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INDYCAR: Fast Facts for this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway

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Here’s what you need to know about this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway:

Iowa Corn 300 fast facts

Race weekend: Saturday, July 7 – Sunday, July 8

Track: Iowa Speedway, a 7/8-mile (0.894-mile) oval in Newton, Iowa

Race distance: 300 laps / 268.2 miles

Entry List: Iowa Corn 300 (PDF)

Firestone tire allotment: Eleven sets for use through the weekend

Twitter: @iowaspeedway, @IndyCar, #IowaCorn300, #IndyCar

Event website: http://IowaSpeedway.com/

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2017 race winner: Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet)

2017 Verizon P1 Award winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), 34.7541 seconds, 185.210 mph (two laps)

One-lap qualifying record: Helio Castroneves, 17.2283 seconds, 186.809 mph, July 11, 2014

Two-lap qualifying record: Scott Dixon, 34.5588 seconds, 186.256 mph, July 11, 2014

NBCSN television broadcasts: Qualifying, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, July 7 (live); Race, 2 p.m. ET Sunday, July 8 (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer for the NBCSN broadcasts this weekend alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Jake Query is the turn announcer with Rob Howden, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, XM 209, Sirius 217, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app. All Verizon IndyCar Series practice and qualifying sessions are available on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Video streaming: All practice sessions for the Iowa Corn 300 will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar).

At-track schedule (all times local):

Saturday, July 7

10:15 – 11:15 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)

2:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single car/two timed laps), NBCSN (live)

5:45 – 6:45 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #2, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (live)

Sunday, July 8

1 p.m. – Driver introductions

1:35 p.m. – Command to start engines

1:40 p.m. – Iowa Corn 300 (300 laps/268.2 miles), NBCSN (live)

Race notes:

  • There have been six different winners in the 10 previous Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2018: Sebastien Bourdais (Streets of St. Petersburg), Josef Newgarden (ISM Raceway, Barber Motorsports Park and Road America), Alexander Rossi (Streets of Long Beach), Will Power (INDYCAR Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500), Scott Dixon (Raceway at Belle Isle-1 and Texas Motor Speedway) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (Raceway at Belle Isle-2). Dixon’s win at Texas on June 9 gave him sole possession of third on the all-time Indy car victory list with 43 wins.
  • The Iowa Corn 300 will be the fourth oval race on the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. The previous three races were won by Josef Newgarden (ISM Raceway), Will Power (Indianapolis 500) and Scott Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway). The remaining two oval races will take place at Pocono Raceway (Aug. 19) and Gateway Motorsports Park (Aug. 25).
  • The Iowa Corn 300 will be the 12th Verizon IndyCar Series event at Iowa Speedway. Ryan Hunter-Reay is the only active driver to win at Iowa Speedway more than once. Hunter-Reay has three wins (2012, 2014 and 2015). Past winners Josef Newgarden (2016), James Hinchcliffe (2013), Marco Andretti (2011) and Tony Kanaan (2010) are also entered in the event.
  • Andretti Autosport has won seven of the 11 previous races at Iowa Speedway, including six of the last eight races (Dario Franchitti 2007, Tony Kanaan 2010, Marco Andretti 2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay 2012, 2014 and 2015 and James Hinchcliffe 2013). Chip Ganassi Racing has two wins (Dan Wheldon 2008 and Franchitti 2009). Ed Carpenter Racing, which won the event in 2016 with Josef Newgarden, and Team Penske, which won last year’s race with Helio Castroneves, have each won at Iowa once.
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti are the only drivers to win at Iowa Speedway and win the Verizon IndyCar Series championship in the same season. Hunter-Reay accomplished the feat in 2012 and Franchitti in 2007 and 2009.
  • No driver has won the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway from the pole.
  • Four drivers have competed in every Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa: Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. All but Castroneves are entered this year. Fifteen drivers entered have led laps at the track (Kanaan 523, Josef Newgarden 394, James Hinchcliffe 245, Dixon 126, Andretti 94, Will Power 57, Ryan Hunter-Reay 54, Graham Rahal 19, Ed Carpenter 18, Charlie Kimball 17, Simon Pagenaud 13, Takuma Sato 7, Sebastien Bourdais 6, Alexander Rossi 4 and Max Chilton 4).
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay finished on the podium in five of the last six Iowa Speedway races (2012-2015 and 2017)… Josef Newgarden has finished on the podium in three of the last four races at Iowa (2014-2016)…Tony Kanaan has finished on the podium in five of his last eight races at Iowa… Marco Andretti has finished on the podium in four of his 11 starts at Iowa Speedway…Scott Dixon has started on pole three times (two earned) and has nine top-10 finishes at Iowa in 11 starts, but he has never finished better than third.
  • Five drivers – Spencer Pigot and rookies Zachary Claman De Melo, Matheus Leist, Zach Veach and Robert Wickens – will be competing at Iowa Speedway for the first time in the Verizon IndyCar Series. All but Wickens raced at Iowa in Indy Lights. Leist won at Iowa in 2017.
  • Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 294th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Scott Dixon has made 234 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Marco Andretti has made 210 consecutive starts, and will tie Jimmy Vasser for the third-longest streak in Indy car racing should he start the Iowa Corn 300.

