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Gutierrez: ‘Complex’ ovals will take time to adapt to

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For the first time since what is now the INDYCAR Grand Prix in mid-May, the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda will have the same driver on board for consecutive race weekends, as Esteban Gutierrez continues at Iowa after also being at Road America.

Gutierrez will be in his UNIFIN-backed car at Iowa Speedway this weekend for the Iowa Corn 300, for what will be his oval debut.

The Mexican driver has raced on a street course at Belle Isle Park in Detroit and a natural terrain road course at Road America but now steps into his biggest challenge yet, running on the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway.

His oval debut comes after a test last week with fellow rookie Ed Jones, and Gutierrez was impressed by the challenge of running flat out on an oval.

“It’s great to approach the race weekend having done some testing at the track. Obviously, it’s a completely new racing style for me. An oval seems very basic from the outside but it’s actually quite complex,” Gutierrez admitted in the team’s pre-race release.

“I really enjoyed it at the test and I’m very excited to do my first oval race at Iowa. It will definitely take some time for me to adapt, especially racing with other cars around. That will be an interesting experience.

“I’m looking forward to it. It was really fun to drive on the oval, I think it’s very nice how you can really feel every change, every movement in the car because you are on the limit for so long that you are able to feel everything from the car. It’s given me a lot more knowledge about the Indy car.”

Coverage for qualifying of the Iowa Corn 300 takes place at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday with race coverage Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.

Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

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Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500