Iowa Update: Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves fighting for the front

1 Comment

After taking the lead from Helio Castroneves on Lap 77, Tony Kanaan is your leader at the halfway point of the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway.

Kanaan led Castroneves by 1.1 seconds at halfway, with Ryan Briscoe in third, Will Power in fourth, and Sebastian Saavedra a surprising fifth.

Under threatening skies, the race began around 8:30 p.m. ET with Scott Dixon and Kanaan, both from Target Chip Ganassi Racing, on the front row.

Dixon narrowly held off Kanaan for the lead on the opening lap, but Kanaan went high and cleared Dixon off Turn 2 on the next lap.

He held the point all the way up to Lap 34, when a small shower began to fall on the 7/8-mile bullring. Five laps later, the caution went to a red flag and cars were brought down to pit road.

Luckily, the shower was a short one and after a bit of drying, engines were refired after a 26-minute delay. The pits opened at Lap 41, and in the ensuing wave of stops, Castroneves was able to beat Kanaan out for the lead.

The field was set for a Lap 49 restart but at the rear of the field, rookie Mikhail Aleshin went below the yellow line, lost control and took Takuma Sato into the wall to bring out the yellow again.

Aleshin and Sato had contact with each other during Race 1 of the Houston doubleheader at the end of last month. Sato’s car owner, A.J. Foyt, was frustrated after that Houston incident and he was of the same disposition after this one.

Both Sato and Aleshin were checked, cleared, and released from the infield care center, but Aleshin was spotted holding a bag of ice on one of his wrists. However, the Russian told NBCSN that there was “nothing serious.”

The green returned at Lap 64 with Castroneves holding off Kanaan for a time. But on Lap 77, Castroneves was held up by the lapped cars of Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Huertas.

That gave Kanaan the opportunity to strike, and he pulled to the inside of Castroneves on the front stretch before completing the pass in Turn 1.

While Kanaan took control of the race, Pocono winner Juan Pablo Montoya had the left rear wing endplate come off of his car. The endplate landed on the inside of Turn 3, and on Lap 89, the caution came out for the debris.

The leaders pitted again in this yellow, and this time, Kanaan was able to beat Castroneves out and retain the point. But Montoya had a slow stop, causing the Colombian to gesture noticeably from his cockpit before he finally left his pit box.

After two waved-off starts on Lap 98 and 99 (Lap 98 for a slowing Sebastien Bourdais, Lap 99 for a bad single-file formation), the field went racing again at Lap 100.

Kanaan quickly pulled away from Castroneves, who had to stave off a good challenge from Power for second. Briscoe was eventually able to drop Power for third, and a few laps before halfway, Sebastian Saavedra was beginning to put pressure on the Australian for fourth.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.