Behind the scenes of how the biggest story in racing was kept a secret

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In a world where nobody is able to keep a secret, especially in auto racing, legendary business leader and race team owner Roger Penske and INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles were able to keep the biggest story of the year a secret.

That was Monday morning’s stunning announcement that after 74 years of leadership and ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Hulman George Family was selling the track, the Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR to Penske.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports.com on Thursday, Miles revealed the extreme lengths both sides went to so that nobody found out about this deal ahead of time. That included meeting with Penske at his Detroit offices early on Saturday mornings and late on Sunday nights.

The most important way of keeping it confidential was containing the number of people who were involved.

“We thought it was important to keep it quiet until we were ready to announce it,” Miles told NBC Sports.com. “The reason for that is No. 1, we wanted employees and other stakeholders to hear it from us and not through the distorting rumor mill.

“That was the motivation.

“We just didn’t involve many people. For most of the time, there were four people from Roger’s group in Michigan and four people from here (IMS/INDYCAR) involved and nobody else. There were just four of us. We all knew that none of the eight were going to talk to anybody about it until very late.”

Even key members of both staffs were kept out of the loop, notably Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles, who admitted earlier this week he was not told of the impending sale until Saturday when he was at Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR race.

Both Penske and Miles realize the way a deal or a secret slips out is often from people far outside of the discussions who have to get called in to work to help set up an announcement.

Miles had a plan for that scenario, too.

“On Saturday, we had to set up a stream for Monday’s announcement,” Miles said. “We came up with an internal cover story so if anybody saw what was going on, there was a cover story for what that was, and it wasn’t that announcement.

“The key thing was we kept it at only those that needed to know.”

It wasn’t until very late Sunday night and very early Monday morning that key stakeholders in INDYCAR were informed. Team owner Bobby Rahal got a call at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Racing legend Mario Andretti was also informed very early on Monday.

At 8 a.m. that day came the official word from Hulman & Company, which owns the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR as well as a few other businesses, that Penske was buying the racing properties of the company. It was an advisory that a media conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was a masterful move by both Penske and Miles.

Penske is already famous for keeping one of greatest secrets in racing history in 1993 and 1994. That is when his famed racing team along with Ilmor Engineering created “The Beast” – a 209 cubic-inch, pushrod engine that was designed, developed and tested in total secrecy. A small, select group of Team Penske mechanics were involved in the top-secret project and were told by Penske that if word of the engine leaked out, “it would be like cutting your paycheck.”

Nobody talked.

History repeated itself with the biggest racing story of the 21st Century, the sale of the world’s most famous race course that hosts the largest single-day sporting event in the world – the annual Indianapolis 500.

When INDYCAR held its “Victory Lap” award ceremony on Sept. 26 in Indianapolis, Miles told the crowd of an impending announcement that would be big news for the sport.

Was he coming close to giving away Monday’s announcement?

“No, that was about a sponsor announcement that will be coming along later,” Miles said on Thursday night.

Penske is one of America’s greatest and most successful business leaders. He is also the most successful team owner in auto racing history with 545 wins in all forms of racing including a record 18 Indianapolis 500 wins, a record 16 NTT IndyCar Series championships as well as two Daytona 500 wins and two NASCAR Monster Energy Cup championships just to name a few.

Penske was not the only bidder, but he was the one who made the most sense to the Hulman George Family, because it was important to find an owner who believed in “stewardship” of the greatest racing tradition on Earth more so than “ownership” of an auto racing facility and series.

