IndyCar Recap: July 2017 – Iowa, Toronto, Mid-Ohio

3 races in July

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2017 Verizon IndyCar Series

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July features three rounds, by the end of the month we’ll have 13 of 17 races done.

First is the short oval at Iowa, followed a week later by the streets of Toronto, then a week off before the road course at Mid-Ohio.

Iowa Corn 300

9th July 2017 – Race 11 of 17 – Iowa Speedway, Newton, Iowa, USA

Video: Full Race

I loved the video in NBC’s pre-race: a lap of Road America side by side with a car lapping Iowa, the longest track versus the shortest; How many laps of Iowa can you do in the time it takes to do 1 lap of RA? Check the video at 17 minutes to find out.

300 lap race on a 7/8ths of a mile banked oval. Will Power and JR Hildebrand started on the front row though JR dropped behind Helio Castroneves at the start, Power too a little later. Tony Kanaan’s car looked evil, all over the place, while Hunter-Reay looked good and moved forward.

The field spread out and started to save tyres over a long run, the track is fast but bumpy so tyres have a tough time. Fuel stints were longer than tyre stints so everyone was trying to make rubber last until they needed a full tank, which meant cars were handling really badly toward the end of each stint. This is no longer a night race so there’s change in track temperatures like we saw at Texas. Intriguing race, more cerebral: who can manage their car better? Is it better to go longer and ride an ill-handling car, or stop more often?

It lacked the side-by-side action until the middle of the race which was more fun, drivers got a feel for it and there was much more passing including racing for the lead. There was a short red flag for rain but it passed in 10 minutes.

The win came down to a restart with just over a stint to go, a battle between Castroneves and Hildebrand. Castroneves won! First win in 3 years. Fantastic result amidst very strong rumours that he’s off to sportscars next year (which transpired to be true).

Worth watching? Yes for the strategy and the skill of driving a clearly difficult car.

  1. 3 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske Chevrolet);
  2. 21 JR Hildebrand (Ed Carpenter Chevrolet);
  3. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport Honda);
  4. 12 Will Power (Team Penske Chevrolet);
  5. 15 Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda);
  6. 2 Josef Newgarden (Team Penske Chevrolet);
  7. 1 Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske Chevrolet);
  8. 9 Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Honda);
  9. 10 Tony Kanaan (Chip Ganassi Honda);
  10. 5 James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson Honda);

Dixon and Kanaan rescue a good result on the lead lap after spending lots of the race with bad setups. F1 refugee Esteban Gutierrez finished 13th, his best in IndyCar so far in his first oval start with 18 cars running at the end.

Honda Indy Toronto

16th July 2017 – Race 12 of 17 – Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Video: Full Race

A glorious looking day in Toronto, though TV kept warning of rain later. This track is incredibly bumpy, has been for years and seems to be getting ever worse despite recent repaves in places.

Pagenaud and Rahal started on the front row but Castroneves jumped the pair of them into turn 1! What a move! Unfortunately Power and Dixon had contact at turn 3 prompting a Safety Car – Power out with broken suspension, Dixon changed a punctured tyre and barely avoided going a lap down.

Another yellow came out on lap 24 of 85 as Kanaan hit the tyre wall – but this was in the middle of a pit sequence. All the leaders, who were running long, got caught out by the pits closing and when they came in were cycled behind the already-pitted, including Castroneves and Rahal – this put Newgarden in the lead.

Ed Jones was then the stopper in the bottle, until he pitted, but he created a separation. The new lead group were not hanging around. Newgarden, Rossi, Hinchcliffe pulled away from the rest quickly. Although they got lucky with the yellow, this group really worked for it as well, by the end their lead over the rest was huge!

Rain on the horizon with 30 laps kept everyone guessing but it never arrived, at least not during the race. That was about it really. I can’t wait until the 2018 cars visit this track, back ends sliding, it’ll be wild.

  1. 2 Josef Newgarden (Penske Chevy);
  2. 98 Alexander Rossi (Andretti Honda);
  3. 5 James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson Honda);
  4. 27 Marco Andretti (Andretti Honda);
  5. 1 Simon Pagenaud (Penske Honda);
  6. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Honda);
  7. 8 Max Chilton (Ganassi Honda);
  8. 3 Helio Castroneves (Penske Chevy);
  9. 15 Graham Rahal (RLL Honda);
  10. 9 Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda);

Great result for Marco Andretti. Sebastian Saavedra was an impressive 11th subbing for Mikhail Aleshin.

Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

30th July 2017 – Race 13 of 17 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio, USA

Video: Full Race

I love this track for the onboard videos, the cars are so fast and it looks so much fun to drive there, twisting and turning through the hills. It is a bit narrow though so passing usually is quite hard, the best chance is a dive into turn 3 at the end of the long straight.

Power and Newgarden on the front row, Sato and Rahal behind them. At the start Pagenaud jumped Dixon for 6th. Andretti started 14th but was 10th after 4 laps!

