that were at the back of the pack on new tires to come through. You have to feel good about going from 24th to ninth and the fact that over the last two races we have really improved the car and our performance on ovals, but to get up to sixth and end up ninth, that is always tough. But with the debacle of qualifying, I guess we have to be pretty happy with tonight’s result.”
Takuma Sato: “Tough night. To predict the conditions is almost impossible because we never had a night session in practice. We started in warm conditions in the evening and finished off in cool conditions so from that point of view it’s difficult to determine the amount of downforce. We thought we optimized the car but I think we needed a little more downforce to be fast in this session. It was an exciting race, lots of side by side racing. For a couple stints we couldn’t manage tire pressure well. It was very sensitive which was surprising. Some stints I struggled but on the very last stint, the car came together and we were really traveling fast and making good time, but unfortunately there was a right front suspension failure. There was no warning, the car bottomed out and I was just a passenger. It was a shame.”
Graham Rahal: “That was my hardest race ever. First we had the right rear go down and then the car just wouldn’t shift. You don’t know how tough that is around here when you’re in traffic and you need to go down to fifth, fourth gear at times and I couldn’t do anything. It was a killer for me. We were quicker than (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, that’s for sure, which is frustrating. When the car was working right, we passed all those guys but dude I’m spent. I’m ready for a good beer and a nice sleep. The car was good, very competitive, very consistent tonight over the long run and that’s what helped me. On my starts and restarts I tried to be a little aggressive and go high (on track) there and it worked out for me. Nights like tonight are what build character, and what builds champions so I hope we can get there. It speaks volumes for this team that we are second in the points. We can win Honda a championship. We’ve got three more races to go and are going to two tracks I think we can be really strong at, and Pocono. A day like today when the car wouldn’t shift and we were down and out, but we were able to fight back shows what this team is made of. I think that is something I have learned in my time in this series. Hopefully we can keep it going three more. I’m so proud of this Mi-Jack Steak ‘n Shake team to be second in the standings. We’re just going to keep our heads down and go forward.”
Simon Pagenaud: “We’re not quite sure what happened with the Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. We practiced really well yesterday. At the end of the race we had the exact same car that we had in practice. But at the beginning it was just really, really loose and I could barely hang on to it. It was all about survival at that point. We made some adjustments on the first pit stop but it was still too loose. By that point we were really behind in having any chance at winning the race. The Penske Truck Rental Chevy was good on the last two stints. That is the positive that we can take away from tonight and go to Mid-Ohio.”
Justin Wilson: “From where I was at, it looked like whatever car it was at the bottom, kind of checked up and shot up a lane or two, kind of caught everyone by surprise. I just got careless, got two wheels in the dirt and white-walled it. It was frustrating – we were staying on the lead lap but at the back of the pack, it was just a bit of a handful after I white-walled it. It was a case of not throwing it in the wall and trying to be smart. Towards the end, we came in to just try and test some things out – we knew we weren’t going to win and wanted to learn a few things, so that’s what we did. It was a long, frustrating night. You’re just hanging on, trying to get the car to turn… I think we made a good stop, got up to the front early on and then maybe we were a bit optimistic with our downforce level. We were sliding around a lot. It got very difficult late in the tire stint, that’s where we kind of slid back. It’s kind of what we expected and we wanted to try that, but it made for a long night.”
Carlos Munoz: “It’s a shame I couldn’t hold the third place – I did everything I could with what we had. I was hopeful for that third place after a tough weekend, but fifth, I’ll take it. Finally an OK result after the last few bad races. Now I’m focusing on Mid-Ohio. I really love that track, and hope to keep the momentum going. Finally a good result in Iowa, so it’s a good day.”
Marco Andretti: “I really struggled with the car today. We were just getting caught in really bad circumstances on the restarts, and we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot of times tonight. Congratulations to Ryan (Hunter-Reay). It’s good to keep the Andretti (win) streak going.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It felt like we had something (tonight). It certainly was going to be tough to beat them today, but this No. 28 DHL Honda was on rails at the end and I was driving the snot out of it. It was loose and I just kept my foot to the floor. It was barely having to lift at the end. It was a lot of work in the cockpit. This one we really had to work for, this was a hard one. After such a tough season, it was great to be back in Victory Lane. In the beginning of the race the car was really loose and I had a hard time with it. This is just amazing. … We’re having a tough year but we got into Victory Lane in one of the most competitive seasons. It was super tough to get this thing today.”
Jack Hawksworth: “Well it was a fun race. We had a lot of battling out there. In the beginning of the race we got hosed because we should have taken the pass around and didn’t. Another caution came out and we managed to get our lap back then. We had a pretty strong race going and then we were hovering around the top 10. Then at the end we had to go to the tires from qualifying which were a little bit older than we liked. I also think we missed the tire pressures at the end because the car was moving around a bit and we fell back a couple positions. Not where we want to be but happy to get a few points on the board.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was tough. I really feared that if we were going to get into a shootout situation and we were behind, not leading, that it was going to be tough for us. We didn’t quite have the ultimate speed. Some of that’s down to downforce choices tonight. We had a great race car. I’m so proud of my guys. We had a really incredible car and it was fun to run here. You can’t beat running around Iowa in an Indy car, it’s unbelievably fun. More fun for me because we had such a great race car.”
Highlights of the race can be seen below, courtesy of IndyCar.
Race Photos via IndyCar