Iowa Qualifying To Pose Challenges For IndyCar Field

Iowa Qualifying
Tony Kanaan during qualifying at Iowa Speedway last season. (Joe Skibinski/IndyCar photo)

NEWTON, Iowa – This weekend’s trip to Iowa Speedway will feature two new twists for the NTT IndyCar Series.

It will be a doubleheader weekend, with 250-lap races on both Friday night and Saturday night known as the Iowa IndyCar 250s.

Both races will start at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBCSN.

Another interesting twist to the doubleheader format will be a single qualification session on Friday evening for both races.

The speed from the first lap will determine the starting lineup for Friday night’s contest and the second lap speed will set the starting grid for Saturday night’s race.

“Actually, I found that out like 30 minutes ago,” said Tony Kanaan, who is racing an all-oval schedule this season for AJ Foyt Racing and will be in the cockpit of the No. 14 Bryant Heating and Cooling Chevrolet this weekend. “Benito (Santos, his personal representative) says, ‘Did you see that?’ I said, ‘What?”

It’s good, old-fashioned IndyCar short oval racing at the seven-eighths mile Iowa Speedway, which has annually produced some of the best oval racing in the series.

Kanaan won at Iowa in 2010 and this has been one of his better tracks.

The unique qualification procedure could produce some very unusual lineups for both contests, especially if tire degradation between the two fast laps is dramatically different.

“I have not had a chance to process it,” Kanaan said. “I don’t know the tire deg. I’m going to have to make up my mind. You’re not going to do two laps exactly the same. Either the first lap or the second lap is going to be the quickest. That’s kind of obvious.

“It depends how the weekend goes, the heat. I will know that on Friday in the hour practice session, then I’ll make my decision. One race is not going to be good, the other one is going to be better. That’s the way it’s going to be,” he continued. “It’s interesting. It’s actually fun because we have never done that. You’re going to have to probably be cautious in the first lap because it’s such a short track, maybe your tire temps, everything is not going to be up to temp yet. This type of qualifying, you do one to put it in the bank, then you go for the next one. If the next one doesn’t worth, you had the first one. This one is not; you’re going to have both of them.

“It’s going to be interesting.”

Which would Kanaan prefer – two fifth place starting positions, or a first in one and a 10th in the other?

“I would go for first and a 10th,” said the 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion. “Who cares? Nothing to lose. It’s all going to dictate from where you’re starting, what kind of car you have, to be honest. For me it will be attack them both. You’ll know your chances better where you qualify from one race to the another.

“It’s a tough track. Easy to get lapped there. It’s going to be interesting.”

It’s two races in two days, for most of the field except for Kanaan, it will be the second weekend of doubleheader races for IndyCar. For drivers that finish both contests, that’s 500 laps at one of the most physical tracks, in terms of G-loads, on the schedule.

Also, don’t forget the heat in Iowa in mid-July.

“I love it,” Kanaan said. “I think the hotter and the more difficult it is, the better for me. That’s what I train for. I train for difficult situations. I train to be able to have that edge on people that don’t. Unfortunately, I know that a lot of the guys are doing the same. I used to think I have a bigger edge on them. To be honest, they had two extremely hot races already, so they’re more accustomed than I am. Although I can try to simulate the heat in the car, driving the car, it’s what you’re going to feel.

“I think we’re going to be level there. I think it’s going to be extremely tough. I talked to the guys; everybody is kind of complaining a little bit that it’s quite a bit hot. But I’m ready,” he added. “That is something that when I decided to become the athlete or the race car driver that I am today, one thing that I said was never going to lack is my physical condition.

“I’m not worried. I’m expecting to be extremely drained after the two races, but I’m ready.”