The race may run for 300 laps, but it only takes one to win, and Ryan Hunter-Reay pounced at the right time, taking the lead with two laps remaining to win the Iowa Corn 300 today.

Hunter-Reay dove for the pits with 15 laps remaining to take on fresh tyres – a masterstroke by his strategist and team-owner Michael Andretti – proven as the reigning Indy 500 winner carved up the field in the final laps to pass day-long leader Tony Kanaan with only two revolutions remaining. The win extended a streak of wins at Iowa for Andretti Autosports now stretching five years. In that time, Tony Kanaan (2010), Marco Andretti (2011), Hunter-Reay himself (2012) and James Hinchcliffe (2013) have driven to Victory Lane at Iowa, and it was the 2012 winner doubling his Iowa trophy count after 300 laps of the 0.875-mile speedway.

Tony Kanaan

Kanaan led the most laps, but not the one that counted.

Inclement weather, including a tornado warning no less, had been issued for the area surrounding Newton, Iowa ahead of the race, leading to the race start time being brought forward to ensure at least 151 laps would be run to constitute a full points-paying race.

Soon after the start, polesitter Scott Dixon began to fall back to fourth, with his fellow front-row starter Kanaan and two Penske rivals Helio Castroneves and Will Power also getting ahead. A full course caution came out at Lap 39 as rain began to move in. The pace car came out initially but the decision was taken to throw the red flag, and the cars lined up in pit lane in track order.

For those unaware as to the intricacies of oval racing, track activity is always halted in rain as water moving down the banked surface can prove a serious hazard and creates a scene of near-constant aquaplaning which would send drivers spinning everywhere. The same applies to NASCAR cars. Rain tyres are built to dissipate water and maximise grip on road and street courses, not to retain grip on a banked surface. Plus, the thought of trying to run at up to 200mph in the rain is sheer lunacy.

After a break of about half an hour, with jet dryers on the circuit, the race resumed as the weather appeared to have cleared. After the whole field headed for pit service nearly immediately, Kanaan and Castroneves waged what would ultimately be a race-long battle in the pits, each emerging ahead of the other at least once, however Kanaan always found his way back to the front. The Ganassi driver eventually clocked up 247 laps at the front.

Accidents of the day included Mikhail Aleshin running below the white line at the bottom of the track, spinning and collecting the innocent Takuma Sato on his journey into the wall. Both cars were significantly damaged, and after their second collision together in the space of two weeks, Sato’s team owner A.J. Foyt was none too pleased, urging officials to look at disciplinary action for the Russian.

Aleshin and Sato collide at Iowa

Aleshin and Sato collided again.

Mid-race and the driver surprisingly earning plaudits was Sebastián Saavedra, who appeared to be running on rails. The Colombian was picking off drivers left, right and centre and was destined for the front, even passing Will Power and Scott Dixon with apparent ease.

It seemed only a matter of time before the lead would be his, however a bump on the exit of Turn 2 brought him undone and resulting in a light graze of the wall. Although the car appeared undamaged, the caution came out and Saavedra sat in the pits undergoing an assessment by his team and wondering how it all went wrong.

The final caution of the day, which predicated Hunter-Reay’s ultimately defining pit stop, came after Juan Pablo Montoya found the wall after becoming involved with Ed Carpenter. Replays showed Carpenter take the line into Turn 4, unaware Montoya was going for the low line with a view to passing, a call Carpenter should have been informed about by his spotter in the grandstands. Montoya was livid upon climbing from the car and made his feelings perfectly clear to Carpenter as the field came past behind the safety car. On being interviewed later, Montoya showed his sometimes fiery temperament, whereupon being told that stewards had investigated the incident and decided no action was to be taken, Montoya responded: “Then I’ll take some action later.”

The ten-lap sprint to the finish saw Kanaan desperately trying to hold off the charging Hunter-Reay and equally fast Josef Newgarden, who opted for the same strategy and also took on new tyres at the final chance. Both managed to get past Kanaan, relegating him to a third place finish. The Brazilian was pragmatic at the end of the race, confident his team were doing everything they could, with luck being the only missing piece.

Hunter-Reay became the first driver to win three races for the year, following his successes at Barber Motorsports Park and of course, the Indy 500. Newgarden equalled his career-best finish of second, delivering the perfect welcome-back present for team owner Sarah Fisher, who was in attendance at a race for the first time since giving birth to her first son and second child in early June. The series’ compact schedule continues, with only a week now to the final double-header of the year
in Toronto next weekend.

2014 IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 – Race Result (300 laps):

Driver Team / Entry Result
1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Honda Honda 2:01:58.8160
2. Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda Honda + 0.5814
3. Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 1.0676
4. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 2.7606
5. Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 4.9819
6. James Hinchcliffe ca Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 5.0135
7. Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Honda + 6.7976
8. Hélio Castroneves Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet + 7.1408
9. Ryan Briscoe Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 7.1896
10. Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Chevrolet + 7.6098
11. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda + 7.7794
12. Carlos Muñoz Andretti Autosport Honda Honda + 7.8190
13. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda + 11.2612
14. Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet + 11.7947
15. Jack Hawksworth Bryan Herta Autosport Honda Honda – 4 laps
Not Classified
FND. Juan Pablo Montoya Team Penske Chevrolet Chevrolet 280 laps
DNF. Sebastián Saavedra KV Racing Technology / AFS Racing Honda Honda 258 laps
DNF. Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport Honda Honda 229 laps
DNF. Sébastien Bourdais KV Racing Technology Honda Honda 130 laps
DNF. Carlos Huertas Dale Coyne Racing Honda Honda 78 laps
DNF. Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda Honda 47 laps
DNF. Takuma Sato A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda Honda 47 laps

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Matt Lennon