It must have been the clean the Matt Lennon gave his crystal ball last week that did it. As predicted in his Iowa IndyCar race preview article, he tipped a non-Penske, non-Ganassi winner in Iowa. And nobody deserved a stroke of good luck more than Tony Kanaan, writes our resident IndyCar correspondent…
In qualifying, Will Power took his first oval-race pole position which was great to see as Power has already proved his abilities on the road-courses so far this year. Prior to the race, there was panic in the No 9 garage of Scott Dixon, whose team discovered a fuel leak problem and were hastily repairing the car as all other cars were ready to fire up their cars for the race. With help from team-mate Dario Franchitti’s crew, Dixon’s car was made ready and Scott took his second-place grid spot just in time.’
Despite the summer humidity, the possibility of a heavy rainstorm were increasing, forcing the race to get underway a little earlier than expected in order to ensure a show for the fans. Lined up in the normal two-by-two formation, Power led the field away from the green flag. It took less than a lap for the first caution period. Coming through Turn 2, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing pilot Justin Wilson lost the rear of his car, spun and collected a helpless Mario Moraes, eliminating both cars on the spot.
The restart came on Lap 13 again with Power leading away, with Marco Andretti in close tow. Andretti was looking very fast and was desperate to find a way past Power. As the leaders came up to put perennial backmarker Milka Duno down her first lap, rather than allow Milka to get out of the way, Power attempted a pass as though it were for position. This caught Duno by surprise, who was taking the inside line through the corner and had to swerve to avoid crashing into the leader. This swerve then also almost caused a collision with Andretti, who had to back right off, losing momentum and second place to Scott Dixon.
Despite the course only being short, only 0.875 of a mile, it was still hard to believe when the leaders came up to lap Duno only 9 laps later. That’s right, by Lap 30, and with only 17 of those being run under the green flag, Duno was about to be lapped for the second time. IndyCar CEO Brian Barnhardt has repeatedly said that on ovals, all cars should be lapping within one second of the leader or they run the risk of being removed from the race. Officials stuck to their word and considering Duno to be a safety hazard, disqualified her from the event for running too slowly.
Lap 48, and Dario Franchitti took the lead from Will Power, who was having a torrid time with backmarkers and soon dropped to ninth.
A caution period for debris clean-up was brought out at about Lap 50, which prompted the first scheduled pit stops. Upon the exit, Tony Kanaan, progressing nicely through the field, squeezed Helio Castroneves as he was exiting his pit stall, who in turn made firm contact with Scott Dixon, somehow escaping without any significant damage. Despite the chance Castroneves’ rear suspension was damaged, the Penske team advised Versus TV pit reporter Robbie Floyd that Castroneves car was running fine despite the slight brush with Dixon.
Upon the resumption of racing, green flag running resumed for a while, with plenty of action all over the track across all positions.
It was not the best day at the office for a number of pit-crews. During a routine stop, Simona Di Silvestro experienced a failure with the air-jack. As normal, the jack dropped the car back to the track, however the receptacle didn’t disconnect, with the operator getting thrown to the ground as Di Silvestro tried to leave. Simona was given a drive-through penalty for the incident, however decided to retire instead.
Another scary moment was when Ryan Hunter-Reay got his car way out of shape approaching his pit stall. By doing so, he came about an inch away from running over the ankles of the right-front tyre changer on Tony Kanaan’s crew, who were completing TK’s final pit stop at the time, hitting a tyre at the same time. It was scary footage and had the potential to be so much worse. For hitting pit equipment, Hunter-Reay received the customary drive through penalty.
A late race gearbox failure put an end to Dario Franchitti’s charge – a shame as he was battling very well right through the race with both Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan.
Towards the end of the race, the Versus TV commentators made mention of how well Formula One refugee Takuma Sato was handling the short-oval races, even speaking to his team co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, who stated he was very impressed with his Japanese acquisition. Perhaps the audio feed of this interview was being played down the radio to Taku, as right then, the Lotus-branded KV Racing driver crashed into the outside wall while trying to lap backmarker Alex Lloyd!
With definitely the best car all day, Tony Kanaan held on from there to take the win from Helio Castroneves, who kept out of trouble all day, and E.J Viso, who recorded his best finish in his Indycar career to date. The win was Kanaan’s first since Richmond in 2008, and the second win of the year for the Andretti Autosport team. It was also the first time Kanaan’s young son Leo had witnessed his dad win a race, as the last win came before he was born. It was a very happy family moment on Fathers Day in America.
After four consecutive oval races, the cars are now prepared to road-course configurations, the drivers try to remember how to turn right, and the next stop in the championship approaches in 2 weeks, with the Grand Prix at Watkins Glen on July 4 – American Independence Day.
[Original images via AUTOSPORT]