By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer
This coming weekend the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to the Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn 300, continuing the 2016 season. The event is slated for July 9-10, 2016.
About the Race
The Iowa Corn 300 is round ten of sixteen for the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016. The event is held on an oval track, one of five such events on the schedule. Andretti AutoSport driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, is the defending race champion, and 2016 will mark the tenth IndyCar race held on the bullring.
The race will consist of 300 laps for a total race distance of 262.5 miles. Standard oval track qualifying procedures will apply.
Support races include action from ARCA, the Pro Mazda Series, and the Indy Lights Series.
About the Track
The Iowa Speedway is an asphalt oval track that measures .894 of a mile around, making it the shortest track on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. The turns are banked progressively beginning at 12° on the inside line rising to 14° at the wall. The front stretch is banked at 10° while the backstretch is considerably flatter, measuring just 4°. The track features a SAFER barrier around the entire circumference of the outside wall.
The track was designed with input from NASCAR Champion Rusty Wallace, and opened in September of 2006. The layout of the oval is patterned after Richmond International Raceway in Virginia. The track complex is owned by NASCAR under the company name of Iowa Speedway, LLC.
Located in Newton, the Iowa Speedway is 30 miles east of Des Moines, the most populous city in the state. The facility features 25,000 grandstand seats, as well as suites and an RV viewing hillside that boosts the total capacity to 30,000.
In addition to the IndyCar Series weekend, Iowa Speedway also hosts the NASCAR XFinity Series, the Camping World Truck Series, the NASCAR K&N Series as well as year-round racing schools and experiences.
The IndyCar Series first raced at the Iowa Speedway in 2007. The inaugural race was a 250 lap event (the race was lengthened to 300 laps beginning in 2013). The race weekend was plagued with thunderstorms that washed out Friday’s practice. On race day, temperatures were 15-20 degrees lower than anticipated, causing problems for a number of drivers battling cold tires. Seven cars crashed out of the event before half distance, and there were 67 total laps of caution on the day.
Despite the prediction of a competitive race, conditions were such that it was difficult to pass. In the end, it was Dario Franchitti taking the checkers .068 of a second ahead of his Andretti-Green teammate Marco Andretti after leading a race-high 96 laps.
The next two years saw Chip Ganassi cars take victory, followed by a six-year winning streak for the Andretti team. In addition to the seven wins, Andretti Autosport also has three 1-2 finishes on the oval, occurring in 2007, 2012, and 2013.
The fast and short nature of the oval has produced a disproportionate amount of caution laps over the years as the event has averaged 59 laps of caution in its nine-year history. The record for caution laps was set in 2015 with 73, and the lowest coming in 2013 with 29 laps under the yellow.
In 2012, the IndyCar series utilized heat races to determine starting positions in Iowa, paying homage to the dirt-racing tradition of the area. Three 30-lap races were run on Friday night with the groups being set by practice times. The format was tweaked in 2013, extending the heat races to 50 laps, and awarding points to the top-12 qualifiers. The experiment, however, proved to be problematic and traditional single-car oval track qualifying procedures were reinstated in 2014.
Over the years, the small oval has produced a variety of different race scenarios ranging from James Hinchliffe’s total domination in 2013, leading 226 of the 250 laps, to Ryan Hunter-Reay storming through the field on fresh tires, pulling off a pass for the lead with only two laps to go in 2014.
About the Field
The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed top-to-bottom lineups we have seen in years.
22 drivers will take the green in Iowa. Of those, four are former winners at the speedway. Ryan Hunter-Reay leads all drivers with three wins at the venue. Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, and James Hinchcliffe have each won one race in Iowa.
The current points leader is Simon Pagenaud, who drives the #22 Chevrolet for Team Penske.
Seventeen of the entered drivers are IndyCar race winners, six have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champcar, and six are Indy 500 winners. Four of the drivers will be contending for rookie of the year honors: Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, Max Chilton, and Spencer Pigot. Rossi currently leads that group by a decisive margin after taking a win in the Indianapolis 500, an event that paid double-points.
Drivers in the series represent ten different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.
About the Series
The current Verizon IndyCar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen slow, but steady growth.
Over the past several seasons the racing produced by the series has been second to none, and the Championship battle has gone down to the final race.
Without the benefit of a gimmick like the Chase, the Verizon IndyCar Series has produced enough close racing and drama to satisfy the racing fan.
The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which celebrated its historic 100th running this season.
Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer.
Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.
Where and When to Watch
Tickets for the Iowa Corn 300 can be purchased here. Reserved seating pricing ranges from $20.00 up to $70.00.
Television coverage will be provided by NBC-SN. Qualifying will be televised Saturday July 9 at 3:00 pm EST. Race coverage will begin at 5:00 pm EST on Sunday July 10.
Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Timing and scoring can be found at www.indycar.com and fans can keep up with all of the action on the IndyCar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.