NEWTON, Iowa (July 17, 2015) – Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon ran 1-2 on the speed chart in both 45-minute Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions for the Iowa Corn 300 on the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway oval.
Kanaan, who has earned podium finishes in the past five races at Iowa Speedway, posted the fastest lap of 17.7544 seconds (181.273 mph) in the second practice session in the No. 10 Fusion Chevrolet. His lap of 17.9580 seconds (179.218 mph) in the initial session also was fastest of the 24 entries for the 300-lap race under the lights July 18.
“I think we have a pretty good setup,” Kanaan said. “The track suits my style. The short ovals are definitely one of my strengths. So far, we’re pretty happy with the race car so we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Dixon recorded a best lap of 181.229 mph (17.7587 seconds) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in the second practice.
He set the track two-lap qualifying record of 186.256 mph on July 11, 2014, and has started from the pole three times in the eight previous Verizon IndyCar Series races at Iowa Speedway. Single-car qualifications are scheduled for 4 p.m. ET July 18, with the green flag for the race scheduled for 8:50 p.m. (NBCSN).
The next victory for Chip Ganassi Racing will be the 100th in team history.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power was third overall (180.898 mph) in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to lead teammates Simon Pagenaud (180.795) and Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader Juan Pablo Montoya (180.474) in the top five.
Iowa Speedway Win Count: Andretti 6, Penske 0
Team Penske, with its powerful driving foursome of Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, has been considered a favorite at most Verizon IndyCar Series tracks this season. Yet Iowa Speedway is the only returning venue on the 2015 schedule where Roger Penske’s cars have never won.
Meanwhile, Andretti Autosport has won six of the previous eight races here, including the last five in a row. So does that make the Andretti stable of Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and Justin Wilson the pre-race favorite this weekend?
“They’ve certainly been really strong,” Pagenaud said today during a media availability. “Marco has been really strong here, Hunter-Reay as well. No reason for us not to be just as competitive. We’ve shown a lot of strength on every track.”
Penske drivers have finished second on two occasions at Iowa – Ryan Briscoe in 2009 and Castroneves in 2010. Castroneves felt he “had a great shot” to win last year until a number of drivers pitted under a late caution period for fresh Firestone tires and Hunter-Reay stormed to his second Iowa victory.
“Obviously, (taking on) new tires ended up paying off with only 10 laps to go (last year),” Castroneves said. “In this case, we’ve got to just keep doing what we’re doing. … But at this point I feel that all four of us, we’re going to have a great chance to be in first place here.”
For his part, Andretti – winner at Iowa in 2011 – believes his team deserves to be called the Iowa favorite based on past history.
“I’d like to think so,” Andretti said. “The team, for whatever reason, rolls off pretty strong here. I think last year we started to struggle a little bit, but they definitely pulled the rabbit out of the hat there in the end (with Hunter-Reay winning). … It was cool to be able to keep the streak alive. That’s still the goal.”
Karam Looks to Keep Iowa Winning Streak Going
Sage Karam, the 20-year-old Chip Ganassi Racing Teams driver, will try to keep his perfect winning record going at Iowa Speedway. Karam has won at the track in all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder system: Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda (2010), Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires (2011 and 2012) and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires (2013).
Karam will attempt to make his first Verizon IndyCar Series start at the 0.894-mile oval in the Iowa Corn 300. Driving the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet, he is coming off back-to-back races in which he posted a career-best finish (fifth at Auto Club Speedway) and start (third at Milwaukee).
“I feel like we have some momentum on our side with the No. 8 car program,” said Karam, who has competed in nine Verizon IndyCar Series races this season. “I love Iowa and was a big fan of driving this track in the ladder series. We need a good result and to continue to move forward and I hope we can get it this weekend and capitalize on all the hard work that’s gone into this program.”
Karam’s teammate Tony Kanaan also has found success at Iowa. Kanaan began a run of five consecutive podium finishes with a victory in 2010, when he drove for Andretti Autosport.
“There’s just something about these short ovals that I love,” Kanaan said. “It’s always such an exciting race, and with the way we’ve been running this season, I don’t see this weekend’s race being any different.”
