NEWTON, Iowa—Torrential downpours and track weepers slowed the start of the Iowa 300 for four and a half hours which was set to start at 6:15 PM CT. The 10:45 PM start may have set a record for the start of an NTT IndyCar Series race.
When the race concluded at 1:15 AM, Tony Kanaan posted his second top-10 finish of the season (10th) while Matheus Leist placed 16th. Josef Newgarden won the race in dominant fashion.
“We came here with a goal to finish in the top 10 and I think it was a good day for us despite a couple mistakes we made during the race,” Kanaan said afterwards. “We still managed to finish in the top 10, so good day, good start. Still have a lot of work to do though.”
Leist, who had to park his car last year well before the halfway mark, was pleased with the progress made at this 7/8-mile high-banked oval, the shortest track on the circuit.
“I think from where we started the weekend, it was a pretty good race,” said Leist. “I passed some cars and we had a decent pace, just a matter of fact of tires and strategy and feel but we didn’t quite catch on that. At least we finished this one and I think we did a great job doing that and also a good job for Tony finishing p10. Also I think it’s a huge improvement from last year and also from the last oval at Texas where I had a lot of problems with handling the car so I think that was a positive for us. Of course p16 isn’t where we want to finish, but at least we finished just two laps down.”
Starting the race on a green track didn’t suit the setups of the ABC Supply Chevrolets of Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist. Kanaan dropped from 13th to 20th before the yellow came out for Sage Karam’s spin in Turn 4 on lap 8.
Pitting for fresh rubber, plus wing and air pressure adjustments on lap 19, the cars were still not where they needed to be but they were improving.
A light rain started falling and the race was red-flagged after 55 laps were in the books. A delay of 27 minutes ensued. When the race restarted, everyone ducked into the pits for tires and fuel and a few more adjustments.
By the halfway mark, Kanaan was up to 15th and Leist was 19th. Josef Newgarden, who took the lead from Will Power just before the red flag, set a torrid pace and had lapped everyone but the top eight cars in the 22-car field. Kanaan found himself a lap down and Leist had lost two laps by lap 170.
The caution came out on lap 187 for the spin of Takuma Sato who got rear-ended by Karam when Sato drifted into the grey coming off Turn 4. It was the end of Sato’s bid for the top spot and gave new life to Kanaan who was able to get his lap back. Leist retrieved one of his laps as well.
Through the course of the 300-lap race the ABC Supply teams were able to adjust the cars to their drivers’ liking and the lap times improved. Kanaan cycled up to 14th. Leist, now just a lap down, started passing cars for position.
The strategy calls to pit their drivers earlier in their fuel windows backfired for a number of teams including Kanaan and Leist because the yellow came out soon after their stops when Ed Carpenter crashed coming off Turn 2 on lap 264.
One driver who rolled the dice on not pitting until that caution was Scott Dixon who was behind Kanaan in 14th when the pit stop cycles started on lap 245. When the cycles had ended Dixon was in fourth and worked his way to second since his tires were about 15 laps fresher than those he was battling.
Rounding out the top five were James Hinchcliffe, pole winner Simon Pagenaud and Spencer Pigot.
The teams head to Ohio next weekend for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio which will be broadcast on NBC on Sunday starting at 3:30 PM ET.