By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
My new feature for The Open Wheel continues with a collection of random thoughts following the INDYCAR weekend at Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn 300.
- Castroneves Responds Brilliantly To IMSA Rumors In Victory – Helio Castroneves winning at Iowa Speedway for his first victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series in three years is a great story. To do it in the same weekend as reports emerge of him being moved to Team Penske’s long-rumored IMSA team is incredible. It obviously meant a lot to him. It was outstanding to see Spiderman in action once again. Castroneves is now just 8 points back of Dixon for the championship lead and he has a very real chance of accomplishing the only thing missing in his illustrious INDYCAR career. There’s a lot of smoke to this story and it hasn’t been denied by anyone involved so there’s obviously something to it. For Helio to finally deliver a victory just as these reports come out really says something about his strength of character and how much talent he has left. He has a legitimate shot at the title this year and this win could cue a special end to his season and/or Verizon IndyCar Series career.
- Rare Average Weekend For Ganassi – The four-car Chip Ganassi Racing Teams squad was surprisingly slow for most of the weekend. All four cars finished in the same position they were for a majority of the race with Dixon P8, Kanaan P9, Chilton P14, & Kimball P15. That’s shockingly mediocre for a team that’s almost always fast anywhere. Kanaan was the team’s top qualifier in P7 while Dixon qualified back in P17. Iowa Speedway is quite different to anywhere else remaining this year but it still will be interesting to see how this team responds. Dixon won the pole and led 56 laps at Toronto last year so my guess is they’ll be fine this weekend.
- Marco’s Struggles Continue – Speaking of struggling teams, Andretti Autosport had another rough weekend at Iowa Speedway this year but Ryan Hunter-Reay was fantastic to salvage the weekend with a podium in P3. Marco Andretti’s 2017 struggles continued once again as he nearly crashed multiple times in qualifying and finished last of the Andretti Autosport cars in P17. Marco began the season fast in practice with a lot of bad luck in qualifying and races but he’s really struggled lately. He has 5 Top 10 starts in 11 races but has started no better than P8. He’s managed just 3 Top 10 finishes so far this year with a best finish of P6 in the wild race at Texas Motor Speedway.
- Gutierrez Solid In Oval Debut – Dale Coyne Racing rookie Esteban Gutierrez was impressively solid in his first career race on an oval. He went a lap down early but after getting it back during the Aleshin caution did well to hold his position in the field and occasionally make a move forward. A P13 finish is a great result for the recent Formula 1 driver and a good sign for Dale Coyne Racing with races ahead at Gateway Motorsports Park and Pocono Raceway. DCR has to be happy to leave an oval with both of their cars in tact for the first time this season.
- Rookie Leist 2/2 On Ovals In Lights – A lot of people, myself included, were surprised by Carlin Indy Lights rookie Matheus Leist qualifying back in P10 at Iowa and thought that might be too big of a hole to climb out of for the race. However, that could not have been more false. Leist was brilliant from the start and even better after the only caution period of the race when he rocketed to the front to lead the final 69 laps. Leist has now won each of the two Indy Lights races on ovals in 2017. Those are the only two oval races of his life. That’s incredible! He’s now just 13 points back of Kyle Kaiser for the championship lead and he’s the hottest driver in the series. The young Brazilian might just be the man to watch for the rest of the season.