This weekend's Iowa race will not only mark the halfway point of the Star Mazda schedule, but will be the last oval the drivers face this year. As such, it takes on an additional importance, as drivers such as Connor De Phillippi, Sage Karam, and Zach Veach have a chance to repeat their podium sweep from Lucas Oil Raceway.
Lest we forget, there's still the matter of a scholarship for this series champion to move up to Firestone Indy Lights. The last two champions, Conor Daly and Tristan Vautier, each found rides with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and victory in Lights. That's a nice vision for this year's contenders to consider.
Right now, Jack Hawksworth has been sharp on the track, but stumbled slightly at Lucas Oil, finishing P7, and giving race winner De Phillippi a chance to reel him back in. Now, Hawksworth's lead is down to 12 points over De Phillippi, but the young English driver remains confident.
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For his part, in a preview for Iowa, De Phillippi stated he thought the Lucas Oil race was "a big momentum shift in our favor", and called the upcoming race "an opportunity to capitalize on having a good car", noting Juncos Racing has won two of the last three races at Iowa.
If the Hawksworth/De Phillippi battle remains an absolute slugfest between two top open wheel prospects, other drivers remain dedicated to climbing the standings. Martin Scunco sits at P3 in the points, having already won this year at Barber Motorsports Park. American Gabby Chavez is in P4, and is looking to find his third podium of the year. Andretti Autosport's Sage Karam hopes to continue to bounce back after a rough start to the season, and is the defending champ at Iowa. Finland's Petri Suvanto, last year's USF2000 champ, has been consistent in his rookie year, but still looks for a breakout race.
It's a young, superbly talented group of drivers that will be taking to the track at Iowa Speedway this weekend. And while not all of them will make the jump to the next levels of the sport, it's safe to assume we're watching at least a few future IndyCar Series at work.