Despite early exit, Montoya survives potential points hit with three races to go (VIDEO)

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A Lap 10 crash in Saturday night’s Iowa Corn 300 looked set to severely dent, if not crush, Juan Pablo Montoya’s 54-point lead in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

But the Colombian survived more than seemed possible after his rivals seemed to get lost searching for points and results in the Iowa cornfields.

Scott Dixon, who started fourth, entered the race second in points and was well positioned to gain on Montoya when he went out.

But his day was compromised with a mechanical issue that sent him to the garage on Lap 234. It took what was a likely podium finish out of play, although his Chip Ganassi Racing crew performed a minor miracle to get him back out by Lap 269.

Dixon looked set to end 19th, which became 18th when he passed the retired Takuma Sato with three laps remaining. If Dixon wins the title by one point, this will be the reason why.

Next up in the title contender roller coaster was Helio Castroneves, who entered the race weekend tied for third with Graham Rahal but moved one point ahead after scoring the pole position earlier on Saturday.

Castroneves faded as the race went on, only leading in the middle stint after a dice with Josef Newgarden, who led a race-high 111 laps.

He did not take tires ahead of the final restart and fell behind Rahal, Will Power, Marco Andretti and Ryan Briscoe, all of whom did, by the finish. Castroneves finished 11th.

Rahal’s was a day of recovery after starting 17th. A flat tire prompted an unscheduled pit stop, and knocked him two laps down early. But for his benefit, the first pit stop cycle completed under green, which allowed Rahal to get back on the lead lap.

Rahal lost a lap again on another yellow flag period when a persistent shifting issue kept him in the pits longer than planned. Race leader Newgarden trapped him a lap down.

But through another cycle Rahal got back on the lead lap, even with the shifting issues continuing. Takuma Sato’s crash left Rahal out front in the final 35 laps before pitting for the final time.

With fresh tires, Rahal recovered to fourth, and actually made the most headway on Montoya in points. Rahal gained 25 points and is now 42 back of Montoya, now into second.

Will Power failed to make much headway himself, ending an anonymous 10th. He’s within 55 points now, but still more than a race distance back.

All told, things could have been a lot worse for Montoya after his disaster in Iowa.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.