INDYCAR: What Drivers Said after Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway

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Here’s What Drivers Said following Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 INDYCAR race at Iowa Speedway:

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda) — WINNER: “Very good day. Very good day. The best day. You know, it’s so nice to be back up top after the kind of season that we’ve had, and obviously the month of May that we had. But we’ve had a couple good weekends in a row. Really just strong performances from the whole team, kind of felt some momentum coming in here, we tested here last week, and I’m very glad that we did for sure. I think that was a huge advantage. All the guys that came here seemed to be kind of up top this weekend. And then come the race, we didn’t qualify particularly well. We had a bit of a problem but we weren’t working on a quick car, we were working on a good car over a stint. We’ve won at Iowa before, and the key is taking care of your Firestone (tires). The key is having a good car in Lane 1, Lane 2, being able to get through traffic, and that’s ultimately what we did. We got through a bunch of cars in that first stint, got through a couple more in the pit cycle, didn’t have as good a car in the middle part of the race. Josef was just so dominant, I didn’t think we had anything for him. I thought we were kind of running for second, to be honest, and then that last stop, the Arrow crew just nailed it on the pit stop, gave us a really good change and the car just came alive. I was able to put it wherever I needed it to get through traffic and that’s the only reason I was able to catch Josef and ultimately get by him. I think he was a bit quicker in clean air. But can’t thank the guys enough for such a great car and great job in the pits. It’s a shame that Robbie (Robert Wickens) ended up taking that pit stop at the end. Man, it would have been great to have both of us up on the podium heading into the hometown race in Toronto. But overall it was a great result for the Arrow car and for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in general.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – FINISHED 2th: “What a race. Right from the get-go, we had a good car based on how we were getting through traffic. As the stint went on I thought we just got stronger and stronger. To find our way up near the front there was a little unexpected to start the day, but I’m really proud of everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet – I mean they gave me a great car. We didn’t have a great day yesterday, but everyone kept their heads down and kept pushing and we’re on the podium. I’m very excited and very proud of everyone here at the team. (On his first Verizon IndyCar Series podium finish). It feels great. My first podium in INDYCAR, hopefully, the first of many. What a tough race. It was really physical out there. It was hot and a lot of hard racing, so many close moments, but so much fun racing here in Iowa.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda) – FINISHED 3rd: “I had great fun. The Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda was super-fast. The team did a great job. We weren’t that good in the first practice after skipping the test here last week but we came back strong. The strength in engineering is unbelievable. We lost some positions after the last stint but we came back strong. (On contact with Carpenter’s sliding car at the end) He was obviously sliding and I was already inside him. I didn’t see it much. Suddenly he was coming inside and clipped me at the back of the car. It caught me by surprise and I obviously saved him (from crashing). Had we gone back to green for the last few laps, my car was fine. There was a mark on it but I would have gone for it for another place maybe. My car was really fast today. I want to thank Bobby (Rahal), Mike (Lanigan) and Dave (Letterman). A lot of people struggled today but we had a good car.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) – FINISHED 4th: “This is Indy car racing. You have to expect the unexpected. It’s never sorted out and locked up right at the beginning. We had a great No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet and for the first half of the race, we had the car to beat. And it just fell away from us. Sometimes you can’t predict exactly what you’re going to need at the end of these things. Today, we didn’t have exactly what it was that we needed but we’ll come back and try it again. I think Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) did a great job. Congrats to him and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They deserved the win. They did a great job at the end there and happy for those guys. I’m just disappointed. We had such a good car and could have capitalized on it in the end, but we just seemed to get worse as the race went on. All the guys did a great job. The Hitachi car was fast and Team Chevy did a great job. We’ll just chalk it up to we need to be a little better for next time.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda) – FINISHED 5th: “It was a frustrating afternoon for sure, but I definitely had some good people around me keeping me cool and keeping me informed on what was happening in the race. Even though you feel like you’re on an island and doing a terrible job because the car is sliding around; and just to get that message that you’re doing a great job and you’re quicker than the leaders you’re like, ‘Oh OK this is all right. I can get through this.’ In the end, it’s a great day, great day for Honda, great day for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Two cars in the top five. It should have been a double podium and there would have been nothing sweeter than to celebrate Hinch’s (James Hinchcliffe) win than being on the podium with him.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) – FINISHED 6th: “I think we lost a lot of ground in the first stint because there was something going on with the radio. The team called me in for three laps and I just didn’t hear it. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of positions. We lost a lot and went backward at that point. The rest of it, we were just forward and back all day. The car was just reasonable. I think a top 5 (finish) would be the best we could do so sixth was OK.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Luther Automotive Group Honda) – FINISHED 7th: “We started out really weak. The rear of the car was not good at all so that was frustrating. We made some changes before the race and the whole idea was to help the rear but it did the polar opposite, which wasn’t good. Halfway through the race, the car started coming to us, the track came to us. We took some front wing out and I think on the last stint we were probably one of the quickest cars on track and I know we were catching up to the lead group, but we were almost a full lap behind so we were having to come back to them. We passed (pole sitter Josef) Newgarden, (Spencer) Pigot and some others. We were legitimately good in the end but it just took us too long to get there. We went down a lap and could never fully recover.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) – FINISHED 8th: “I tell you when you are going that fast around this short oval it’s really hard to understand who is on the lead lap, who is not on the lead lap, who you are fighting for position, so there is a lot of communication with the spotter and with the strategist. I think we had good speed. I got stuck in traffic a lot of time and that was enough to get checked out from (Josef) Newgarden who I think was really fast today and obviously (James) Hinchcliffe, congrats to him. But, yeah, I think we had quite a bit of tire degradation, which was tough in traffic, but essentially it was an awesome race. From the cockpit, I had so much fun. It was about setting up people trying to understand where they were running, where your car was best with the tire degradation running high, running low, conserving your tires it really was a lot of thinking, a lot of driving and to me that is a lot of fun. That is pure racing. I had a blast. It was awesome short track racing. I think we were quite strong, but it was all about tire degradation. I do think we did have a little bit more than others, but our Menards Chevy was very fast. Overall I had a good time and it was good fun. It was a lot of action out there, but really good racing – lots of action from the cockpit. Here it is about finding the lane that works for you and your car. But you continue to move up and down from lane to lane the whole stint. You have to find the place to make your car comfortable and you comfortable. It changes all the time. That makes it hard to keep tires on the car, but it makes it more fun and challenging for sure.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) – FINISHED 9th: “Today was difficult. From the beginning, it seemed like we didn’t have the car that we had yesterday. I was really fighting it and we made some improvements throughout the race and the NAPA AUTO PARTS team stuck in there, so big credit to them. Our car was just too far out of the window to start with to be super competitive. I guess the one positive is some guys had a worse day then we did. So, we just have to take what we can get on days like this and look forward to Toronto.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet) – FINISHED 10th: “We didn’t get off the way we wanted to. The first stint wasn’t very good. We had a ton of understeer and started losing spots. But we were able to make adjustments and started getting spots back. We started off stints a little slowly, but the car got better as the stint went along and we could make up a lot of ground. That first stint really hurt us … we went from ninth back to 15th. We had to spend too much of the race digging out of that hole from the first stint. There were moments when I thought we had one of the better cars. I’m really happy for Spencer to get a break-out run and get his first podium in an Indy car. Both cars in the top 10, not what we came here for, but not miserable either. Spencer’s run is good for the whole team. We all work really tight together as a unit. It is, however, getting a little annoying that my teammates keep getting the better of me here. (Laughs) They made a couple of decisions at the beginning of the race different than we did. I think that helped him early, but we were probably a little better late, but we had already lost so much ground by then. But like I said, good job to them. Both cars in the top 10 is a good thing on a day like today when you see a lot of teams struggling.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda) – FINISHED 11th: “The SealMaster Honda team pretty much got the best result we could have today. It has been a really tough weekend. We didn’t test here and when we unloaded we had to make a bunch of changes. I wouldn’t say we threw the kitchen sink at it because there was a lot of thought and analysis that went into the changes we made. However, there were big swings trying to figure out how we could get the car in the zone. When you do that you start the race with an unknown and we got it wrong at first. Maybe we were too sensitive to the conditions. It only took two turns of front wing and that brought the car back to life. My race really started after the first pit stop. After that I was racy. It was a good recovery once we got those two turns of front wing out. I am really proud of the guys. They dug deep. I wish it had been a better result. We will keep trying and come back stronger next year.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – FINISHED 12th: “We kind of got stuck behind (Alexander) Rossi on the first stint and his pace kind of backed us up. Each time we changed lanes with the PNC Bank car, his spotter must have been telling him where we were going, and he kind of just kept putting the block on. That’s how it goes sometimes. That’s racing and it’s no one’s fault. The big problem for us was the tire issue toward the end, having the fronts on backward. That really put us in the hole and we should have finished better than we did.”

