NEWTON, Iowa —These are the races that try men’s souls.
From the start of the weekend, A.J. Foyt’s team was struggling at Iowa Speedway, the superfast 7/8-mile banked bullring of a track that brings out the best and worst in teams – sometimes at the same time.
Their struggle was exacerbated by having only an hour long practice before qualifying for the Iowa Corn 300 yesterday. Still the team appeared to make some progress with their ABC Supply Chevrolets as Tony Kanaan qualified 13th, running his fastest lap of the day in qualifying. Matheus Leist ran conservatively after crashing in practice when the car bobbled out of Turn 2 and spun, making contact with the wall. Leist would start 22nd. In the final practice session, Kanaan had improved to run ninth quickest and Leist ran 13th quickest giving the team hope for race day.
Race day conditions were quite a bit hotter than final practice, which, although taken into account, the hot and slippery track did play havoc with the cars’ setup. It was the most difficult race of the season for the entire team which has been working constantly since April with nary a day off between races and testing.
“It isn’t for a lack of effort,” said Eric Cowdin, the team’s technical director, noting the hard work and long hours being put in by the engineers, mechanics and drivers.
In the race, it appeared that both drivers were going to be in for a long day but as it turned out, Leist was told to park it after 40 laps.
“The car was too difficult to handle and he was just hanging on, so we brought him in,” said Team President Larry Foyt. “There wasn’t much sense in staying out there under the conditions.”
The more experienced Kanaan soldiered on to finish 17th. Both drivers are looking forward to getting back on the streets of Toronto next weekend.
The race was slowed by only two caution periods. The first caution came on lap 139 when rookie Zach Veach brushed the wall lightly (and was able to continue after a lengthy pit stop). With just seven laps remaining, the second caution was triggered by Ed Carpenter’s half spin which was straightened out when Takuma Sato clipped him. Both cars continued on but there was a piece of debris that had to be cleaned up, hence the race finished under caution.
James Hinchcliffe took the checkered, making the Canadian’s trip home to Toronto much sweeter. He had passed Josef Newgarden on lap 256 and was never headed. Newgarden had dominated the race to that point, leading 229 laps but had slipped to third by the time of the final caution. He had pitted for fresh tires but since the race finished under yellow, he placed fourth. Spencer Pigot finished second for a career best finish while Sato came in third. Hinchcliffe’s teammate Robert Wickens finished fifth and was the last car to finish on the lead lap.
The ABC Supply team heads back to the Indianapolis race shop to prepare both cars for the Honda Indy Toronto which will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network starting at 3 p.m. ET.