Sunday, June 24, 2012

Iowa Corn Indy 250

While any IZOD IndyCar Series race is a blast, I've always favored the road and street courses over the ovals. But hey, being there to watch those speed machines fly around any track is awesome. This weekend, my dad and I checked a new track off our list of ones we've visited: Iowa Speedway.

Since I'm living a couple hours closer to Iowa now, I figured we might as well go check out the IndyCar race. So off we went to see the Iowa Corn Indy 250 Saturday night at the 7/8-mile speedway in Newton, Iowa. It was a pretty cool sight, and as my dad put it, "like being in a constant beehive."

The race had already been pushed back to a 9 p.m. start time due to television schedules. It actually didn't start until after 9:30 p.m. because of some heavy rain and thunderstorms that popped up and didn't want to leave the area in the early evening. Always the prepared race fans, we were armed with our ponchos, though we didn't need them, thanks to the haven of standing underneath the bleachers.

Iowa Speedway, when it was still soaked with rain.
Once the rain stopped, the jet dryer got to work drying the banked speedway surface. The support series Firestone Indy Lights was supposed to run prior to the IndyCars, but they switched places. This meant that there were Indy Lights cars zooming around the track early into Sunday morning.

Action began even before the pace laps were complete for the IndyCar race. Pole sitter Dario Franchitti's car slowed and started smoking along the backstretch. His race was over even before it began. It took a couple laps under the caution flag and then a couple more before the cars were in a good enough formation to get the drop of the green flag. Showtime.

With 250 laps, these cars were obviously turning laps rather quickly. It was about 18 seconds to get around, according to my dad's trusty stopwatch. Fans in the stands - which were packed, by the way - got a great view of all the action on the track. It's a completely different scenario than watching a race at my favorite track, Road America in Wisconsin, which is a four-mile road course.

The IndyCar field heads into the first turn.
The Corn Indy 250 was a good one, that's for sure. It was a great night for the Andretti Autosport cars, as they ran up front all night. Ryan Hunter-Reay made it two wins in a row and he was joined on the podium with teammate Marco Andretti as the runner-up and also last year's winner at Iowa. Former Andretti Autosport driver and fan favorite Tony Kanaan made a late pass on Scott Dixon to finish third.

A lot of action was going on as cars filled every part of the track throughout the 250 laps. I focused in with the leaders though, because there were quite a few battles for the lead. Helio Castroneves, who started second but took the lead after Franchitti's troubles, led early on. Dixon had a bit of pit strategy on his side as he held the lead as well until he faded toward the end.

Andretti's James Hinchcliffe also had a great car during the race. I really thought he had a shot at the win, but he lost it in a corner and hit the wall just before lap 200. There weren't too many cautions, which was nice. Will Power and E.J. Viso got tangled up, as did Ryan Briscoe and Josef Newgarden. Katherine Legge hit the wall with just a couple laps to go, so the race finished under yellow, giving Hunter-Reay the win.

It was a great race that was very fun to watch, especially under the lights (and dry skies). It was also my first time seeing the new 2012 race cars in person. They flew by so fast, that I really didn't notice much of a difference. I'm glad my dad and I went to the race, and I hope to get back to Iowa for more IndyCar action.

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