After a race at the longest race track on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, 4.014 miles at Road America, the series now heads to its shortest track, the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway for today’s Iowa Corn 300.
You can see the 300-lapper from Iowa Speedway live from 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, with pre-race coverage for the first half hour before race start just after 5:30 p.m. ET (stream link here).
Kevin Lee is on the call along with analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy, with Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Anders Krohn and Robin Miller in the pits.
This comes in a big block of racing today. Formula 1 kicked off the day from the Austrian Grand Prix on CNBC.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires coverage takes place at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, the lead-in to Iowa. Jake Query is on the call there with Krohn alongside in the booth and Hargitt in pit lane (stream link here).
Coverage will run from 5 through 8 p.m. ET, with Red Bull Global Rallycross coverage from Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Raceway coming up at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Iowa is one of the most physical races on the calendar and offers up a number of interesting questions:
Can Will Power end the drought of polesitters and Team Penske drivers at Iowa? Neither has won here.
Will JR Hildebrand break through for his elusive first victory and emulate Josef Newgarden’s dominance from second on the grid, in a No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing?
Does Newgarden, who won last year and came second the two years before that, win again?
Do any of the Hondas have anything to play for on what may be another Chevrolet-dominated race? Takuma Sato is the best positioned Honda on the grid, in fifth, as Andretti Autosport looks to reassert itself at the top here.
Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.
“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”
But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.
After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.
Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”
The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.
And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.
It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.
“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”
Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.
The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.
“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”
And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.
“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.