Hoping For A Good Race In Iowa

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While my expectations aren’t as high as they were heading into the Texas race, I always enjoy the ovals in the IndyCar Series. Today’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 is intriguing in its own right simply from not knowing what to expect. Based on the first race there in 2007, I would expect more of what we’ve seen on the other ovals this year. However, the track provided one of the better races for 2008, so I would be lying if I said I knew what to expect.

If they can get the weepers corrected by race time, I have little more than a hunch telling me that we might be in for a treat – mainly because no one is expecting much. After the yawner at Texas produced another parade that has become typical for 2009, we have come to expect more of the same boredom at every track. This unique layout may offer something different. At 7/8 mile, it is shorter than Milwaukee, yet banked like Kansas. There SHOULD be plenty of opportunities for some serious side-by-side racing. Whether that actually comes to pass remains to be seen.

The flying of the Apex-Brasil Green Flag to start the Iowa Corn Indy 250 should provide an interesting backdrop, as the politics of corn-vs-sugarcane based ethanol hangs in the background. But the real drama will be on the track – as it should be.

Ryan Briscoe holds a tenuous three-point lead over Scott Dixon. Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves are not far behind. Trailing off to hold a distant fifth place in points is Danica Patrick. If Dan Wheldon (last year’s winner) and Tony Kanaan want to remain contenders as we near the halfway point of the season, they need terrific finishes while hoping some of the front-runners have problems. It’s curious that they decided to set the grid based on owner’s points rather than driver’s points. That puts Helio on the pole instead of Briscoe. It also puts Hunter-Reay further back than tenth – his position in the points.

This is about the time for somebody to blink. Every driver in the top four has sustained at least one hiccup this season, without paying dearly for it in the standings. The series is beginning a four-week stretch of racing without a break. My bet is one of these top four will have dropped from contention, by the time this stretch is over. As the weather heats up, so does the pressure.

This will also be the first race since the Danica-to-Ganassi rumors hit full stride. It will be interesting to see if Danica will be able to maintain her focus, as she is certain to be dogged by the subject all weekend. Another interesting sidebar will be the performance of Ryan Hunter-Reay, who amazingly sits tenth in points. RHR is starting over this weekend with AJ Foyt Racing. Hopefully, they have figured something out since their last short oval. They gave Paul Tracy a car at Milwaukee that was virtually undriveable. The dynamics between the sulking Ryan Hunter-Reay and the tempestuous AJ Foyt will also be fun to watch. Hopefully, they will put a good run together this afternoon…for both sakes.

Finally, I would like to wish all of the Dads out there (myself included) a very Happy Fathers Day. The extent of my day will be to eat well, watch the race, write up a quick summary for Monday morning…and relax. Hopefully, ever Dad out there can spend the day in an enjoyable manner.

Enjoy the race.

George Phillips

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