“There were a number of parties that were engaged in thinking about this with us,” Miles revealed to NBC Sports.com. “There were a couple that got as far as what I call the ‘Red Zone.’

“Then, Tony George reached out to Roger Penske on Sept. 22.

“Price and value were always important, but the thing that nobody could match was the attributes that Roger could bring to the table, in terms of his history of the sport, his knowledge of the sport, combined with his business sense.

“He was viewed as the leader from a legacy or stewardship perspective, which was a very important factor.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

McLaren IndyCar boss breaks down team’s first test since missing Indy 500

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McLaren Sporting Director Gil De Ferran left Sebring International Raceway last Tuesday with a much happier outlook than when he left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19.

That was when McLaren and famed two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ill-prepared. They failed to make the 33-car starting lineup for the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

That day in May, De Ferran vowed that McLaren would return.

Last Tuesday, what is now known as Arrow McLaren Racing SP after purchasing into Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, De Ferran was back to evaluate the team’s NTT IndyCar Series effort.

Instead of Alonso in the cockpit, it was the team’s recently named full-time drivers for 2020 at the test. That included 20-year-old Pato O’Ward of Monterrey, Mexico, the 2018 Indy Lights champion and 22-year-old Oliver Askew of Jupiter, Florida, the 2019 Indy Lights champion.

O’Ward was in the car for the test with Askew watching from the pit area.

“Pato did a great job, did not put a foot wrong, got on to it straight away and it was all good,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “It was a positive day on all fronts. To work together, to build the team together and embark on this team together was very positive.”

De Ferran is a two-time CART champion with titles in 2000 and 2001 when he was with Team Penske. He also won the 2003 Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske before retiring as a driver at the end of that season.

Since then, he has been involved in numerous Formula One, IndyCar and Sports Car efforts. As McLaren’s Sporting Director, De Ferran is involved in both Formula One and IndyCar.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP also includes partners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson. Arrow also has a financial stake in the team in addition to serving as sponsor.

The chance to work with two young drivers is something that has De Ferran excited.

“They are both very young, but they have been around for a while,” De Ferran said. “It’s not like these guys are completely clueless about racing. They have been racing ever since they were kids. Generally speaking, as a trend in motorsports, they start much younger than I did. They move to cars at a younger age and tend to reach this level of the sport at a younger age then when I was coming up.

“Although they don’t have a lot of experience in IndyCar, several members of the team can help in their development. These guys are very accomplished and top-level guys. They have won a lot of races and championships before getting the nod from our team.”

Last week’s test was part of INDYCAR’s evaluation of the new aeroscreen that will be on all cars beginning in 2020. Arrow McLaren Racing SP is a Chevrolet team. Honda team Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan also participated in the test with four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais as the driver.

This was the only test that Arrow McLaren Racing SP will conduct in 2019. Testing time is severely limited De Ferran said it won’t be back on track until the 2020 regulations take effect.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP has already experienced some controversy after the team said several weeks ago that popular driver James Hinchcliffe would not be driving for the team. He remains on the payroll and is expected to be at the track in a public relations capacity.

That has angered many IndyCar fans who are huge fans of the popular Canadian driver.

“I have nothing more to add to this than what was said at the time,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s head-down. We have to go racing. We are on a journey here together with this partnership and two young drivers that are very accomplished and have a lot of talent. Our job is to deliver the results on the track.

“That is where my focus is. I’m completely focused on improving every aspect of everything that we do trackside.

“One thing I guarantee you, whatever we start, to have that focus to improve everything that we do we will continue to move forward. It was like that when I was driving, and it was like that throughout my professional career away from the cockpit. We will keep looking for opportunities to improve.

“Eventually, good things will happen.”

It was just Day One on the track, but after seeing this team struggle at last year’s Indianapolis 500, McLaren took its first step in returning as a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team.

“This is the beginning of a journey that we embarked on several months ago now and you do a lot in the background,” De Ferran said. “The guys from SPM and us have put a lot into this partnership. Behind the scenes, we have been working hard together.

“We’re all racers, man. We want to see cars on track. This has been like a little check off the box and it feels good that we were on track.

“We have a long journey ahead, but it’s good to be working together, at the race track, how the car is handling, the engine is working and how the drivers do.

“First day on the track for Arrow McLaren Racing SP. It’s a good day.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500