IndyCar: Iowa second practice in the books

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Author’s note: a slightly tape-delayed broadcast of second practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway is airing until 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Qualifying, if it happens, will air at 7 p.m. ET. If you don’t want to know the results of second practice, we’d advise you read no further.

A weird weather day in Newton, Iowa has allowed enough of a window for the Verizon IndyCar Series to complete its second practice session of the day. Teams were able to get an hour in this afternoon after this morning’s first session was halted after just 13:34 due to heavy storms.

Speeds and times dropped toward the end of the hour session as the track began to re-rubber in. Juan Pablo Montoya, the Pocono winner and making his first start at Iowa Speedway since a 2006 ARCA race, led the time sheets with a best time of 17.4327 seconds around the 0.875-mile oval (184.619 mph).

“We tested here and it’s weird because it’s very different this morning,” Montoya said after his first laps back on the track this morning. “I don’t know if it is because of the NASCAR rubber, but it was a handful this morning. Like when we tested it was nice, predictable, fun to drive and this morning it was like ‘oh really’ how many more? We don’t want to be that unstable.  It looks like we will be okay for practice. We will see whatever it brings.”

Montoya’s Team Penske teammate, Will Power, was second with defending Iowa race winner and practice one leader James Hinchcliffe in third. Those two also clocked in over 184 mph.

Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon completed the top five. Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin led most of the session but pitted late and ended eighth and ninth.

Oddly, Aleshin’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Simon Pagenaud was 22nd and last after 51 laps completed. The team parked late with a reported balance issue.

Here’s your practice times:

source:

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”