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

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This week’s edition of the “What to watch for” pre-race piece for the Verizon IndyCar Series is, like the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway, short. The full race preview is linked here.

Without further adieu, here are a few key items to look forward to ahead of Round 13 this year (LIVE at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

TRAFFIC

Like at Milwaukee, how good your car is in clean versus dirty air will go a long way towards determining the winner. And with 17 or 18-second laps, laps click off in a hurry at 170-180 mph.

TIRE GAMBLES

It was the story that defined last year’s race – new tires made all the difference as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden rocketed to the front following late pit stops. If there’s a late caution, expect most if not the entire remaining runners to pit for fresh boots.

TEMPERATURES

Friday’s two practice sessions were held in scorching earth-level hot conditions of more than 90 degrees ambient and 130 degrees on track, plus humidity. Houston 2013 comes to mind as a comparable example. Rain may occur during the race, which would halt the race, but even if it doesn’t there should be some relief for drivers and teams. It’s still going to be a physical test.

BACK-TO-BACK

As in Milwaukee, qualifying was only a few hours before the race. And as such, if you have a good qualifying car, you might not have a good race car, or vice versa. Sebastien Bourdais won from 11th on the grid and it will be interesting to see whether there are any big movers from the back.

CAN HONDA RECOVER?

Friday’s practice sessions were Chevrolet-dominated and the Hondas were stuck from 12th on back. Will they be able to bank improved finishes on Saturday?

PT AND SEABASS, TOGETHER AGAIN

Look out for a cool pre-race feature involving past adversaries Paul Tracy, now an NBCSN commentator, and Sebastien Bourdais, who dominated in Milwaukee. Tracy was effusive in his praise of Bourdais during the Milwaukee broadcast. It involves the two in a corn field, and this car. Here’s a sneak peek below:

CAN WE GET SOME ACTUAL DRAMA?

Speaking of PT and Bourdais, they were actual rivals.

Meanwhile, the #IndyRivals hashtag this year has been used in IndyCar marketing and promotions… the only problem is there haven’t been any true rivalries to sell, and no animosity between the drivers. Here’s hoping a Saturday night short track battle produces a dust-up or two and some good soundbites.

POINTS AND POTENTIAL WINNERS 

Juan Pablo Montoya looks to consolidate or increase his 54-point lead. If he does, it will only make it that much more difficult for his points rivals to catch him.

In the list of potential ninth race winners this season, practice dominator Tony Kanaan stands out. Other notables without a win this year… Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball and Takuma Sato.