Five things to watch for in Iowa 300

Leave a comment

The NTT IndyCar Series visits its third oval of the season as they hit the short track of Iowa Speedway. Simon Pagenaud won the Indy 500 with Josef Newgarden victorious on the fast 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. Oval tracks can be unpredictable, so this week could produce another new winner.

Last week’s watchlist was quite accurate, predicting that Newgarden and Alexander Rossi would finish close to one another (they were one position apart), that Scott Dixon would rebound into the top five (he finished second), and that Pagenaud would make up points on the leaders (he won).

Here are some of the storylines to watch this Sunday

  1. Newgarden enters the Iowa race with a current three-race streak of top-fives this season. Newgarden should easily add to his run of strong results since he has finished sixth or better in his last five Iowa races.
  2. Graham Rahal has a great chance to keep his current five-race, top-10 streak alive this week. He has eight such finishes in 11 races on this lightning fast short track.
  3. Last week’s suggestion that Newgarden and Rossi would finish close to one another proved accurate so it’s time to double down. Newgarden’s fourth-place finish was one spot short of Rossi in third. In the past three races, Newgarden and Rossi have not finished more than two positions different and can be expected to  run together again at Iowa.
  4. James Hinchliffe came close to cracking the top five for the first time in 2019 at Toronto. Hinchliffe’s sixth-place finish there was his third of the season. Now it’s on to Iowa where he is the defending winner from 2018; he also won in 2013. Those are his only two top-fives in seven attempts on this track.
  5. If Tony Kanaan is going to get a second top-10 this season, Iowa is a good venue for it to occur. Seven of Kanaan’s last nine races on this track have ended in results of ninth or better included a five-race streak of podium finishes from 2010 through 2014.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.