Friday, June 24, 2011

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Preview

Back to Iowa we go this week, the site of Tony Kanaan’s dominant run last year, as well as Andretti Autosport’s last oval victory. Kanaan looked great last week before his late crash (same with Viso), and teammate Taku Sato was no slouch either. They’ll mix it up with Will Power and Dario Franchitti, plus a host of drivers such as Oriol Servia, Graham Rahal, Ryan Briscoe, and Scott Dixon, looking to get into victory circle. Other drivers, such as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ana Beatriz, look to find traction on a season that hasn’t progressed anywhere near where they would have liked.

It’s the last chance to perform well on an oval before we hit our next road/street course stretch, and Iowa’s a pretty great place once more to separate the great from the good, and the good from the average. Plus, there’s always something special about racing under the lights. Here’s a few stories to watch for this weekend:

Mazda Road To Indy Update: Yes, O2 Racing sound like they’re done for the year after withdrawing over the way Lights has been handling penalties. Peter Dempsey a great driver, and we wish him the best and a quick return to the series. We’ll see if anything else develops this weekend.

In Star Mazda, that battle between Connor de Phillippi, Sage Karam, Nick Andries, and Tristan Vautier just keeps getting better. Any one of them could win this weekend, and you don’t want to count out Martin Scuncio or guys like quickly-learning rookie Nick Mancuso. What the Star Mazda list lacks in overall entries, it more than makes up for with red-hot competition.

Tie Ballgame: Yes, Will Power and Dario Franchitti have split most of the wins this year like Octavian and Mark Anthony dividing up the ancient world. As a result, they're tied atop the standings. You can bet a large portion of the week’s broadcasting will be calculating how the points will changed for them based on where there rival is currently running. One misstep here, though, and the other could jump ahead nicely.

Helio vs. Dario: In Dario’s post-race interview, he griped about Helio’s blocking. Helio, for his part, seemed offended and a bit upset that Dario would call him out like that. On one hand, yeah, Helio blocks. On the other hand, so does Dario’s teammate Scott Dixon. On the other other hand, Dario’s been complaining a lot lately. If Helio can run up front again this week, things could get fun towards the end of the race.

Fighting The Giants: Andretti Autosport, despite their struggles has one once this year, the only non-Target/Penske team outside of Indy to do so. KV Racing and Newman/Haas have been very close several times this year to joining them. It seems like KV’s creeping ever closer to getting that win, and Oriol Servia is right up front almost every week. If Servia’s going to hold off Dixon for P3 in the standings, he can’t afford to have a down week.

Servia & Newman/Haas: Closing in on the W?
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
In The Random Observation Department: Ryan Hunter-Reay will feature Circle K, Sun Drop, and DHL as key sponsors on his car this weekend. Teammate Mike Conway appears to have only Andretti Autosport on the sidepod of his.

Wheldon In The House (Er, Booth): Fortunately for us, Dan Wheldon will be back in the booth providing driver expertise for the Versus television audience. Dan did a killer job at Texas, and I think most fans are looking forward to hearing his insight once more. It’d be nice if he were back on track, but I respect his choosing his battles.

Simona, Continued: After last week’s nasty Milwaukee crash, we learned Simona de Silvestro had a concussion. Add that to a few burned hands in the last two years and some really nasty hits, and there you have the Iron Maiden (that’s really growing on me). Some have speculated on just where her head is after this rough stretch, and it should be interesting to see how she responds. You also have to wonder just what her car “Pork Chop” has left. It could be a long day for HVM Racing, but either way, Simona will again be a topic of discussion.

SFR Status: SFR didn’t seem to have much for Milwaukee. We’ll have to see if they can get back to Indy form at Iowa. Sarah Fisher remains a fan favorite as an owner, and snagging a Top 10 here would be a nice story. At Milwaukee, they just looked well off the pace both in qualifying and the race itself. Ed Carpenter didn’t race here last year, but he finished 10th in 2009, and 6th in 2007. If he can equal something close to that, that will have been a pretty good day.

Birthday Wishes: Happy birthday to my friend Rob Mapes of Bloomington, IN, who reads this site and is kind enough to email me when he agrees, and especially when he doesn’t! Rob’s hitting the big 5-0, meaning he’s the same age as NASCAR’s tech manual (cheap shot).

Pole Position: Dario Franchitti.

Winner: Tony Kanaan. Or Takuma Sato. Or yes, even EJ Viso. I’m riding this KV train until it pulls into station. Hopefully, there’s no more abrupt stops on the way!

Have a great weekend watching what should be another great race!

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