NEWTON, Iowa – Iowa Speedway, the ‘fastest-feeling’ track in the Verizon IndyCar Series, is proving to be even more challenging than usual with the universal aero kit which substantially reduced the downforce on the Dallaras this year.
With lap times ranging from 17.6 seconds to 19 flat, trouble happens quickly and with very little warning. So it was for Matheus Leist and his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet this morning in the first practice. His car got loose coming off Turn 2, did a quick wiggle as he almost saved it, and then spun making contact with the wall.
“To be honest, I still don’t really know what happened,” Leist said after exiting the
track’s infield care center. “I just lost the rear coming out of Turn 2. I’m a little bit disappointed for myself and the team so we’ve got some work to do but you know, this is racing. This is an oval and sometimes things like this happen so now looking forward to qualifying and the race more. It’s tough. It’s actually the first time I’ve crashed on an oval so it’s a weird feeling but it’s on to the next step.”
Leist escaped unhurt and the car sustained damage to the left rear corner which the crew was able to repair but Leist missed the rest of the practice session. Tony Kanaan, who did not test at Iowa, struggled in practice as well and wound up 18th on the practice chart.
After making some changes to the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, Kanaan ran his fastest lap of the day with his first qualifying lap—18 seconds flat—and the two laps combined averaged out to a speed of 178.008mph for 13th spot on the grid or inside row 7.
“It wasn’t very good,” said Kanaan, who won the 2010 race here. “We struggled this morning so the track was really slippery. It was hotter right now, this morning it was a little cooler, so it was a handful [in qualifying]. We went the quickest of what we did all weekend so I guess we did something right. It was a little nerve-wracking in the car, I haven’t been this uncomfortable in a long time. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Leist who didn’t have any laps in his rebuilt car prior to qualifying drove conservatively to just put it in the show. His average speed of 168.724mph puts him 22nd, the outside of row 11.
“Unfortunately we crashed in practice this morning,” Leist shared. “I’m happy that my guys managed to put the car back together again. They did a great job as they only had three hours to do it but we’re still struggling with the car setup. We have to figure out something faster for tomorrow. We’ll keep working hard and try to race to the front. We’ll have some time to figure out something in the final practice but right now it’s not fun to drive a car like this.”
Will Power won his 52nd pole position with his average speed of 182.391mph, a full mile-an-hour quicker than his teammate Josef Newgarden who will start second. Rounding out the top five were Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi.
There is a one hour final practice this evening when the cars will run in race trim as they zero in on the optimum settings for 300 laps around the IndyCar bullring. The race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network tomorrow afternoon starting at 2 p.m. ET