Iowa IndyCar post-qualifying quotes, Saturday notes

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NEWTON, Iowa – Here’s a number of notes and additional qualifying quotes from Saturday at the Iowa Corn 300, ahead of tonight’s final practice from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m. CT.

NOTES

  • Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, told NBC Sports that he hopes the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule will be released “sometime in August,” which follows on a report from NBCSN contributor Robin Miller for RACER.com earlier this month.
  • Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda was a busy car in morning practice, for good reason. By running 125 laps, Rossi sought to mileage out his engine – and did so successfully with his Andretti Autosport team in the process of changing it out before final practice. Team strategist Bryan Herta said the team focused on full tank runs while Rossi “wasn’t too happy” with the patches.
  • Sebastien Bourdais made “a lot of changes” to his No. 11 Team Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet which improved the car hugely from the test. And he’s done well in coming back at short ovals; he was 24th to ninth at Iowa last year and of course at Milwaukee, the race before that, went from 11th to win the race.
  • The only difference between the two Ed Carpenter Racing cars is their wing and camera mount accents.
  • The four Penske and four Andretti teammates each had media availabilities, although the funniest exchange of the day came when Juan Pablo Montoya – who remains in the orange DeVilbiss colors of his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet – had to leave unexpectedly.
  • Here’s the exchange:

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, that’s for sure. We didn’t get a win yet. So we really want to — you can go. Go.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Can I go?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: He has to go to a drug test. Make sure you get the bag, not the bag on the side.

QUALIFYING QUOTES

Josef Newgarden, No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet: “Our car was good but in hindsight wish we had a bit more. Still a great run. Has speed in it. I feel confident in it. I wish we had a tick more. It’s tough when you’re second! I’d rather be fifth than second. We have a great Fuzzy’s car.

“JR (Hildebrand) is great. He’s a diamond. Car was a rocketship last year so had a great base, and he added some pep. Added some things at the test to take it to next level. Figured it out with the bumps. JR is huge. Great teammate. It’s so fortunate to have him to work with.

“My hand is getting there. Not there where I want it. Still a little broken, but fine.”

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet: “I was hoping for a little better to be honest. Thought top five. Missed the balance a bit. It’s been a weird year. We haven’t had consistent cars with all of them on the same pace. I’m getting a little frustrated with… myself. Still feel good with where we are. Can’t quite put our finger on it. I shouldn’t let frustrations boil over. I just set the bar high.”

Max Chilton, No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet: “I was quite shocked to be honest with you, because I could tell on the out lap it was a bit loose! I knew my teammates were lifting… We went to their setup. Thought we should have stayed we were. Loose is not ideal… so on the first lap I saw a 3 (183) and thought, ‘Oh no, it’s not 83, it’s a 73.’ But it was near a pole time! So I kept it lit on the second lap. Jumped on radio, where am I, they said P3 good job. Great to be fastest Ganassi. Must have a good touch around this place. Tomorrow is what counts. We’ll work hard in the 30-minute session. As a rookie that’s a decent result.

“It’s not hugely different. Why it helps. I have the experience of winning last year and speeds aren’t hugely different, I know what it feels like in qualifying.”

Mikhail Aleshin, No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda: “Slippery I would say. Temperature is more hot. So the track was more slippery.”

Graham Rahal, No. 15 Mi-Jack/RLL Honda: “Similar aero package to Phoenix. I think what we face the most is aerodynamic inefficiencies. I think our engine is good. But a lot to overcome. Our competitors are allowed to improve as well.”

Charlie Kimball, No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet: “Pretty good. Reasonably slippery. Surprised at how low grip it was. It was free. Slid around a lot. Started with a good car this morning. Learned a lot from Max who tested last week and Scott who tested in May. Haven’t seen this place in a year and that’s probably a good thing given how the bumps have changed!”

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet: “It went from a neutral track to an oversteer track. I wasn’t expecting it at all to be honest. We haven’t changed car at all. Same car 17.2 to 17.4. Other series running. Track almost 25 degrees hotter. Caught me by surprise. I don’t know where we will end up, but that was for sure I got out there.

“It’s actually worse now [on the low line] because ARCA ran a lot. I’m comfortable both lines but it will still be pretty tough.

“It’s lot bumpier in 3 and 4. With old tires you have tendency to slide a lot more. And it’s bumpy. A lot will try to run the high line. Low line who can run it, might be a big advantage.

“You can’t compare a night race to a day race. I think everyone will start race conservative. When you pit here, if it’s under green, you lose 3 laps.”

Conor Daly, No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda: “Our test wasn’t great. But we figured out how it would change. Car was sketchy to drive. So stacked on a ton of downforce but we could drive it. To run same lap as Hunter-Reay. We weren’t too far away from Hondas. We know we have a lot more to gain. We were OK today but the next session is the key. For us as tires go away it’s interesting. 1 and 2 is so different than 3 and 4.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)