Kanaan’s No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet is carrying primary sponsorship this weekend from Fusion, an energy drink new to the American market from Grupo Petropolis in Brazil. … Josef Newgarden’s No. 67 CFH Racing Chevrolet has primary sponsorship from Wichita State University, which is in the Kansas hometown of CFH co-owner Wink Hartman. … Austin Cindric, 16-year-old son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric, qualified fourth for his ARCA Racing Series stock car debut, scheduled to be run later Friday night.
IOWA CORN 300 POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Verizon Chevy ran strong today. We didn’t get much traffic running. It’s hard to tell where we are at and it’s obviously good by itself, but with all this downforce it would be. But we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s qualifying and with temperature dropping, it should make for some interesting results.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Very hot today behind the wheel of the Verizon Chevy, but was a good day for us. We learned a lot in the first practice session and were able to make good adjustments for the second one. I was happy with the way we finished the day. The top cars are all very close together on time. The cars behave way different than what we have been used to in the past, even just from this past weekend in Milwaukee. But it’s the same for everyone.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The track is fast, but the temperature is much more humid than anything we have dealt with this year. The new aero kit behaves very different from what we’ve had here before. We tried a lot of things today, to be honest. Now it’s time to get together with my Team Penske teammates to see what they found out with their cars, but the Hitachi Chevy is consistent and strong enough to have a good result tomorrow night.”
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “I’m happy with today’s practice. I feel good about this track. It’s a bit like Milwaukee with very fast corners, but short, so the speed is pretty much the same. I thought the banking would play a huge factor this weekend, but I actually kind of like it so I am having fun. My Chevy car is really good, we tried to trim a little bit for qualifying tomorrow and we finished practice 16th overall today so I feel good about that. I think with a few more improvements tonight we can finish qualifying tomorrow in the top 12 and have a good race tomorrow evening.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “We never got to do a qualifying simulation run. We were going to do it at the end of the session and just didn’t even attempt one because we ran out of time. We felt like we should just focus on the race setup for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car so as far as lap times go, I think we should be decent, and up there with some of the better Hondas. We were just really trying to work on our race prep and hopefully it will pay off in the race tomorrow.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was a frustrating session, really. It seems like the Chevys have quite an edge right now, which is disappointing because we were very quick last weekend. We were two of the quickest cars in the field at Milwaukee, but the No. 7 MediaTech Oculus guys will continue to work hard tonight and see where we end up tomorrow. I think we can still have a strong weekend but it’s going to be tough.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution / Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “I think we struggled a bit getting the balance of the car where we needed it in practice. The track is bumpy and I had to rely on my teammates’ feedback after the first session to get the car working more how I like it. I love racing here at Iowa. All four cars here are fast and the race should be good tomorrow night for us. I learned a lot today and think we will be looking good for tomorrow night.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I’m pretty happy so far. We unloaded fast off the truck in the Target car. (Tony Kanaan) and I were fast here last year, but we got beat by others on a tire gamble late in that race. Overall the car is good and I’m looking forward to qualifying and the race tomorrow night.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Fusion Chevrolet): “I think the No. 10 Fusion Chevrolet is where it needs to be heading into qualifying tomorrow. The second practice we were able to work through some things we found in the first practice and we worked on a few qualifying runs. These short ovals are where I’m strongest, so I’m hoping we can get our first win of the season tomorrow night.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Very hot day. Not an easy day because we are struggling with the grip and balance so we’re not fast. The aero package is totally different from last year. We have more downforce so we went faster but so has everyone else. To optimize the package isn’t easy and we need to work on it tonight.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “All in all I think it was a decent session. Obviously we have some catching up to do. Our car’s strength is the long run. It seems very consistent. This weekend is reminding me a bit of Fontana in that we just seem to be lacking the qualifying sort of speed but over the long run the car feels really good so we’re going to keep working at it and keep plugging away. Our strength this season has been keeping the rears (tires) underneath us over the stint. I hope that plays out because we need it. We need to have a good day. We can’t have a bad one anymore. This team has been doing a heck of a job. We’ll keep working hard and hope it goes our way. Obviously in the race when the sun goes down it will be different conditions so we’ll see what happens.”
