Some open-wheel thoughts while sitting on the tarmac in Iowa at 4:30 a.m.
- Heard some people were complaining that IndyCar started the race at midnight EST, but what they didn’t see was Sunday’s forecast for Des Moines. It called for rain all day, and with Mid-Ohio next up in the three-in-a-row schedule, it was imperative and smart to get it run.
- Josef Newgarden responded to the challenges of Alexander Rossi and teammate Simon Pagenaud with a flawless performance for his fourth win of 2019 – which pushed his points lead to 29. JoNew owns Iowa, and now a little breathing room with five races remaining.
- If you didn’t stay up for the telecast be sure and find the replay so you can watch Santino Ferrucci’s short-track debut. The 21-year-old American looked like Michael Andretti in traffic as he used the high side to make a myriad of passes, and he was especially entertaining on restarts. The kid is brave, but also damn good.
- Many were bitching, and rightfully so, that the return to “night racing” at Iowa was going to be run entirely in the daylight (race was supposed to get the green flag at 6:20pm and it doesn’t get dark until 8:45) but the weather made sure it was a night race. I realize NBCSN wisely wanted an earlier start to have the NASCAR Xfinity race lead into Iowa, but if I’m David Hyatt (president of Iowa Speedway), I would demand an 8 o’clock green flag next year. This race must be run under the lights.
- Good to see Spencer Pigot finally get a result, as he charged from 19th to as high as third third and ultimately wound up fifth in the ECR Chevy, and it was going to be a great night for Ed Carpenter Racing before the boss spun out and hit the wall while running sixth.
- Sammy Swindell won the pole for the King’s Royale on Saturday night at Eldora driving son Kevin’s car, and you just have to marvel at this 63-year-old sprint car legend’s spunk. He’s a racer like no other.
- Obviously the 95-degree temperatures and subsequent torrential downpour killed any chance of Iowa having a crowd, but the couple thousand that stuck it out until 1:30a.m. deserve a big salute and $20 off next year’s ticket. Iowa has hard-core IndyCar fans, and I think they’ll come back strong with a true night show.
- “Night (racing) is better because it’s more exhilarating. It’s obviously cooler, easier on the fans and easier on us. I think it’s a lot more fun, brings out the atmosphere and makes it exciting. The more races we have under the lights would be [the] better.” Newgarden on why Iowa needs to start later in 2020.
- Brad Sweet won $175,000 for 40 laps in a sprint car at the King’s Royale the same night that Newgarden earned $35,000 for 300 laps at Iowa. Think about that.
- James Hinchcliffe finally got a well-deserved podium and a result to match his pace after enduring a slew of bad luck in 2019.
- Roger Penske now has 100 IndyCar victories with a Dallara chassis.
- Zach Veach turned in his best drive of the season and passed a bunch of cars on his way to seventh place (from 20th)
- A.J. Allmendinger did a nice job of teaming with Paul Tracy and filling in for Townsend Bell in the NBC booth, and was gung-ho about Ferrucci. Of course he and the rookie from Connecticut share a bond – they were both engineered by Michael Cannon, who always seems to get the best out of the kids.
- If any IndyCar owners still doubt Conor Daly’s pedigree then they’re either not paying attention or just don’t get it. He ran in the top five at Indy for Andretti before the last restart, jumped into Carlin Racing’s car at Texas and had it in the top 10 before the last pit stop, and was again mixing it up in the top 10 at Iowa before finishing 13th. He’s technically savvy and a good racer, so hopefully Trevor Carlin will hire him full-time for 2020 and let the team grow around him.
- There was some concern Iowa might not be back on the schedule next year, but IndyCar is negotiating a new contract with the oval track that always provides great racing just like last Saturday night’s.
- When is the last time more than half of the starting lineup of an IndyCar race was composed of American drivers? Twelve of the 22 starters at Iowa were home-grown.
- We’re 700 words into this column and no mention of Rossi’s free agent status, but all signs point to Alexander re-upping with Andretti and the team staying with Honda, which would be great on many levels for IndyCar competition.
- And the happiest guy if the paragraph above proves true? Helio Castroneves, who will likely get another chance for win number four at Indianapolis.