By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Downforce reduction for Iowa puts racing in drivers’ hands
2. Halfway through season, title competition fierce
3. Iowa heat race fields to be determined by one practice
4. Inside the Box Score – Milwaukee IndyFest presented by XYQ
1. Downforce reduction for Iowa puts racing in drivers’ hands: Pursuant to input from IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and team engineers, INDYCAR has directed a maximum rear flap angle of 37 degrees with no wicker allowed for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 23 at Iowa Speedway.
The technical bulletin sent to teams June 18 follows two days of testing by 21 cars total at the .875-mile oval last week. The rule will reduce downforce available by about 8-9 percent.
“Like Texas, we want to make sure the challenge is in the drivers’ hands and make them work each lap,” said Will Phillips, vice president of technology, INDYCAR. “It will be more of a challenge for drivers once their tires start to go off (during the 250-lap race).”
Aside from this alteration, the short oval aerodynamic package utilized at the Milwaukee Mile this past weekend will be employed – mandatory speedway front brake backing plates, prohibit rear wheel infils and sidepod top deck, optional two-thirds radiator inlet shutters.
In a departure from single-car qualifications, three heat races will be held June 22 to set the starting grid for the 250-lap race. Marco Andretti held off former Andretti Autosport teammate Tony Kanaan by 0.7932 of a second to win the 2011 race.
2. Halfway through season, title competition fierce: Tony Kanaan opened the post-race news conference with his own question: “Can we race here again, that race that is missing?”
The runner-up to Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ would be among 25 IZOD IndyCar Series proponents to fill the gap in the August schedule created by the cancellation of the China race with a follow-up visit to the Milwaukee Mile.
That’s not under consideration, but it was announced just before the green flag that the historic venue will again play host to the series in June 2013. At least that’s something for Kanaan, who has finished no worse than fourth in six of his eight starts at the Mile. It was the best finish of the season for the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, who moved to eighth in the championship standings.
“Second place, we’ll take it,” said Kanaan, who noted that his Chevrolet-powered No. 11 GEICO/Mouser Electronics/KV Racing Technology car didn’t have enough speed to chase down Hunter-Reay in the final laps. “We’re building some points. I had two terrible races in the beginning of the season (St. Petersburg and Barber). I came to Brazil, I was dead last in the championship. So I’m happy.”
Being only 43 points out of second place at the halfway point of the schedule would please just about anyone in this competitive series.
There have been six different winners (representing four teams) of the eight races. Three teams are represented in the top five and six in the top 10 of the standings heading into the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway on June 23.
Will Power of Team Penske, who scored three consecutive road/street course victories, is the championship front-runner. He also was the points leader in 2011 following Milwaukee (the eighth of 17 races).
James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport is 31 points back in second (243) after claiming his second podium finish of the season at Milwaukee in the No. 27 GoDaddy.com car.
“I think not thinking championship is what maybe got us to this point,” said the sophomore IZOD IndyCar Series driver who has finished no lower than sixth in all but one race (contact at Detroit relegating him to 21st). “I think that just shows how hard everybody at Andretti Autosports has been working. We’re finishing races, staying on lead laps and things like that. The consistency is paying off.”
Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing is third with 239 points, and Hunter-Reay moved to fourth in the standings with 233 points with his sixth Indy car victory and second at the Mile.
“Every race is very important. These points are very precious each and every race,” Hunter-Reay said a few minutes after Kanaan opened the proceedings.
Upcoming races with 2011 podium finishers and championship leader:
Iowa Speedway – Marco Andretti (winner), Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon.
Championship leader – Dario Franchitti (+20)
Streets of Toronto – Dario Franchitti (winner), Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Championship leader – Dario Franchitti (+55)
Edmonton City Centre Airport – Will Power (winner), Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti
Championship leader – Dario Franchitti (+38)
Mid-Ohio – Scott Dixon (winner), Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay
Championship leader – Dario Franchitti (+62)
Sonoma – Will Power (winner), Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe
Championship leader – Dario Franchitti (+26)
Streets of Baltimore – Will Power (winner), Oriol Servia, Tony Kanaan
Championship leader – Dario Franchitti (+5)
Auto Club Speedway — IZOD IndyCar Series returns after seven-year absence
3. Iowa heat race fields to be determined by one practice: INDYCAR has amended the procedure to determine qualification groups for the three heat races to be held June 22 at Iowa Speedway to set the starting grid for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 the next night.
Qualification groups will be determined by lap times recorded by entries on the .875-mile oval in the second (45-minute) practice session (3:30 p.m. ET). Qualifications are scheduled for 7:15 p.m. (ET).
Race 1 will consist of the even-numbered positions, starting with the 10th-quickest practice time, and determine the even-numbered positions in the starting field from 10th down.
Race 2 will consist of the odd-numbered positions, starting with the ninth-quickest practice time, and determine the odd-numbered positions in the starting field from ninth down.
Race 3 will consist of drivers ranked one through eight from the practice. Results of Race 3 will determine the first four rows, with the winner taking the pole position.
4. Inside the Box Score – Milwaukee IndyFest presented by XYQ: Numbers to note following the Milwaukee IndyFest presented by XYQ, the eighth of 16 events of the 2012 IZOD Indy Car Series season.
2 – Drivers to finish every race this season – Ed Carpenter and Simon Pagenaud…Number of laps Pagenaud has failed to complete in 2012 (1,061 of 1,063)
6 – Indy car wins for Ryan Hunter-Reay, the most by a current American-born Indy car driver…Different teams represented in the top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.
12 – Different drivers to finish on the podium in the first seven races of 2012.
15 – Different drivers with at least one top-five finish in 2012.
16 – Positions gained by Oriol Servia en route to his fourth-place finish at Milwaukee, most of any driver in the field.
27 – Poles for Dario Franchitti, tying Al Unser for eighth on the all-time list
31 – Points separating Will Power (274) from James Hinchcliffe (243) in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings.
84 – Laps led by Hunter-Reay. Most by any race winner this season.
107 – Points scored on ovals by James Hinchcliffe, who leads the A.J. Foyt Trophy standings.
189 – Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland.
The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series race continues with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 23 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Sukup 100 on June 22 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network as part of coverage of the Iowa Corn Indy 250. NBC Sport Network’s coverage of the Firestone Indy Lights 100 is scheduled for 5 p.m., on June 21.