Gearing Up: Iowa Twinbill To Start ‘Oval Season’ Stretch Run

  • Racing News
Josef Newgarden

The sprint to the finish is about to begin for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

Oh, sure, eight grueling races remain and the schedule only reached its halfway point in last weekend’s race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, but hard charging awaits.

Beginning with Saturday’s Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart at Iowa Speedway, six of the races left are on oval tracks, where braking is optional at best. Following this weekend’s doubleheader, there are circle-track events at World Wide Technology Raceway (Aug. 17), a doubleheader at Milwaukee Mile (Aug. 31 and Sept. 1) and the finale at Nashville Superspeedway (Sept. 15).

The oval-heavy schedule sets up nicely for Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who has won nine of the past 12 oval races since the 2021 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, and he has six career race wins at Iowa Speedway, including the past two and four of the past five. But he figures to have stiff competition, particularly at Milwaukee and Nashville, two tracks that have been off the schedule for a while.

The series last raced at Milwaukee in 2015. Nashville has been away since 2008.

But first things first: The rapid-fire racing at Iowa Speedway.

Saturday’s green flag is set for just a few minutes after 8 p.m. ET, and it’s a 250-lap pursuit. Last year, the races averaged 1 hour, 36 minutes in duration. Based on that, expect this year’s first-night checkered flag at approximately at approximately 9:40 p.m. ET, which makes for a quick turnaround. Green flag for Sunday’s Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade will be at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s hoping crews don’t have many repairs to make in those 15 hours the engines are silent.

Both races will air live on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network. Twenty-seven car-and-driver combinations again are entered.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is again the driver the field is chasing. While he didn’t win last weekend’s The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid, his second-place finish coupled with difficulties by Team Penske’s Will Power and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon helped his lead swell to 48 points. That’s nearly the maximum number of points one driver in this series can gain on another driver in a single race if they both compete.

O’Ward, who won the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, jumped to third in the standings, but he is 70 points out of the series lead.

If Palou is to win his second consecutive season championship and third in four years, it likely will be helpful to win at least one of the remaining oval races, something he has never done. However, he has had several terrific runs on such tracks, including top-five finishes in each of the past three Indy 500s. Overall this season, Palou has eight top-five finishes in nine races, highlighted by two wins, a second- and a third-place finish.

If Palou keeps doing what he does best – maximizing what each race weekend offers – he will be in a strong position to again hoist the Astor Challenge Cup at year’s end.

The first practice at Iowa Speedway is Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET. That 90-minute session will be the only on-track activity for the series in advance of qualifying for both races Saturday at 3:45 p.m. ET. All this action will air live on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.