At lap 13 Newgarden made the move into turn 3, sold a dummy to the left before diving inside Power to the right! Sensational stuff, reminded me of Mansell on Piquet at Silverstone’s Hangar Straight. And then Josef just drove away to something like a 4 second lead within 3 or 4 laps. A couple of laps later, Rahal passed Sato for 3rd.

The first pit sequence was fun, good racing between those who pitted early and got tyres up to temperature (no tyre-warmers in IndyCar), versus those who stayed out and gained track position out of the pits ahead of the early stoppers, but were sitting ducks on cold tyres. The early stoppers just cut through!

The rest of the race was less interesting as the field spread out. There was a Safety Car late on for Ed Jones parked on the grass. At the restart, Gutierrez was 2nd on the road but a lap down and he blocked Power and tried to race past Newgarden to get his lap back – they got away with it but he nearly took out the leader.

Newgarden took his 2nd win of the month, his 3rd this season. Power and Rahal completed the podium.

  1. 2 Josef Newgarden (Penske Chevy);
  2. 12 Will Power (Penske Chevy);
  3. 15 Graham Rahal (RLL Honda);
  4. 1 Simon Pagenaud (Penske Chevy);
  5. 26 Takuma Sato (Andretti Honda);
  6. 98 Alexander Rossi (Andretti Honda);
  7. 3 Helio Castroneves (Penske Chevy);
  8. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Honda);
  9. 9 Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda);
  10. 4 Conor Daly (AJ Foyt Chevy);

At last a good result for Daly! I mentioned Marco, he finished 11th.

Points Scored in July

IOW TOR OH JULY
Josef Newgarden 29 53 53 135
Helio Castroneves 53 25 26 104
Simon Pagenaud 27 32 32 91
Graham Rahal 30 22 36 88
Ryan Hunter-Reay 35 28 24 87
Alexander Rossi 19 40 28 87
Will Power 34 9 42 85
James Hinchcliffe 20 35 19 74
JR Hildebrand 41 17 13 71
Scott Dixon 24 20 22 66
Marco Andretti 14 32 18 64
Max Chilton 17 27 15 59
Takuma Sato 14 14 30 58
Charlie Kimball 16 18 17 51
Tony Kanaan 22 11 14 47
Conor Daly 11 13 20 44
Esteban Gutierrez 17 16 10 43
Carlos Munoz 10 15 12 37
Ed Jones 12 10 9 31
Mikhail Aleshin 9 16 25
Spencer Pigot 12 11 23
Sebastian Saavedra 19 19
Ed Carpenter 18 18
  • Two wins for Newgarden give him a huge points boost.
  • One win and two top tens for Helio keep him in the game.
  • Pagenaud’s consistency continues.
  • Dixon’s suffered as he couldn’t better 8th.
  • Hunter-Reay is back on points scoring form – but now team-mate Sato is not.

Points Total To July 31st

Pos Pre +/- Name Pre Jul Total Wins
1 4 3 Josef Newgarden 328 135 463 3
2 3 1 Helio Castroneves 342 104 446 1
3 1 -2 Scott Dixon 379 66 445 1
4 2 -2 Simon Pagenaud 345 91 436 1
5 6 1 Will Power 316 85 401 2
6 7 1 Graham Rahal 307 88 395 2
7 5 -2 Takuma Sato 323 58 381 1
8 9 1 Alexander Rossi 271 87 358  
9 8 -1 Tony Kanaan 273 47 320  
10 12 2 James Hinchcliffe 242 74 316 1
11 11 0 Max Chilton 251 59 310  
12 15 3 Ryan Hunter-Reay 210 87 297  
13 13 0 Marco Andretti 222 64 286  
14 10 -4 Ed Jones 254 31 285  
15 16 1 JR Hildebrand 205 71 276  
16 14 -2 Mikhail Aleshin 212 25 237  
17 17 0 Carlos Munoz 199 37 236  
18 18 0 Charlie Kimball 172 51 223  
19 19 0 Conor Daly 155 44 199  
20 20 0 Spencer Pigot 142 23 165  
21 22 1 Ed Carpenter 124 18 142  
22 21 -1 Sebastien Bourdais 136 136 1
23 23 0 Juan Pablo Montoya 93 93  
24 24 0 Gabby Chaves 83 83  
= 27 2 Esteban Gutierrez 40 43 83  
26 25 -1 Oriol Servia 61 61  
27 28 1 Sebastian Saavedra 33 19 52

28th-36th positions are not shown, their points are the same as in June.

  • Newgarden takes the points lead! It took that second win of the month to do it. He was 4th at the end of June.
  • Castroneves is now 2nd, just one point ahead of Dixon.
  • Pagenaud drops 2 places in the month though there isn’t a lot in it.
  • Power is scoring reasonably well but isn’t closing enough.
  • A lot of other shuffling inside the top ten, which Hinchcliffe rejoins.
  • Outside the top ten Hunter-Reay is up 3, Jones down 4.

Next

Teams and drivers finally get a couple of weeks off for a summer break.

At the end of August we see two ovals which are very different challenges: from the wide open 2.5 mile fast speedway at Pocono, to the tight, technical and short Gateway at just half the size. If you think ovals are all the same – think again!

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