ED JONES (No. 10 DC Solar Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) – FINISHED 13th: “It was a tough day in the DC Solar car. I felt the team did a great job overall in practice and qualifying. I felt comfortable in the car for the race, but unfortunately, the tire degradation was much greater than we anticipated. I think looking at the results, the teams that tested here recently really had the upper hand today.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet) – FINISHED 14th: “I continue to be proud of these Carlin guys. They’ve done such a great job with so little testing experience here and they showed up yesterday morning with a good car in the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet that was able to advance from our starting position throughout the race. We definitely learned a lot today, especially about short-track racing. I feel like we can take a lot of things away from today. We seemed to have really good pace at certain times throughout the race which was great, but now we just need to learn why we couldn’t have that same pace every lap.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet) – FINISHED 15th: “That was a very long race, even though it wasn’t really time-wise. With 300 laps you have a lot of time to feel how your car is working and the balance shifts so much throughout those 90-lap stints. We had more pace in every session we did this weekend, but it’s just so hard to come in with no testing and expect to do well. We had some high points today in the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet, but we struggled massively when we were out behind someone. If we were ever stuck behind someone, we were stuck there for quite a long time, but when we were just running in clean air, I think we were around the top-10 pace. Unfortunately, a few different factors just didn’t allow us to get there today.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda) – FINISHED 16th: “Even though we weren’t fast last night, I felt a really good car balance – but, that car didn’t come back today. I’m not sure what happened. Our cars need to cope better with track (temperature). That was one of the longest races for me, but big thanks to the U.S. Concrete guys for hanging in there.”

