NEWTON — Maybe the eighth race will be different for Verizon IndyCar Series drivers at Iowa Speedway. In the previous seven series races at 7/8-mile oval track, no driver has won the Verizon IndyCar Series race from the pole position.
Scott Dixon is out to break that trend in Saturday’s Iowa Corn Indy 300. Drivers start their engines for a 7:45 p.m. race at the Speedway.
Dixon set the Iowa Speedway two-lap qualifying track record Friday, earning the Verizon P1 Award. Drivers had to handle several rain delays in Friday’s practice sessions, then ran the qualifiers on a dry track Friday evening.
“I'm excited for the race — Iowa is a fun track and we've had some great cars in the past and some great finishes, so hopefully we can put on a fantastic show for the fans here tomorrow — that's No. 1 on the priority list and obviously to try and win it for us,” Dixon said.
Dixon led a front-row sweep for Target Chip Ganassi Racing during qualifications for Saturday night's Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB. Dixon's two-lap average of 186.256 mph shattered the previous speed record of 180.375 mph held by Takuma Sato since 2011.
Tony Kanaan, the 2010 race winner on the 0.894-mile, variably-banked oval while with Andretti Autosport, recorded a two-lap average speed of 185.891 mph in the No. 10 TNT Energy Drink entry to tie his season-high qualifying result of second.
"Here, there is no place to hide, and I think your driver skills come in handy," said Kanaan of Saturday’s Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB. "I've been fortunate to always do well on mile ovals. It probably just suits my style."
Kanaan is one of just four drivers (Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti and Dixon) to start every race at Iowa. He's finished on the podium four years running, including a victory in 2010 for Andretti Autosport.
Dixon, driving the No. 9 entry, is the ninth different driver to claim the Verizon P1 Award during the first 12 races of the Verizon IndyCar Series season. Friday’s effort marked his 21st career Indy car pole, tying Gil de Ferran for 13th on the all-time Indy car list.
"It's definitely a good thing to see the Ganassi cars at the top," said Dixon, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, whose previous best qualifying result on an oval this season was seventh at Texas Motor Speedway. "We had been stuck in sort of a rut and it had been a while since my last pole (Baltimore in August 2013). We're winless so we have a bit of work to do. It definitely will be a tough one; the competition is extremely good."
Helio Castroneves, who is tied with Team Penske teammate Will Power atop the championship standings, set the one-lap track record (186.809 mph) on his second qualifying lap in the No. 3 for a two-lap average of 185.685 mph and will join Ryan Briscoe (185.339 mph) on Row 2. Power, battling bronchitis this weekend, qualified ninth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
Carlos Munoz qualified fifth and Sebastien Bourdais will join the series rookie in Row 3. The fourth Chip Ganassi Racing car, driven by Charlie Kimball, will occupy Row 4 in the seventh starting position with 2011 Iowa race winner Marco Andretti, who starts eighth.
James Hinchcliffe, who is out to defend his 2013 victory at Iowa Speedway, had the 14th fastest qualifying time (183.747).
"We just missed it (in qualifying) today and it's a shame because the United Fiber & Data car was pretty quick in practice. The good news is our race trim is strong so there is an opportunity to move up, but I'm just gutted for the guys because we do have a good car,” Hinchcliffe said. “I think traffic management is what wins this race. It's a very short track trait — you're always going to be racing someone whether it's for positions or with guys a lap down or maybe guys a lap ahead of you, but you're always going to be in dirty air. Having a car that versatile out front, high line, low line is definitely going to be key."
This weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway will be a homecoming for a few Iowans. Even though there are no native Iowans behind the wheel of any Verizon IndyCar Series car, several native Hawkeyes will play key roles in this weekend's race as over-the-wall crew members: Travis Law of Maquoketa is the chief mechanic/outside front tire changer for Castroneves' car; Jeremy Baker from Clear Lake is the inside rear tire changer for Power; Brett Snyder from Muscatine is the fueler for Sebastian Saavedra; Doug Bradley from Esterville is the inside rear tire changer for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rob Channel of Altoona is the airjack operator for Jack Hawksworth.