Sunday, June 26, 2011

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Recap (Wow!)

Epic.

That describes everything about the Iowa Corn Indy 250 we saw Saturday night. It was simply one of the best duels we've seen in some time in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

You had two drivers that would not yield, would not surrender, and would not give an inch. In the end, between Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti, it was Marco who emerged victorious, silencing the critics and doubters for at least one night.

At first, it looked like Dario Franchitti would run away with another race. But TK hung around, and Marco charged from his P17 starting spot all the way to the front. In the last 40 laps, it truly was anyone's race between Dario, TK, and Marco.

It became largely a two-car battle as Dario's car got very loose, and he began to fade. Dixon passed him, and began to close on the two leaders. TK and Marco swapped the lead back and forth until, with only 18 laps remaining, Marco pulled off an amazing, edge-of-your-seat pass low on TK. TK tried to return the favor, and back and forth at went until TK had to lift when Marco shut the door on a late attempt.

Marco Andretti is an IndyCar race winner once again.

The fans loved it.

Iowa rocks.

Now that we've covered the basics, let's hit the other stories from Iowa:

Andretti Surging: Marco won, Danica was 10th, and Ryan Hunter-Reay had a nice night in 8th, looking very quick indeed. Conway crashed out, but he should be back to form on the road/street courses in two weeks. A scant month ago, we were lamenting the decline of Andretti as they struggled at Indy. This was a huge step to get that team back on track for the rest of the year. Don't forget, Andretti driver Sage Karam won in Star Mazda, too!

Marco gave us one of the best races in a long time.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
The Grid Walk: Versus introduced an F-1 style grid walk, which was a bit sloppy, but seemed to get a good fan reaction. Let's hope they polish it up and keep doing it. Highlight: RHR paying Wheldon back for dinner. Highlight #2: Robin Miller having to really book it.

Dan Wheldon Reigns In The Booth: Speaking of Wheldon, he was spot-on again in his second outing on the Versus broadcast team. It sounds like he'll be in Toronto as well. Versus needs to keep him around. He makes the broadcasts much, much better with his commentary and insight.

Mazda Road To Indy Recap: Josef Newgarden was able to increase his over points lead over Esteban Guerreri had the misfortune of losing an engine after leading the first laps of the race. Esteban's going to be hard-pressed to catch back up if Newgarden keeps running this well. Don't forget, we'll see Conor Daly instead of Bryan Clauson for Toronto!

With Star Mazda, Sage Karam made it two in a row with a dominant victory Saturday afternoon. Pelfrey Racing had a rough weekend, with Nick Andries having to start last due to a qualifying crash and Connor De Phillippi with a tire problem five laps from the finish. It's going to be a tough fight to the finish for Star Mazda, who we won't see again for about a month.

The Dreaded Bump: It seemed like every accident had something to do with that horrid "bump" in Turn 2. It gives the track an added challenge, but also gave us some truly interminable caution periods. Five yellows, encompassing Jakes, Conway, Bia, Power, Saavedra, and Sato, were perhaps the only downer on this race, but did make for some killer restarts.

Power's Potty Mouth: Yes, Will Power did say the s-word on live TV. Given that he had a concussion from an pretty nasty hit, I think we can give him a pass. It also sounded like he was less than happy with his team for keeping him out with a damaged car after his contact with Kimball, but hindsight's always 50/50.

Saavedra's Bad Weekend: Actually, Saavedra and Conquest Racing have looked lost since Indy, where they failed to qualify. Saavedra didn't attempt to qualify his car this weekend, as it was so lose, but he did start the race. Unfortunately, he was knocked out of the race when he crashed on lap 114. His season is quickly turning south. For example, check out his finishes before and after Indy:

Before Indy: 13,26, 14, 11

Indy And Afterwards: DNQ, 28, 29, 23, 20


Not good. Clearly, the ovals aren't kind to this team.

ROY Battle Update: This is pretty clearly becoming a Hinchcliffe/Hildebrand fight, if it wasn't already. JR finished 4th, but Hinch managed a 9th to stay close. Hildebrand (who had a somewhat sloppy race despite his good finish) is 27 points ahead, but we're going into some road/street courses, a discipline where Hinch has held the upper hand this year. Charlie Kimball is 25 points behind Hinch in third, and is going to need some better performances to catch him. Bia, Jakes, Kimball, and Saavedra all need to have radically different second halves in this season to have a chance, really.

Quietly Having Good Nights: Ryan Hunter-Reay (P8), Ed Carpenter (P11), Alex Lloyd (P13).

It's clear that Iowa is quickly become a big jewel in IndyCar's crown. I wish the series could bottle up that magic and send it to some other tracks. Clearly, what Iowa has going is working--great racing, great crowds, and a vibe I can pick up from Indy.

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