For the first time in 79 races, Marco Andretti finally shook off suggestions he couldn’t win again, driving a commanding race to take victory in the Iowa Corn 250 today. Our IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a look at a fascinating Iowa Corn Indy 250…
The field descended on Iowa Motor Speedway, minus Simona De Silvestro and the HVM Racing Team, who was not cleared to race after displaying some concussion-like symptoms following a heavy crash in Milwaukee qualifying a week ago. The focus of attention in the paddock was on Takuma Sato, and his historic pole position, becoming the first Japanese driver in IZOD Indycar Series history to start from top spot.
Danica Patrick, always the centre of attention herself, was optimistic of a good finish, starting alongside Sato in second place. A man unfamiliar with his grid spot was Scott Dixon – the regular frontrunner starting 23rd after failing to get his car hooked up sufficiently well for qualifying. In fact, the last time Dixon started 23rd was at Nazareth in 2001, which turned out to become his first IndyCar series victory…
As the green flag flew and 25 corn-powered ethanol-fuelled engines took off for 250 laps, Danica wasn’t ready and instantly lost second place to Tony Kanaan, and before long had dropped to fifth. Dario Franchitti was the man on the move, moving to within fighting distance for the lead with Sato and Kanaan.
The first caution of the day came on Lap 24 when Dale Coyne Racing’s James Jakes lost control over a rather noticeable bump on the exit of Turn 1, spun and backed into the SAFER barrier (pictured above).
Although early in the race, the field headed for the pits. As Will Power was completing his pit stop, his right-front mechanic released him back into pit lane earlier than he should have, as Charlie Kimball was approaching his pit stall. Kimball crossed Power’s bow and the two made contact. Power was rolled back to his pit-box by his crew and soon sent on his way again, albeit at the back of the field, however had to re-pit a lap later to replace his nose cone and avoid losing a lap.
At the restart on Lap 33, Franchitti consolidated his lead over Sato and Kanaan, however, the caution was back on Lap 46. Mike Conway and Ana Beatriz came together in a heavy accident, with a lot of debris spread over the track. Both were OK, and the restart came on Lap 65.
Possibly as a result of the debris from the Conway / Beatriz incident, Helio Castroneves had to make a pitstop for another deflating tyre under green flag conditions. After a tyre change, Castroneves was on his way again although 2 laps down.
Then, Will Power’s day came to a premature end with a heavy crash, also over the same bump that claimed Jakes, Conway and Beatriz, losing the rear end, spinning and making heavy contact with the wall. With Dario leading, Power no doubt knew that any high result by his main rival would deal his championship hopes a significant blow.
The field headed for the pits, except for Castroneves, who regained his lost lap. Once all cars were back on track, Castroneves, and all other lapped cars were allowed to pass the pace car and return to the lead-lap at the back of the queue. The restart came on Lap 108.
Following caution periods for separate accidents involving Sebastian Saavedra and then later, pole-sitter Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti found himself among the leaders following an excellent pit stop. From the restart following Sato’s accident on Lap 199, Andretti jumped Franchitti into Turn 1 and took the lead. From here, a fantastic battle for the lead involving Andretti, Franchitti and Kanaan ensued, with the trio swapping positions with increasing frequency.
Whether it was tyres or another issue, Franchitti faded a little toward the end, eventually falling to fifth. Scott Dixon, who had held his line and driven well all night, had climbed to third, passing J.R. Hildebrand late in the race for the final podium place. Further up, Kanaan and Andretti were dicing ferociously, with the latter eventually winning the battle through more uses of his “push-to-pass” system available to ensure a successful defence of his position.
This left Marco Andretti to hold on to win his first race since Infineon 2006, with Kanaan coming home second and Dixon third. With Franchitti finishing fifth, he opened up a 20-point gap to his non-finishing championship rival Will Power.
Next stop in two weeks are the streets of Toronto, and a return to the road and street courses for the next three events. The race for the title is heating up!
2011 Iowa Corn Indy 250 Final Standings (250 laps):
|1.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||250||1:53:00.1074|
|2.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology Lotus||250||+ 0.7932|
|3.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi||250||+ 1.1067|
|4.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing||250||+ 1.4856|
|5.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi||250||+ 1.8926|
|6.||Ryan Briscoe||Team Penske||250||+ 2.3628|
|7.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske||250||+ 2.6732|
|8.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||250||+ 4.1625|
|9.||James Hinchcliffe||Newman/Haas Racing||250||+ 5.6272|
|10.||Danica Patrick||Andretti Autosport||250||+ 6.0327|
|11.||Ed Carpenter||Sarah Fisher Racing||250||+ 7.6745|
|12.||Justin Wilson||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||250||+ 14.1527|
|13.||Alex Lloyd||Dale Coyne Racing||250||+ 16.8865|
|14.||Oriol Servià||Newman/Haas Racing||249||1 lap behind|
|15.||Graham Rahal||Chip Ganassi||249||1 lap behind|
|16.||Alex Tagliani||Sam Schmidt Motorsports||249||1 lap behind|
|DNF.||EJ Viso||KV Racing Technology Lotus||239||Handling|
|DNF.||Vitor Meira||AJ Foyt Enterprises||227||Handling|
|DNF.||Takuma Sato||KV Racing Technology Lotus||182||Contact|
|DNF.||Sebastian Saavedra||Conquest Racing||114||Contact|
|DNF.||Will Power||Team Penske||89||Contact|
|DNF.||Charlie Kimball||Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi||62||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Ana Beatriz||Dreyer & Reinbold Racing||44||Contact|
|DNF.||Mike Conway||Andretti Autosport||44||Contact|
|DNF.||James Jakes||Dale Coyne Racing||22||Contact|
|DNS.||Simona de Silvestro||HVM Racing||Withdrew|
[Images via IndyCar Media]