TONY KANAAN – FINISHED 17th: No quotes available

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda) – FINISHED 18th: “The first stint was really strong. I thought we were going to stay that way and have a similar run to Texas (DXC Technology 600), but as the track gripped up and the rubber got down it didn’t agree with our No. 19 Paysafe car. I also struggled a bit to follow traffic, where to place my car, so it wasn’t the greatest day but I learned a lot from it.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda) – FINISHED 19th: “We started strong from P3, but then the car started going loose anytime I came off the throttle. We came in a few times to try and find the problem and in the end, we had a rear suspension failure – but it was too late, and I had already lost so much ground driving through a half stint with the issue. On top of that, we had radio issues and while I could hear the pit stand and spotter, I couldn’t communicate back to them outside of some radio signals. It was really frustrating and not the day the DHL team was looking for. I think we had a car good enough for the P5-7 range and are a bit disappointed with that to start with. We had higher hopes for Iowa but will move onto Toronto and keep focusing on points.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda) – FINISHED 20th: “We had a great first stint with the No. 26 Relay car – we got up to sixth. Then we came into the pits and had a small fire, just like (at the Indianapolis 500). After that, we dropped back outside of the top 10 and fought our way back up. We were getting a ton of pressure from (Scott) Dixon – who was a lap down at that point, but that’s racing and not his fault – and I was just late in the tire life and got into (Turn) 3 in a little different way and hit a bump. I lost the car, caught it, lost it again and when I caught it the third time, I was already in the marbles and couldn’t turn. I hate it for my crew because they’ve given me cars capable of winning in Texas and here in Iowa, and we worked our way through the field each time and a small mistake takes it out. I feel like today, I had the car to get the job done, I had the skill and the brain to get the job done and maybe just not the experience. It’s been a string of hard races for us and I hope people see the speed that we’ve shown and understand what’s put us in these situations. The speed is there, we just need a bit of luck and I need to do a little bit better of a job on being a little more patient. It’s all learning. These are the races that stick with you the most.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet) – FINISHED 21st: “Obviously today we had a very disappointing race as we didn’t see the checkered flag for the first time. It’s hard to accept that. Sometimes you have those days and you have to make the right choice to avoid making it even worse, so, for now, we’ll just concentrate on taking a look at the car and figuring out if anything was broken or if there were issues that we missed overnight that would identify why we struggled so much during the race and go from there.”

MATHEUS LEIST – FINISHED 22nd: No quotes available

Alexander Rossi remains the story in IndyCar in 2019


ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Alexander Rossi’s greatness was on full display Monday at Road America.

He started on the outside of the front row, drafted behind pole sitter Colton Herta at the drop of the green flag, pulled out a perfectly timed move to race side by side with Herta going into Turn 1.

By Turn 2 of the first lap, Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda was out front and drove away from the field, easily winning the REV Group Grand Prix of Road America by nearly 30 seconds over Team Penske’s Will Power.

Rossi was so good, it appeared he was running on a different race course than the other 23 competitors. There was some outstanding racing throughout the field with 191 total passes, including 175 for position, but none of those passes were at the front.

According to Rossi’s engineer, Jeremy Milles, there was just one thing kept Rossi’s race from being deemed complete perfection.

“It we had stayed out two laps longer on the last pit stop, we would have led every single lap instead of Graham Rahal leading one lap,” Milless told NBC “It’s good to see when we give him a proper car, he puts it to work.

