Racing on an oval is always exciting when it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, and the INDYCAR Iowa 250s Race 1 was no exception to the rule, featuring a little bit of everything.
The current aero package for the series continues to produce great action, with drivers battling side-by-side for positions through the field as the night went on. Combined with the current tire fall-off created by Firestone over the run, you have the perfect mix of side-by-side battles and strategy. The only shock was seeing some drivers fall off the lead lap in the very early stages.
In an event had a caution-free appearance to it, it seemed it would be all about who played it perfectly between having fuel to the end, and the right pit cycle to find their way to first at the checkered. Strategy was all over the map with each team having their own theory on the madness. Of course, a twist with a caution midway through saw certain people succeed while others suffered.
Simon Pagenaud found himself at the front on the lead lap when it mattered, with the ability of having enough fuel and speed to stay ahead of those coming hot on newer tires at the end. The strategy played by Team Penske is only made more amazing considering he started from last on the grid due to a fuel pick-up issue in qualifying.
It will be interesting to see if the Frenchman can have a repeat performance on Saturday as he will begin that event in the same spot.
Pagenaud did not gain many points in the standings, as Scott Dixon made his way from almost going down a lap in the event to second, despite qualifying outside the top-15 for both races this weekend.
Seeing the Kiwi have to overcome adversity is a new sight this year, considering he won the first three events of 2020. However, it showcases yet again why he is one of the greatest ever in the sport and will be remembered for a long time.
Arrow McLaren SP had the honors of sharing in the celebration, as Oliver Askew scored a third-place finish for his first podium.
When the team made the switch to the youthful pair of Askew and Patricio O’Ward for 2020, several people criticized them and wondered if they would have success with no experienced leadership at the helm. They’re certainly proving them wrong as O’Ward scored a dominant runner-up at Road America, and showed potential for another run tonight. If it wasn’t for a slow pit stop, the Mexican could have easily been right there with the top-three, possibly challenging Dixon for second as he showed more speed before the stops than Askew.
By the checkered flag, the IndyCar fanbase was ultimately celebrating the success of the new aeroscreen. While it has been critiqued for it’s appearance since it’s debut in testing, the device proved why it was a necessary safety innovation for the series tonight.
Will Power’s front tire changer would leave the left front loose leaving pit road while making a front wing adjustment. A handful of laps later, the tire came flying off with the Australian getting into the wall. The aeroscreen proved useful protection when the tire went in the air, going over the cockpit of the car, before rolling down the track. Just imagine if it would have made direct contact with his helmet.
The first restart after the incident also proved the effectiveness, when a called-off start resulted in Colton Herta going over Rinus Veekay’s back-wheel and head, before flying into the air, riding the safer barrier, and landing on the track. Both drivers were able to get out of their cars afterwards, and have been cleared for competition Saturday. A closer glance at the replay showed just how close Herta came to Veekay’s head, brushing the areoscreen in the process.