Photo: Chris Jones/INDYCAR

Gutierrez Completes IndyCar Oval Baptism

By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer

NEWTON, Iowa — Esteban Gutierrez’s first race on an oval ended Sunday night with a 13th place finish in Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.

Having driven in Formula One and Formula E, Gutierrez’s past oval experience consisted of a test day at Iowa Speedway in the weeks before running 300 laps around the .894 mile oval, but the Mexican rookie managed to keep his wheels clean, running in the top 10 late in the race.

In fact, Gutierrez ran second on Lap 258 before he came in for his final stop of the race one lap later.

“Today, it was fun, I mean I was enjoying it,” Gutierrez said. “I was using the car, I was using the tools, good communication with the team, I had a very good spotter so yeah, that level of confidence is important.”

Driving on an oval is a massive change for Gutierrez.

“I like it but all the time it’s about little things, it’s a lot of precision and the mind plays a big role, it’s very nice to have that in play in the race.”

This was the 2010 GP3 series champion’s fourth IndyCar race and he rates competing in IndyCar very highly.

“It’s great, very competitive drivers, very competitive teams and I think that the level of competition being high, it makes it even more fun, more challenging as well, so my challenge is to be competitive and that’s what I’m targeting,” Gutierrez said.

“Racing itself is fun. It’s my passion and as long as you can be competitive and you can be fighting, it makes it really fun. Sometimes in Formula One you don’t have that chance, you know that you have a car that finishes 15th or tenth, maximum so sometimes it’s not great.

“Here in IndyCar you have a chance, if you get lucky you can finish up front. It’s all about experience and getting there and being consistent and the opportunities will come,” Gutierrez added.

After learning so much during the race, there isn’t much that the oval debutante would change.

“The first quarter of the race, to be quicker. I was not quick enough in the first quarter, obviously. Being my first time out there with all the cars fighting, it took me a few laps to get comfortable, so I started to get comfortable, started to learn, started to make progress and it was better and better every time I got out there.”

Team owner Dale Coyne was satisfied with the job his new driver did.

“For a rookie he did a fantastic job, not just a rookie but a rookie on an oval, any oval, so he did a fantastic job,” Coyne said.

“That last stop, a lot of guys stopped early. We went hoping for a yellow to pull off the hero move and be top five but that didn’t happen but it was good. He mixed it up with (Scott) Dixon very well, he passed guys with respect and they reposed him with respect and I think he acclimated himself very good,” Coyne added.

Ed Jones was proud of his teammate’s job as well.

“His car looked pretty good out there but they also went the right way on the setup, we went the wrong way but he looked pretty good out there, so yeah, this is a hard oval to start at so I think he did a good job,” Jones said.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.