“He’s not like a lot of drivers.”

Rossi led 54 of the 55 laps in the race and defeated Power by 28.4391 seconds – a huge margin of victory by today’s standards. Back in 1982, Hector Rebaque defeated Al Unser by a full lap at the 4.014-mile, 14 Road America road course, but those were far different times than today’s very deep field in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Although it was Rossi’s second victory of the season and the seventh of his career, the 27-year-old from Nevada City, California, has been the driver everyone talks about in 2019. The win snapped a four-race streak where he finished second three times and fifth in the other.

Simon Pagenaud won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26, but the fans and media were talking about Rossi’s bold, daring moves, including some wildly aggressive passes down the front straight and to the outside in Turn 1.

Rossi had a fantastic car the next week in the first race of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle but was burned by the timing of a caution period for a crash as his main challenger, Josef Newgarden, dove into the pit area to make a stop just before pit lane closed because of the caution.

Rossi had to wait until the pits were reopened to make his stop, and that put him behind Newgarden and ultimately decided the race.

After a fifth-place finish the following day in Race No. 2, Rossi was once again standing up in his seat and on top of the steering wheel in a tremendous battle with Newgarden at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. Rossi tried his best to make his car stick on the outside lane going into Turn 1, but when he discovered the risk was much higher than the reward, he had to begrudgingly settle for second, finishing 0.816 seconds behind the current NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

Rossi left no doubt on his Sunday drive through the Wisconsin woods as he never was challenged.

In just three short seasons, Rossi has developed into one of the greatest drivers in a generation in IndyCar. He doesn’t even have 10 victories yet, and he already had the makings of a legend.

“It’s almost like Juan Pablo Montoya, when he arrived as a rookie, he was great immediately,” Rossi’s team owner Michael Andretti told after the race. “Juan is one of the greats, and I think as time moves on, Alex will prove to be one of the greats.

“He is very aggressive, very calm, very confident, everything you want in a driver. He wasn’t racing anybody all day; he was just racing himself not to make any mistakes.”

For Andretti, this is a very important time in his relationship with Rossi. The driver’s contract concludes at the end of this season, and he is the focal point of speculation on where he will race in 2020.

Before Pagenaud revived his career with a sweep of the major events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Month of May, Rossi looked like “Penske Material” as the driver that would take over the No. 22 Chevrolet. After Pagenaud won the Indy 500, team owner Roger Penske assured him he would be back on the team in 2020.

Rossi’s loyalties lie with Honda. Both he and his father, Pieter, share a close relationship with the engine manufacturer that helped the former Formula One test driver at Manor find a full-time home in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Andretti told on Friday that he was “optimistically confident” that he will re-sign Rossi once a sponsorship agreement with NAPA is completed.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones

Andretti remains confident after Rossi’s win on Sunday.

“We’re getting there,” Andretti said. “I think we’re getting there. We are feeling pretty good about it.”

There are others, however, that aren’t as optimistic.

If Roger Penske wants a driver, who turns down an opportunity like that? After all, Team Penske is far and away the winningest team in IndyCar history, including a record 18 Indy 500 wins.

Think of these scenarios.

What if McLaren makes a substantial offer to align with Andretti Autosport for a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team in the future after McLaren’s debacle in this year’s Indy 500?

In order for that to happen, though, Andretti would have to switch to Chevrolet, because Honda ‘s parent company in Japan will no longer do business with McLaren.

The last time Andretti considered leaving Honda for Chevy, Rossi was set to leave Andretti to join another Honda team, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in 2017.

If Andretti Autosports and McLaren joined together, that would also mean the Andretti-aligned Harding Steinbrenner Racing would become a Chevy operation.

Honda could keep Rossi as one of its drivers by leading him to Chip Ganassi Racing. Five-time Cup Series champion Scott Dixon remains on top of his game, but it’s unlikely he will be racing Indy cars 10 years from now.

Barring unforeseen circumstance, Rossi will still be in the cockpit and winning races in a decade, and that would position Ganassi’s team for the future. The team’s second driver is rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who is currently racing with a one-year contract.

Even Rossi knows his situation for next year is complicated, which is why he chooses not to talk about it. He has developed a strong bond with Milless as his engineer and Rob Edwards (white shirt on left) as his race strategist.

Do both of those key members end up on a different team with Rossi? Edwards is a key member of management at Andretti Autosport as the Chief Operating Officer.

Rossi is as cerebral as he is aggressive. After his victory, when pressed upon his next contract, he concluded the conversation perfectly.

“I have no considerations,” Rossi said regarding his contract status. “It’s in God’s hands.”