It’ll be a late night for fans watching on NBC Sports Saturday evening, but it’s a small price to pay for one of the truly excellent races on the schedule. Here’s a list of storylines for IndyCar fans this weekend:
Qualifying Changes: Perhaps the biggest change will be the format of qualifying. The Series is trying out heat qualifying Friday night, and the basic idea is that three heat races of 30 laps each will determine qualifying positions for the main event. The drivers will be divided into these heats based on their times from the second practice session. Race 1 will determine the even-numbered positions of P10-P24. Race 2 will determine the odd-numbered positions of P9-P25. Then, Race 3 will see the 3 fastest drivers from second practice battle it out for spots 1-8. We’ll have to see how it works, but as a 30 lap dash, it could be pretty exciting!
Engine Penalties: Mr. Kanaan and Mr. Viso will each have a 10-grid penalty due to engine changes from the last race weekend. That said, with the nature of Iowa, that might not mean very much with the way this race is projected to go. It does mean we’ll also probably be in line for one of TK’s patented crazy passes at the green flag. Never has an engine penalty brought so much good news for fans!
Title Update: The good news for Will Power seems pretty extensive just now. Through Milwaukee, he's hung in on the ovals, and still leads his closest competitor, James Hinchcliffe, by 31 points. Yet with the way the season has gone, he's not out of the woods yet. Still, if Power hangs in at Iowa and gets a nice result and Hinch or contenders like Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay falter, things could close up in a hurry. It's not too late to count out Dario Franchitti from the title hunt, but he's 69 points behind Power, and hasn't looked quite in the same form we saw at Indy as of late.
|Marco's big Iowa night in 2011.|
Courtesy IndyCar Media
Marco, Continued: As mentioned last week, Marco Andretti has still not managed to nab a Top 10 finish this season. However, he won at Iowa last year in memorable fashion, and he’s the sort of driver that seems to spontaneously catch lightning in a bottle now and again. If Marco wants to finish anywhere near the top part of the standings, he needs to start showing better results immediately. We’ll see if he can recapture the magic of last year’s Iowa experience.
The Lotus Saga Endures: No, you didn’t dream that. Simona de Silvestro’s Lotus HVM machine was able to outqualify someone last week in Milwaukee. While she had an early end, another short track at Iowa could give at least a glimmer of hope that the black flag can once again be avoided. It’s been hard to watch that crew struggle, but with any luck, their upcoming engine update will give them a hand.
Lights Update: Our favorite Viking returns with Bryan Herta Autosport this weekend, as Anders Krohn rejoins Firestone Indy Lights after a disappointing mechanical issue at IMS on Carb Day. Esteban Guerrieri narrowly trails rookie Tristan Vautier in the standings, but won the pole here last year. Don’t forget, Bryan Clauson will not only be driving for Fan Force United this weekend, but will also be driving a USAC Midget at the track as well.
Star Mazda Update: If you missed it, check out Wednesday's article on the great Star Mazda fight that will carry into Iowa.
Random Fact: EJ Viso's average finish in 2010 was 17.4. In 2011, it was 17.9. In 2012 so far, it is 13.4.
Pole: Scott Dixon. If it’s about letting the drivers drive, he’ll have that well in hand.
Winner: Kanaan is so close to a win right now, he could reach out and touch it. I’d also expect the Andretti cars to have a good outing and contend here.
Dark Horse: I could see Justin Wilson being strong again with the aero package we expect to see this week. This hasn’t been one of his best tracks, but the Coyne team has looked pretty speedy at Indy, Texas, and Milwaukee now. Let’s see if that continues.
Iowa is usually a bright spot on the IndyCar calendar, and there's no reason not to expect more of the same this weekend. Enjoy the race, whether it's at the track or on the couch!