Iowa Qualifying Report
It has been an interesting last couple of days in Newton, Iowa; as teams and drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series try to get a handle on things. As the drivers and crews arrived at the track on Friday, they were all greeted by a black wall of clouds that engulfed Iowa Speedway. Most drivers posted pictures on their Twitter accounts, of a wicked looking squall line as it approached. Then high winds forced cancellation of the Firestone Indy Lights practice that was scheduled for Friday night.
Practice for the IZOD IndyCar Series got underway on Saturday morning. Things were looking pretty good for my prediction for Tony Kanaan to win this weekend and break the Penske/Ganassi stronghold on the ovals. The first practice session finished with Kanaan in the top spot; while his teammates, Marco Andretti and Ryan hunter-Reay, were third and eighth quickest respectively. Danica Patrick, the fourth member of Andretti Autosport, could only muster enough speed for fifteenth quickest in the morning session.
The afternoon session saw Tony Kanaan fall to ninth and Danica Patrick slip to twenty-second. By the time qualifying came around late Saturday, Tony Kanaan’s speed had continued to drop to the point that he qualified fifteenth. I still stick with my prediction that Kanaan will win this race. As disappointed as he looked in the interview after his qualifying run, I think he is more determined to get things right.
All of Kanaan’s Andretti Autosport teammates out qualified him. Marco Andretti was an impressive third, while Danica Patrick was ninth and Ryan Hunter-Reay will roll off twelfth.
Up front, it was Will Power who won the pole position, giving Team Penske their seventh straight pole – and Power‘s first ever on an oval. Unlike everyone else, Power stayed close to the yellow line the entire way around the track, It paid off for him as he clicked off a four-lap average of 181.338 mph on the quick little 7/8 mile track. Scott Dixon almost knocked him off but will settle for starting on the outside of the front row. Power’s teammate, helio Castroneves will start fourth, while Dario Franchitti rounds out the top five.
After a hiccup at Texas, Alex Tagliani and his FAZZT Racing team seems to be back on track. Tagliani will start sixth. Another surprise was Takuma Sato’s run. This is the first time Sato has ever been on a short oval, yet he qualified his Lotus sponsored Dallara in the seventh spot. Ryan Briscoe ran a disappointing qualifying attempt and settled for eighth on the grid. Former Iowa winner, Dan Wheldon, will start tenth.
There were two mishaps on the day. Vitor Meira brushed the wall after hitting the infamous bump in turn two, but was able to effect repairs and qualify thirteenth. Milka Duno spun and backed her car hard into the wall in pretty much the same spot. She will mercifully start at the back of the field, where she won’t be in anyone’s way for a few laps. Chances are, she will be parked by lap ten for “handling issues”. Hopefully, it will be before the leaders encounter her for the first time. If only she had decent equipment…
I don’t think we have heard the last of the bump in turn two. It seemed to play havoc with several drivers throughout the day. Chances are, it will jump up and bite someone on Sunday.
Graham Rahal’s car has a new livery for this week. The Dad’s Root Beer features yellow flames on the nose, in honor of Sunday being “Dad’s Day”. I’m hoping things can be worked out for Graham to be in that car for the rest of the season – or until mike Conway can come back. It’s good to see Graham reunited with his former Newman/Haas teammate, Justin Wilson. I think they would be a formidable team on the upcoming stretch of road courses in July.
My new favorite driver, Simona de Silvestro, qualified twentieth. Her primary car was destroyed at Texas and the car she is driving now is much older and heavier. With this being her first short oval ever, I don’t expect much from her Sunday.
One of the biggest disappointments in qualifying was the poor result of Hideki Mutoh. This is a driver that finished second and third in his first two outings on this track. He will start twenty-fourth – just one spot ahead of Milka who crashed.
The biggest suspense is the weather. While it was sunny for most of practice and qualifying, the forecast for Sunday is not good. Hopefully, they’ll get the entire race in, so that when the Penske/Ganassi oval streak is broken by Tony Kanaan – it’ll not be considered a fluke.