“I think this weekend is without a doubt going to be the hardest we’ve been pushed in this era of INDYCAR racing” Daly says of how challenging Iowa will be inside the car and on track too, details

One of the most exhausting weekend’s on the NTT INDYCAR Series calendar is here. While there may only be 1 practice session this weekend at the Iowa Speedway and also just 1 qualifying round that will consist of 2 laps total for it too, the pair of races that go along with it will be nothing short of excruciating for everyone involved this weekend. This is the reason these drivers train for this.

Saturday will feature a 250 Lap event in temps nearing triple digits. The forecasted high is slated to be in the upper 90’s with the heat index soaring over 100. The race will go green right in the middle of the hottest part of the day in Central Iowa.

On Sunday, a mere 23 hours later, they’ll be back at it again for a 300 Lap race that pays the same amount of points. While conditions may be a bit cooler, it’s still going to be at the very minimum middle to upper 80’s in the heat of the day again.

For the speeds that they travel with the types of tracks that they go to and having to maneuver these courses without any power steering has these drivers as true gladiators. But, will this weekend go to the extreme?

“Yeah, I think this weekend is without a doubt going to be the hardest we’ve been pushed in this era of INDYCAR racing for sure, with the aeroscreen, double-header at Iowa in the day,” Daly said. The forecast doesn’t necessarily look super inviting or like wonderful.

“So yeah, we’ve never run the cool shirt yet at an oval, but I think we’re going to try to run the cool shirt this weekend. Certainly in my case I sweat an inordinate amount, so I’ve been drinking a gallon of water a day already this week with a big jug. I’ve got about as much hydration stuff as you could possibly fit into a human body for the next few days, and that’s really it.

“It’s going to be an ice bath after race one, try to do that. It’s going to be maximum effort to try to just make sure you’re not only able to survive but perform. You can probably survive but you also want to be competitive. When you start losing the physical capability, you start losing competitiveness.

“It’s going to be a challenge, and if anyone says it’s not, well, they’re lying directly to your face.”

Iowa is one of the toughest tracks on the schedule. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Iowa has always been one of the more physical tracks on the schedule with turning laps around here in less than 20 seconds while going at speeds in excess of 180 mph. The amount of g-forces and strain on your body here is as high as anywhere else we go to.

See, at other tracks at least you get some straightaways to rest some. In Iowa, you don’t. You’re in a bullring and feel like you’re constantly turning and every time you turn, you add strain to your body.

“Like it’s just a matter of being super, super committed at Iowa, certainly in qualifying, because it’s so fast that like physically it’s literally pulling at your face and your entire body,” Daly told me.

“You’ve just kind of got to get through it and know that the car is going to catch you when you get to the center, even if you’re hopping over all the bumps that there is on the track.”

Rookie David Malukas is expecting to be a bit disoriented when he climbs out of his car on both days.

“Well, I’m expecting to be dizzy with such a short oval and that many laps, let alone it’s also bumpy, so I was actually just at the Dale Coyne shop today getting all the elbow pads and hip pads and everything just to make sure that I can survive not just one race but two races for this double-header weekend,” he said on Wednesday.

That’s just inside the car. What about racing the track too?

Iowa is a fast track that’s abrasive on the tires too. You can’t push too hard because you’ll burn the rubber off too quickly and have to pit sooner than you’d like. You’re lap times will suffer too. However, you can’t be too generous in giving up lap times for longer tire life because you risk falling a lap down.

So what’s the balance?

Also, qualifying on Saturday morning sets the field for both races too. You’re going to race what you qualify which makes the setups even more challenging for drivers and engineers alike.

“I would much prefer qualifying up front, and that’s certainly what we’re going to go for, but you’re also dealing with a park for May situation,” Daly said. “You’ve got to be ready for both qualifying and the race at the same time, and that’s kind of unique to this event. It’s why our engineers are asking, hey, do you think for qualifying do we run this gear here, this gear here, but will that be okay for the race, because you don’t want to miss on either side, so what do you settle for and what do you slightly compromise to make sure that both of them are good.

“I mean, everyone is going to widen out the track. Like it’s going to happen. I think the only difficult part is it’s going to be so hot. I would much rather qualify up front and make people work to pass us than be like really good at lap 60 on tires, because a lot of people were like, oh, I think we’re really good at lap 65 on tires or 60, and I was like, I don’t even know if anyone is going to go that far on tires. So it’ll be curious to just see how that plays out because the pace dropoff is substantial, substantial from like a qualifying sim to a let’s say 40, 45 laps in.”

So in saying that, does knowing how the car reacts over the course of a stint at Iowa favor the veterans of the paddock? I mean they’ve done it. They know what to expect. Usually as the years go by, so does the patience and figuring out the art of slowing down to go faster.

“I would like to say yes, but I feel like in INDYCAR that’s not as prevalent,” Daly told me. “I feel like there’s not been many times — it depends on the track, where it is. But there are sometimes you see the tires immediately fall off, a massive like deep end. But then you just pit immediately essentially. So yes, there’s that extent.

“I would say the dropoff for us is less progressive than you would see like in stock car racing. I would say it’s more kind of like, you have one moment where the thing slides out from underneath you, then it’s like, whoa, we’d better be pitting within two or three laps because it’s going to be a real challenge.

“So yeah, I think veterans definitely have an understanding more for it’s a long race and anything can happen, and we’ve seen it time and time again. Whoever is 19th at Iowa on lap 95 could end up on the podium for some odd reason.

“We looked at the last time it was a double-header, and the guys who pitted for new tires for the last stint like passed everyone insanely, and then you try the same thing the next day, which I did, and it didn’t work as well.

“Each day is going to be different, and each race has its own profile to it. Veterans for sure know, but the young guys and everyone in this series is extremely talented, so it’s hard to really say anyone is at a disadvantage.”

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