What to watch for: IndyCar at Iowa (Tonight, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN & Live Extra)

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A RACE TO HALFWAY?

Weather could have a major impact on how tonight’s Iowa Corn Indy 300 plays out. The forecast is calling for showers and thunderstorms around Iowa Speedway, and if the storms come as they’re expected to, the race could go in fits and starts – all the way to Lap 151, the point where it will be an official event. Remember, there’s a street course doubleheader coming next weekend in Toronto for all these teams. They won’t want to linger around Iowa for too long.

FAST AND FRENETIC

Iowa is a wicked little bullring. At 17 seconds per lap, drivers have to wrap their heads around the high sensation of speed. Then there’s the big bump in Turn 2, which has caused its fair share of havoc in past IndyCar races. A strong car set-up that can deal with the bump will be important to have.

HELIO VS. POWER

Helio Castroneves and Will Power are tied for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship lead going into tonight’s race, and neither of them can afford a stumble here. Simon Pagenaud, Pocono winner Juan Pablo Montoya, and Ryan Hunter-Reay are in striking distance, and would be more than happy to add horses to this 2014 title race.

GOTTA BEAT ANDRETTI

Short ovals are Andretti Autosport’s domain, and Iowa has been a great place for them (four consecutive wins and five wins in seven total IndyCar races there). Tonight’s race will be especially important for Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti – both of whom are past Iowa winners and are looking to push forward in the aforementioned championship.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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