Heat races to determine grid for IndyCar at Iowa

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For the second year in a row, the Iowa Corn Indy 250 field will be determined by a series of heat races.

Wanting to make some changes to their usual oval qualifying format – and perhaps nodding to the state of Iowa’s strong heritage of short-track racing – INDYCAR instituted the heat format last season at Iowa Speedway with three, 30-lap races setting the grid for the race. For 2013, those three heat races have been expanded to 50 laps each, and lineups for those preliminary events will be set by single-lap qualifying (last year, the groups were separated by combined practice times).

Race One will consist of the even-numbered positions starting with eighth position from single-lap quals, and the results will set the even-numbered positions in the starting field, beginning from 12th position. The top two finishers in Race One will move into Race Three, where they’ll start eighth and tenth respectively.

Race Two will feature the odd-numbered positions starting with seventh position from single-lap quals, and the results will set the odd-numbered positions on the grid, beginning from 11th position. The top two finishers in Race Two will also move into Race Three, where they’ll start seventh and ninth.

Finally, Race Three will be made up of the six fastest drivers from single-lap quals and the four transfer drivers from Races One and Two. This heat will determine the first five rows of the grid.

Valuable championship points will also be available for 12 starters, with nine points going to the pole winner. The point value will then descend by one point each position to one point for 11th and 12th.

Other IZOD IndyCar Series events outside of the Indianapolis 500 (which has its own points system) reward one point to the pole winner.

“The strategy is certainly different this time around with the heat races paying points, so we need to focus on not only being fast at the end of the race, but coming right out of the box strong,” said Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won at Iowa last season as part of his three-race win streak that propelled him toward an eventual series title.

The three heat races will be streamed Saturday evening starting at 6:45 p.m. ET on IndyCar.com.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.