FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 2014 Iowa Corn Indy 300

First Impressions, IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on July 13, 2014 2:15 pm
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The 2014 Iowa Corn Indy 300 is in the books. Here are our first impressions of the event. Feel free to add your own in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

PAUL’S IMPRESSIONS:

Look, I know that nobody actually listens to anything I say, but I have been beating this same drum for at least five years now — if the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway isn’t on your bucket list, get it on there now!

Year after year, the shortest track in IndyCar produces the very best racing. I’ve now attended six of the eight IndyCar races held at the rural Iowa facility, and every year I think the racing somehow tops the year before. This year was no different.

Having been in the stands with my six-year old son (who, up substantially past his bedtime, lost it in a puddle of tears when his boy Will Power walled it late in the race), I have much to catch up on when I get home and watch the race on DVR. That said, the call for Ryan Hunter-Reay to pit late in the race was every bit as epic as the call at Baltimore in 2012 for him to say out on slick tires in the rain. RHR definitely didn’t have a car to win, but once again, Michael Andretti’s touch turned up gold.

Other brief tidbits: I have no idea how Montoya ended up back on the lead lap. Tony Kanaan was crazy fast and once again just ended up on the wrong end of strategy. Sebastian Saavedra was fun to watch until the clock struck midnight again. Ed Carpenter would do well to avoid the Penske guys for a few days.

One last thing: the crowd has declined somewhat over the years, but last night’s crowd was still quite healthy. It’s hard to gauge the crowd whilst within the crowd, but I’d guess the stands were around 80% full. That’s still pretty good for an IndyCar oval, especially given the dire forecast that was predicted all day long. The rain ended up holding off, and the evening actually turned out to be quite beautiful. The Iowa race fans are to be commended for coming out in droves and really lending great support to this race.

Finally (for real this time): huge kudos to the Iowa Corn Growers Association for their continued support of this race. Their members were everywhere last night. I would predict there were easily 4,000-5,000 members in blue shirts throughout the track. Every race title sponsor on the IndyCar calendar should come to Iowa and see how proper activation is done!

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STEPH’S IMPRESSIONS:

Before I get into trouble here, let me qualify the opinions I’m about to present: I was at Mosport all day yesterday and am there all day again today, and I had guests last night while the race was going on. In short, I was more distracted than usual when it was time to sit down for this one.

Still, it’s rare for an IndyCar race to have trouble holding my attention, and up until the few laps before the final yellow, this one just didn’t.

I love Iowa Speedway and the racing it produces. But the weather delay, while it’s fortunate it didn’t turn into a postponement, upset the rhythm of the event early and put the finish quite late into the night in Eastern time. And the poor attendance again this year — probably the worst IndyCar has seen at Iowa — is worrying and, frankly, makes it a bit difficult to feel invested. (Edited to add: there is no way the stands were 80% full, Paul. Sorry.)

It’s a crying shame because this was once one of IndyCar’s most successful and entertaining races, and the latter hasn’t changed. The racing was great last night when it was actually happening, and the surprise finish was an awesome thing to watch and made for a great demonstration of everything that’s great in the series at the moment.

So, why have the fans in Iowa stopped showing up? Are the new owners putting in less promotional effort? Has the date been messed with too much? Was a single-day admission cost of $60 for one race too much for the market? Or is this just part of an overall disturbing trend of IndyCar’s oval races falling into decline?

Time will undoubtedly tell, and it seems increasingly likely that the answers to these questions won’t be popular ones.

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BASH’S IMPRESSIONS:

This is more like it! Close quarters racing and a festival of pit stops made for an engaging race. The masterful work of the teams trying to beat each other out of their boxes was impressive. Once we got past the rain delay and early cautions, the battles and passes on the track were also great to watch.

Just past halfway, Ed Carpenter got himself right where he wanted to be — up front dicing with the likes of Kanaan, Briscoe, Power, Dixon and Helio. Lots of Chevy bowties were at the top of the leader board. This race has been pretty much owned over the years by the Andretti team, but their cars spent most of the race mid-pack, with Marco blowing up on the back stretch on lap 230. Most of the race, Penske and Ganassi only allowed Ed Carpenter to crash their party up front.

Tony Kanaan was stout all race and the battle with Dixon at the end was good to see. It’s well past time for the Ganassis to shake off some chains and race hard at the front. Hated to see the contact between Carpenter and Montoya end what was a great march up the order for Juan. The crazy restart with 10 laps to go shook everything up in the championship race, with Power going high to brush the wall, and Helio getting bogged down. They both fell several spots back and out of the running for the win, and out of their tie for the championship lead.

And then, out of abso-freaking-nowhere, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden made mad moves to finish first and second, and the Andretti dominance at this track remains intact. Here’s a fitting place to drop an Helio “Are you kidding me?” quote — it was startling to see the onslaught! Kudos to their strategists for making great calls to grab fresh tires when they could. It certainly paid off. The heart breaks for Tony Kanaan — he had the thing covered — but what a wild finish!

Unlike Pocono, this track is too short for the field to get terribly strung out. You don’t get pack racing, but there are usually a few pairs of cars in contact with each other and it makes for much more interesting racing. More, please!

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