A day after racing 250 laps around the .894-mile short track in extreme conditions, the 26 drivers will strap back into their cockpits and do it again for 300 more laps on Sunday. How much did Saturday’s race take out of their bodies and how quickly can they regain their recovery and replenish what they need to have to not be affected for Sunday’s race.
How Much Different Will Sunday’s Race Look?
We may have the same front row, but temperatures will be about 10 degrees cooler and the race itself 50 laps longer. How much will Sunday’s race look different than Saturday’s?
Each of these 26 teams have 22 hours between checkered flag to green flag to they can make the necessary adjustments based off of what they’ve learned from Race 1. So how will that vary from what the 2 races look like from one another?
By comparison, in the doubleheader years at Belle Isle, 5 of the 8 times we saw just one driver in those years finish on the podium both days. The three years it didn’t happen was 2015, 2016 and 2019.
Even here in 2020, we had six different drivers take podiums in the 6 podium positions available.
We’ll find out soon if we get 3 new drivers with podiums on Sunday.
Will Josef Newgarden Sweep The Weekend?
The doubleheader format started in the series in 2013 and only two times has someone swept both races in the same weekend. Scott Dixon did it in Toronto in 2013 and Graham Rahal at Belle Isle in 2017. Can Josef Newgarden accomplish this feat on Sunday?
He led 208 of 250 laps in his dominating victory on Saturday. He lapped all but 5 drivers and 3 of the other 4 on the lead lap with the exception of himself were 20+ seconds back. He’s now led 111 or more laps in 6 of his last 8 Iowa starts that include 4 wins, a pair of runner-ups, a fourth, fifth and sixth place result in the last 9 tries. He’s won 3 of the last 4 here as well as having scored 4 wins in the last 5 short oval races in general.
With the Tennessee native starting 2nd again on Sunday and the 2nd place starting spot having won each of the last 4 races on the season, why bet against him?
However, the series has held 16 doubleheader weekends in the past and to have only two the 16 being swept is telling. In fact, this format started with three races (Belle Isle, Toronto, Houston) in 2013, fell to Belle Isle and Houston in 2014 and just Belle Isle as the standalone from 2015 through 2019. During the 2020 season, due to COVID, we had it in Road America, Iowa, World Wide Technology Raceway, Mid-Ohio and on the IMS road course. Last year it was back to Belle Isle again before moving to here this weekend.
The odds are low though of a sweep.
Jimmie Johnson/Romain Grosjean
If you watched Saturday’s race, you’d have never expected that this was Grosjean’s 4th oval start of his life and just the 3rd INDYCAR oval race for Johnson. They were making bold moves all race with each coming away with a top 11 finish.
Grosjean came from 10th to finish 7th with Johnson leading 19 laps and going from 15th to 11th. Now that they have a practice session, have qualified and 250 laps of data to sleep on, imagine what they can do on Sunday…
Entering the weekend, Marcus Ericsson led Will Power by 35 points. Alex Palou was 3rd, 37 points out. Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon each shared 4th (-44) while Pato O’Ward (-75) and Scott McLaughlin (-77) sat 6th and 7th respectively.
After 1 day of racing though, that lead has diminished greatly.
Newgarden moves from 44 back to 15 following his Saturday rout and Ericsson finishing 8th. Power made up 13 points but still fell from 2nd to 3rd as he’s now 22 back. He and Newgarden share the front row again on Sunday with Ericsson starting 15th.
Palou is 33 back in 4th while Dixon is now 38 behind.
Ericsson still has 18 top 10’s in the last 21 starts dating back to last season and has been 11th or better in 4 Iowa tries, but if Penske dominates again on Sunday, he could leave here without the lead in the points too.
Penske has won 5 of the last 7 here in Iowa. They’ve won 8 of the last 11 short oval races. With having all 3 cars in the top 3 Rows for each race this weekend, will anyone top them on Sunday?