INDYCAR Pre-Race Media: 5 burning questions for the Iowa Speedway doubleheader race weekend

How Much Of A Factor Will Race Distances Play?

The doubleheader weekend is here and a main thing to watch out for is just how much the two race distances come into play. Saturday’s race is 250 laps compared to 300 on Sunday. Does the 44 extra miles of racing on Sunday make it a different race than Saturday?

“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,” Daly said.

“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.”


Will This Be The Most Physical Race Weekend Of The Season?

We know that racing an INDYCAR is no easy feat. 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 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.”

In saying that, we have 2 races this weekend. Both in the heat of the Iowa afternoons and the second one lasting 50 additional laps than the first.

How much of a role does this play on the drivers’ fatigue and psyche this weekend?

Plus a pair of day races is rough too. The other day races in Iowa were 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018. The night races here were 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2019 and 2020.


Josef Newgarden celebrates a 2019 win at Iowa. Photo Credit; INDYCAR Media Site

Is Iowa Here To Stay Now?

If you build it, they will come. Well, after a year hiatus from the Iowa Speedway, the NTT INDYCAR Series is not only back this weekend, but they’re making their presence known throughout the Iowa community. They’re showing this time around, it’s going to be really hard to leave them off the future schedules.

They found a major entitlement sponsor, found huge presenting sponsors and now, have found a mega concert lineup for pre and even post race music at the 7/8-mile bullring in Newton.

Hy-Vee, Inc. and INDYCAR announced this past spring four major music acts will be here this weekend.

Three-time Grammy award-winning country music superstar Tim McGraw will perform prior to the start of the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash NTT INDYCAR SERIES race on Saturday, July 23. Following Saturday’s race, Billboard record-holding country music duo Florida Georgia Line will take to the stage at Iowa Speedway. On Sunday, July 24, three-time grammy award winner and multi-platinum artist Gwen Stefani will perform prior to the start of the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google NTT INDYCAR SERIES race. A performance by nine-time Grammy-nominated country music artist Blake Shelton will provide a memorable ending to the turbocharged weekend following Sunday’s race.

Both pre- and post-race concerts are included with Saturday and Sunday Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend tickets as each artist will perform on stage trackside, in front of the main grandstands at Iowa Speedway. Both pre-race concerts will feature 50-minute performances while each post-race concert will feature a 90-minute show. Ticketholders can also purchase a Post-Race Concert Pit Pass for both the Florida Georgia Line (Saturday) and Blake Shelton (Sunday) live performances. The Post-Race Concert Pit Pass will provide access to an exclusive area near the start/finish line for an up-close view of the live performance. To purchase a Post-Race Concert Pit Pass, visit www.hyveeindycarweekend.com.

“We want this event to be one of the most talked about events of the year by providing race-goers with an unforgettable experience,” said Randy Edeker, Hy-Vee’s chairman and CEO. “We are thrilled to work with our sponsors to bring this caliber of musical entertainment to Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway. Iowa will be the place to be this summer with these live music acts coupled with nationally televised INDYCAR races and a festival-like atmosphere that has something for everyone to enjoy.”

In addition to premier on-track action with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, as well as the rising stars of racing competing in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend will include a festival-like atmosphere with three days of music, food and family-focused entertainment, including:

  • A Food Truck Village featuring dozens of Midwest food trucks
  • Kids’ games and activities on Saturday, July 23
  • Special activities to honor the nation’s farmers on Sunday, July 24
  • And much more!

“What an incredible music lineup for fans to enjoy during Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend,” said Bud Denker, president of Penske Corporation, which owns INDYCAR. “With some of the biggest names and best performers in music, combined with great racing at the ‘Fastest Short Track on the Planet,’ the weekend is going to deliver an experience unlike one we have ever seen in INDYCAR. Thanks to the continued support of our partners at Hy-Vee, fans in Iowa will be part of something special during Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend.”

INDYCAR is showing a nice blend of music entertainment and racing. That’s what sells. With an oval weekend, you have to attract fans and in order to do so, you have to give them something to want to come to.

