Andretti Autosport aims to continue IndyCar success in Iowa

By The Sports Xchange  |  July 8, 2016 at 9:14 AM
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NEWTON, Iowa -- The IndyCar Series rolls into corn country this weekend with the very strong likelihood of Andretti Autosport being fed a lot of success.

At least that's the team's history at Iowa Speedway, a short track 40 minutes east of Des Moines. IndyCar staged nine races here, with Michael Andretti's team winning seven, including the past six.

The color of the Andretti car hasn't mattered in the Iowa Corn 300, either. Five different drivers have won, including two still employed by the Indianapolis-based organization.

Ryan Hunter-Reay won the past two races and three of the past four. Sandwiched in there was James Hinchcliffe's win in 2013, although the Canadian moved on to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. In 2011, Marco Andretti won for his dad's team, and he finished in the top three four times.

Dario Franchitti (2007) and Tony Kanaan (2010) also won in Andretti colors, although Franchitti since retired and Kanaan drives for Chip Ganassi Racing.

"Iowa is certainly one of the highlights on the schedule for our team," Hunter-Reay said. "Great facility, great racing, and we have a pretty impressive record to defend."

The event comes at an important time for the team also employing Carlos Munoz and Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi, a series rookie. Rossi's win is the team's only trip to victory lane this season after three wins last year. Marco Andretti hasn't won a race since the victory here five years ago.

"We just tested (here) last week, and I have to say that it's a pretty crazy track and I have no doubt that it will be very entertaining for the fans," Rossi said.

Honda, which powers the four Andretti cars plus seven others, also could use a win. Yes, it captured the 500, but it's watched Chevrolet take six races with Team Penske, one with Chip Ganassi's team and another with KVSH.

Team Penske's Will Power has never won a race here, but he arrives as the series' hottest driver. He won the past two races to surge into third place, only 81 points behind teammate Simon Pagenaud for the series lead. With seven races to decide the championship, Power's ability to erase the early deficit caused by sitting out the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla., due to an inner ear infection heightens.

Power won the June 5 street race at Detroit's Belle Isle Park and the June 26 road course event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. In between those events was the rain-delayed oval race at Texas Motor Speedway, which has an Aug. 27 resumption date.

A third Penske driver, veteran Helio Castroneves, stands between Pagenaud and Power in the standings. Castroneves hasn't won a race in more than two years -- that victory came in Detroit in 2014 -- and he still eyes his first series championship. He is 74 points out of the lead.

Despite Penske drivers being 1-2-3 in the standings after nine races, no member of the Mooresville, N.C., organization visited victory lane at this track in this series. Dan Wheldon and Franchitti gave Ganassi consecutive wins in 2008-09. This remains the only track on IndyCar's schedule where a Penske car hasn't won.

Twenty-two car-and-driver combinations are entered, including Josef Newgarden, who is still not even a month removed from breaking his collarbone and right hand in a nasty oval-track crash June 12 at Texas Motor Speedway. Newgarden delivered a respectable eighth-place finish June 24 at Road America, but this tight, fast track will increase the pressure on his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Practice begins Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern, with another session at 7:15 p.m. Sunday's 300-lap race is set to take the green flag at 5:40 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.

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