PIPPA MANN (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I’m pretty happy for my first day here in an Indy car. We unloaded pretty well today. The Dale Coyne Racing No. 18 car has been fairly good off the truck. We have a few things to work on still going into the race, but at the moment I feel like we have a good car like in Texas and Fontana. That went pretty well for us, so fingers crossed, and hopefully we will get a good result.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I feel we made a lot of good progress between the first and second practice. I think a lot of people went out on new tires this evening so I’m not sure our time represents how fast we are. The car felt good and we made a step on the right direction. It felt solid in traffic but I’m sure we can make it even better. It was one step in the right direction and if we make one more, we should have a very solid car for the race.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a pretty good day. We made quite a few changes and tried quite a few things. We were ninth in both sessions. I think we are better than that, but you always think you’re better than you are. I feel better here than Milwaukee, but it’s tricky. When you’re running by yourself versus when you’re in traffic is very different. I think qualifying is going to be critical, getting it right is going to be hard since the conditions are going to be different. Definitely a lot of pressure to qualify well, that will go a long way for the race.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “The Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet is quite good this weekend and we feel consistent on the race run after both practices. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen with the new Chevy aero kit as we don’t get much testing, so we’re still trying to understand some things. But we were able to have a very strong pace out there today. With it being a night race tomorrow, it’ll be a different forecast with the temperature dropping, but it will be great for the fans and we’re looking forward to it.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “I’m really pleased with the way the car feels – it’s driving well, can change lanes and run all over the track. We have to find a little bit more speed, but it’s definitely in the ballpark to be a challenger. Now it’s just a case of putting it all together and getting ready for qualifying and (we’ll) see what happens.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): “For sure another hard day. We just seem off the pace. I think we ended up better than where we started today. We have to do our best tomorrow. Qualifying is what it is, but in the race you have to have a good car, so we’ll see what we have tomorrow and get past these two tough tracks (Milwaukee and Iowa).”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “We ended our day pretty good actually. I thought we got the front working well and the rear is good and solid, so I’m pretty pleased with the race car. We haven’t really been focusing on qualifying, which has been a trend for us; I think it’s boded well for us in the races. In my opinion, you have to start mid-pack or forward to not risk going a lap down, but if you have a good car you should be able to march forward pretty quickly.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We had a pretty good day in the No. 28 DHL. P3 in the first session which was a highlight of the day, and we felt pretty racy that session. In the second session we got kind of behind on timing, but ended up as top Honda. We feel decent. It’s just going to be tough. Right now we just feel like we’re overcoming a deficit even on a perfect lap.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “The car felt pretty good. I was actually happy with the balance and grip. I think we have to look at downforce levels for tomorrow and try to improve the rear of the car for qualifying and I think we should be in pretty good shape. Overall in that session the car gave me a good feeling and although it doesn’t look great in the times, it felt pretty good so I’m pretty optimistic for tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Wichita State University / CFH Racing Chevrolet): “Iowa is a tough track. It is super fun though. I think it’s one of the most high-speed places that we go as far as the way the banking works here and how tight of a course it is. You’re flying. You don’t go this fast this short of a place anywhere else. Iowa is one of the best. You definitely want to have a car you’re comfortable with, if you don’t you’re going to have a long night. As far as the No. 67 Wichita State University Chevrolet, we had an OK day. We have a good idea for tomorrow. We just have to stay on top of it. It’s very important that we qualify well and hang on to it for the race. We’ll see what we have tomorrow night!”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): “Overall I feel pretty good with where the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet is after two practices today. I feel like we made a lot of progress throughout the two practice sessions. All four of the Chip Ganassi Racing Team cars are strong this weekend and our stable is definitely competitive leading into tomorrow’s race. It’ll be interesting tomorrow with having our first on-track run being qualifying, but we’ll get it done and hopefully start tomorrow’s night race in good position.”