NEWTON, Iowa – The 300-lap Iowa Corn 300 is set to kick off shortly (5 p.m. ET, NBCN), with the race back to a day race after its usual stint at night.
Here’s what to watch for ahead of the tenth race of the season, which is labeled as Round 11 owing to the postponed Texas race being moved to August 27.
NIGHT TO DAY
Again, with the race change back to daylight, the big question is temperatures on Sunday – and how hot it might be.
Ambient temperatures may range anywhere from the mid-to-high 80s, with track temperatures bordering on 115 to 120 degrees, following this morning’s rainfall that has washed all past rubber off the track.
The green track changes the conditions a bit, but it still should be hot and slippery. As double practice pacesetter Tony Kanaan identified, the addition of ARCA’s General Tire (Continental subsidiary) only made the low line worse.
“It’s actually worse now because ARCA ran a lot. I’m comfortable both lines but it will still be pretty tough,” said the driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
THE BUMPS IN 3 AND 4
Kanaan also described how the bumps in Turn 3 and 4 and how unsettling they are.
“It’s lot bumpier in 3 and 4. With old tires, you have the tendency to slide a lot more. And it’s bumpy. So a lot will try to run the high line. For those who can run the low line longer, it might be a big advantage.”
Firestone has brought an updated left side compound compared to what was run at the 99th Indianapolis 500 in 2015, while the right sides are the same compound and construction as at Texas.
Figure this will be a four-stop race and as tires fall off, the field will separate itself.
HIGH, WIDE AND HANDSOME
Those drivers that can run the high line consistently won’t burn their right side tires off as fast. The low line will be quicker, but only works in short spurts.
The nice thing about Iowa is that it’s a two-groove racetrack and passing should be significantly easier than it was at the only other short oval this year at Phoenix.
KANAAN, NEWGARDEN AND PAGENAUD VS. THE FIELD
In practice Kanaan, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were the three top cars in the field. Kanaan starts sixth while the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet start alongside each other on the front row.
Beyond those three, drivers to watch include Ganassi’s younger pair of Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball, who hope their race pace is on par with their qualifying spots of fourth and fifth, then the three other Team Penske entries of Helio Castroneves (starts third), Will Power (eighth) and Juan Pablo Montoya (11th). Power goes for his third straight win on Sunday, while Team Penske looks to break its Iowa duck, having gone winless in the land of corn.
BIG TRAFFIC JAM
With 17-seconds and change laps, you bank three per minute – and invariably, if your car is off the pace, you’re in for a long afternoon.
Surviving, staying on the lead lap and getting through traffic will be key.