Test Patterns: Speeds Up at Iowa Speedway

  • Racing News
Pato O'Ward

Josef Newgarden has won the past two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at Iowa Speedway, four of the past five and a record six overall in his career. He also is riding a streak of nine wins in the past 12 oval events, including the past two Indianapolis 500s presented by Gainbridge.

So, it’s fair to say Team Penske’s driver is eager to compete in next month’s Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend at the track in Central Iowa. However, things have changed at the fast short oval. Simply put, it’s gotten faster following a recent repave in the corners.

The fastest unofficial lap time in Thursday’s full-field test was nearly a second quicker than Will Power’s fastest qualifying lap of a year ago. Power’s second lap in the sweeping the two 2023 poles was 17.7246 seconds (181.578 mph).

Newgarden said the change in surface will require a change in approach from the teams.

“We’re all trying to figure out what the new name of the game is here and how we set the car up,” he said. “It will be a different challenge. I don’t think you can bank on past success. It’s going to totally be flipped on its lid in a lot of ways.

“That’s OK. This is racing; the problem’s always changing. They’re just giving us a new problem to figure out. It’s nice when you have a previous problem figured out, but you have to always expect a new one to pop up, and that’s definitely what we have this coming (event). I don’t think whatever we had working last year is going to apply to this year, but that’s OK. We’ll figure out a new recipe.”

In preparation for the doubleheader sponsored by Hy-Vee – the races are Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14 – Newgarden had light wall contact. Power’s car also suffered damage in an incident on the .875-mile oval.

Official speeds were not released as it was a private test. But all cars expected to participate in next month's race were on hand, including the No. 51 Honda of Dale Coyne Racing, which had Katherine Legge driving.

A smoother surface in the corners led to significantly less tire wear in Thursday’s test, and INDYCAR will determine what downforce levels to use in the doubleheader. Graham Rahal said the other change likely coming is the weather. These conditions were nearly ideal, with temperatures in the mid-70s.

“If we get 75 degrees when we come back here it’s going to be heaven for all of us, including all of you, but the reality is that’s not going to be the case,” the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver said. “The hotter the track the more (degradation) you’re going to have, the more the tires are going to fall off, the more challenging for everybody.

“So today, while it’s a great day, it’s not maybe the most similar we’re going to get to the conditions when we come back to race. I think people forget that.”

Regardless of weather conditions, higher cornering speeds will put more stress on the drivers and their equipment as they push more aggressively. RLL’s Christian Lundgaard called it “a step up in physicality.”

“With two races, it’s going to be a long weekend,” he said.

Thursday’s test also gave the 27 car-and-driver combinations another opportunity to apply the series’ new hybrid technology. The energy recovery system will make its debut July 7 in The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid.

Said Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward (pictured above) of returning to Iowa: “It’s a cool challenge. Everybody’s going to be a first-timer coming back. It should be fun.”