By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
NEWTON, Iowa — Two practice sessions, qualifying and some Indy Lights track time detailed Saturday’s action ahead of Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
In the opening practice session, Josef Newgarden was fastest over Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Zach Veach. Team Penske and Andretti Autosport would be the dominant teams of the day.
However, Matheus Leist was rather unlucky as he got loose coming through Turn 2 after completing 15 laps and spun, hitting the wall with the rear of his car and lightly damaging the rear end.
Also spinning was James Hinchcliffe but his spin wasn’t as dramatic. While getting off of pit road, the Canadian was going too fast on cold tires and spun his car. Hinchcliffe didn’t hit anything and the session resumed green flag running quickly.
In qualifying, Will Power won his 52nd pole position of his career, bringing him one behind A. J. Foyt for second on the all time pole winner list. Mario Andretti has the all time pole record with 67 poles.
Newgarden qualified second with Hunter-Reay qualifying third ahead of the third Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud. Leist’s crew was able to repair his car to get him out to qualify but his speed was 14 mph off of Power’s pace.
In the later IndyCar practice session, Newgarden was fastest over Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Power.
However, what’s most impressive are the gains made by Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan. Sato ended the first practice session in 16th but was eighth after the final session. Kanaan was 18th in the morning session but was ninth in the afternoon session and team manager Larry Foyt was open about Kanaan’s car changing.
“I think we changed everything but the tire color but honestly it was a lot of work,” said Foyt. “That’s what I was just talking with Eric (Cowdin), his engineer. He said ‘I’ve gone days without changing this many things!’ Just because this is a tough place, it seems that it’s getting bumpier as the years go here and coming with a little less downforce has been a challenge.
“The good thing is it’s a place Tony knows well so we’ve been kind of chasing the feeling and now I think we’re finally getting there and I think we have a direction for the race.”
Sato also didn’t test last week with the new universal aero kit for 2018 but knew what his Rahal Letterman Lanigan team had to work on.
“Well I mean just getting the balance right, improving the car as well as myself,” said Sato. “Imagine where they started, they had a whole day (of testing) last week and where we basically had no idea with this UAK18. So I think practice one was a special time to get myself ready and get the car balanced right. I wasn’t satisfied but I knew we would be more competitive.”
For Indy Lights, Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta lead the seven car field in the second oval race of the season for Indy Lights.
Later in the day was the ARCA Racing Series Fans With Benefits 150. The ARCA series put on a great show with Sheldon Creed winning the race. While watching the ARCA spectacle, NASCAR was racing in Daytona and it was entertaining to see the ARCA podium’s reaction to what was taking place in Daytona.