While some may say, “that’s a race track not a concert venue,” by having huge music acts like this come into central Iowa, you’ll immediately close that gap to capacity leaving very little tickets left for the race itself in July.

That all equals what should be a complete sell out which in turn, is what is the top goal is always for a track. If you can turn those music fans while they’re there into INDYCAR fans as well, it’s an added bonus.

“Without the attachment to an urban market, we have to have an event that draws you in,” Denker said to media on Monday morning.

See, without this type of carnival atmosphere on oval weekends, the crowds have been scarce. There’s usually long gaps between practice and qualifying sessions and fans have had to wait all day for a race.

On road/street courses, you get constant on track activity from all three ladders of the Road to Indy as well as INDYCAR action. You even at times get bonus material from GT America or the Super Trucks. They produce concerts and carnivals for entertainment throughout the day as well.

Now, Iowa is heeding that and bringing it to an oval. That’s a mega win in my book.

The same thing is happening at World Wide Technology Raceway. They get it. Curtis Francois, Chris Blair and John Bommarito have made Gateway the place to be. They’ve turned that INDYCAR weekend into one of the biggest shows on the schedule. It truly feels like a big event.

Iowa is following suit. Hy-Vee and Bommarito are spending the cash it takes to grow this sport and those in charge and running it the way it should.

West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee first became involved in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES when the supermarket chain was the primary sponsor for Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) Racing’s No. 15 car in Race 2 of the 2020 Iowa Speedway doubleheader. In its third year of sponsoring RLL, Hy-Vee provides primary sponsorship of RLL’s No. 45 car, which will be driven by Jack Harvey, and associate sponsorships of Graham Rahal’s No. 15 car and No. 30 car, which will be driven by newcomer Christian Lundgaard.

Indianapolis is always going to be Indianapolis which sells itself, but for oval racing to work outside of that, you need to make it a marquee event and surround the racing with other forms of entertainment.

Iowa gets it. WWTR gets it. This is a huge step for the race and if they can keep this up, I don’t see Iowa leaving the schedule for the foreseeable future.


Josef Newgarden has now won 21 times in his INDYCAR career, 18 of which with Team Penske – Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Is This Newgarden’s Race To Lose?

This is his best track. He’s led 111 or more laps in 5 of his last 7 Iowa starts including three wins, a pair of runner-ups, a fourth, fifth and sixth place result in the last eight tries. He’s won 2 of the last 3 here at that.

He led 214 laps in his last win in 2020. He also led 245 of 300 in his win in 2019 and 282 of 300 in his 2016 triumph. On top of that, he led 229 laps in a fourth place finish in 2018 too. Furthermore, he led 111 laps in a 2015 runner-up as well.

With Andretti and Ganassi struggling as of late here, does this hand the win to Newgarden who’s also won three of the last five in Gateway, another short oval, too?


Scott Dixon ended 1 drought last week, can he end another this? – Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Can Dixon Score 1st Iowa Victory?

It’s hard to believe that Scott Dixon has never won at Iowa before. He’s 0-for-15. However, he does have a pair of runner-ups in his last three tries and fifth place in the other. Dixon, has 5 top eight’s in his last six Iowa starts at that.

But, Iowa is one that’s eluded him. It’s one of six tracks he’s yet to win on.

He’s also never won at St. Pete (0-for-18), Barber (0-for-12), Portland (0-for-5), Laguna Seca (0-for-4) and Nashville (0-for-1). He did get to cross off winless tracks in 2020 on the IMS road course (July 4) as he was 0-for-6 prior to that year and World Wide Technology Raceway (Aug. 29) with him being 0-for-4 on the St. Louis area oval prior to that season too. Barber, Portland, Laguna Seca and COTA were all canceled in 2020, so his chance to cross off all but one track he’s never won at in a single season was put away.

Can he win his 2nd straight race on the season this weekend?

Meanwhile, Dixon has also won at 11 venues currently not on the schedule too: Motegi, Houston, Kansas, Edmonton, Homestead, Richmond, Nashville, Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Pikes Peak and Nazareth.

Is Iowa though the one that’s puzzling that he’s never won at?

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