IndyCar Indy 500 Auto Racing

Alexander Rossi, center, kisses the bricks on the start/finish line with car owners Brian Herta, left, and Michael Andretti after wining the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

NEWTON, Iowa -- He's taken bows and gulped the milk after the final two plus miles of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but Alexander Rossi is gung-ho to test his mettle on the "Fastest Short Track on the Planet.''

In becoming just the fourth rookie to win the Indianapolis 500 in May, throttling for Andretti Autosport, Rossi hit speeds above and beyond 220 miles per hour.

That won't happen much, if at all, in Sunday's IndyCar Series Iowa Corn 300 at the banked 7/8th-mile Iowa Speedway.

"Ovals are very new to me this year,'' said Rossi, who qualified 17th. "I think the track is great, but I'm still trying to figure out the idiosyncrasies of each one and the initial impressions are very good.''

Ryan Hunter-Reay has claimed the checkers in the last two races here and three of the last four.

Hunter-Reay, in his DHL Honda last year, gave Andretti Autosport its sixth straight victory at Iowa and seventh of the last nine. James Hinchcliffe (2013), Marco Andretti (2011) and Tony Kanaan (2010) are previous winners in the field here, too.

"Iowa Speedway is a fantastic race track and we do some of the best IndyCar racing on the schedule here,'' said Hunter-Reay. "It is one of the highlights on the schedule for our team.

"It is also a tough place to get right with all the chances in the track and its bumps.''

The short straightaways for the Indy cars make driving more physical.

"The weight of the wheel (steering) is tremendous because we have no power steering in these cars and you're turning up to five G's in the corners,'' added last year's winner, citing added downforce and the new aero kits on the cars.

Frenchman Simon Pagenaud in his No. 22 Penske Chevrolet won the pole for Sunday's race.

It was Team Penske's 500th pole in a major series.

He averaged just over 185 mph in qualifying. Josef Newgarden, second in the last two Newton races, joined him on the front row in his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Helio Castroneves was third and rookie Max Chilton fourth.

Champ cars (subhead)

Some media center banter included discussion of the first major Championship Car (Indy types) race in Iowa.

Some claim the first one took place on July 9, 1915, a Automobile Association of America (AAA) 100-miler in Burlington. It was won by "Wild'' Bob Burman.

However, on July 4, 1914, the so-called "Mini Indy Race'' held just outside Sioux City on some flat land just across the Big Sioux River was won before an estimated crowd of nearly 50,000.

Burman and Barney Oldfield were among the 17 drivers, but Eddie Rickenbacker, who later became an American flying ace in World War I, took the checkers.

A Sioux City auto dealer, Charles Wycott, and Harry Wetmore, dreamed up the event after attending the first Indy 500 in 1911.

A dirt and crude oil track and huge grandstand was built for the "Fourth of July Classic'' that didn't last long and the sprawling grandstand was demolished not much later.

Officials had anticipated a modest crowd of from 5,000 to 10,000 and Rickenbacker averaged 78.6 miles an hour on the two-mile oval.

It is unclear if AAA sponsored the race.

Pit stops (subhead)

| The highest Honda qualifier Saturday at Iowa Speedway was Mikhail Aleshin in ninth, but Honda drivers filled the last 11 spots on the grid.

| All three driving lines looked good on a slippery track with notoriously tricky bumps and bruises and after qualifying Saturday, most drivers pronounced the lower groove most challenging.

| Only four drivers, Castroneves, Andretti, Kanaan and Scott Dixon, have started all nine previous IndyCar Series races here and were striving to make it 10 in Saturday qualifying.

| No polecat here has ever won the race.

| Maximilian Alexander Chilton, "Max'' to the racing world, is now piloting a Chip Ganassi Racing Teams machine, but he won the Indy Lights event at Newton last year.

| Today's televised race (NBCSN) is slated for a 4:40 green flag, It's the latest the race here will start. The previous nine were either early afternoon or late morning starts.

| An ARCA event was run Saturday night and the 115-lap Indy Lights Challenge feature was slated for a 2:15 p.m. start Sunday.

| The IndyCar Series race was a 250-lapper until 2014 and IndyCar was the first major racing series to come to the relatively new Iowa Speedway, beating NASCAR to the punch.


Sports editor

Load comments