American Love Story: IndyCar & Iowa Speedway

20150712_160602Tonight was the first time since 2006 that IndyCar saw an all-American podium. The Indianapolis 500 that year had a podium consisting of race winner, Sam Hornish, Jr. plus the father-son combination of Marco Andretti & Michael Andretti running P2 and P3! The Iowa Corn 300 ended with all of us wondering if we were having déjà vu. Ryan Hunter-Reay defended his race win from 2014 and came out victorious in back-to-back years. Josef Newgarden landed the P2 step of the podium for the second year in a row as well, and a Ganassi Racing driver finished up the Top 3. Last year we saw Tony Kanaan on that step, but this year it was the rookie, Sage Karam.

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay has won 3 of the last 4 Iowa Corn races, with victories in 2012, 2014 and now 2015. In 2013, he placed P2. This weekend at Iowa Speedway marks Hunter-Reay’s first victory of the 2015 season – his most recent being the one he earned at “warp speed” in Iowa, an entire year ago.

IMAG1489Josef Newgarden, principal driver for Carpenter Fisher Hartman Racing this season, continues his hot streak by showing consistency with a P2 finish this weekend in Iowa. This is the third podium appearance for Newgarden in 2015 – the first two being victories at Barber and Milwaukee. Not everything is going as smoothly on his team however; Newgarden’s teammate and team co-owner, Ed Carpenter, got a bit hot under the collar due to Sage Karam’s quick pace with the No. 8 and his supposed “careless” driving the last few laps. Carpenter voiced confidence that he would have made podium without Karam’s aggressive driving, but I don’t know that I agree. I think Rahal would have had something to say about that, so it’s a bit audacious to make those comments. I also viewed Karam’s handling more in the realm of evasive maneuvers with a loose car than aggression or intimidation tactics towards any one particular driver.

It’s no secret that Carpenter has had a rough season on track. He made contact with Oriol Servia in the Indianapolis 500, taking both cars out for the 99th Running of the infamous race. He ended up with another DNF in Texas at the Firestone 600 due to Mechanical issues in his No. 20 Chevy, and he was tangled up with his teammate, the aforementioned Newgarden at what was arguably the best IndyCar race of all time, at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA last month – eliminating both cars from the contest. So in all honesty, you would think Carpenter would be maintaining a low profile and simply happy to have finished a race this season. The result of P6 is actually a huge accomplishment, given how the first three races of his year turned out.

20150712_161257I find it interesting that the scuffles Carpenter finds himself in are never admittedly his fault. Isn’t it just simple deduction that teaches us when the same situation occurs over and over, there is usually a common factor running throughout all the scenarios? Does anyone else wonder if maybe that common factor here is just his temper and his severe dislike of not-winning? Different drivers have different styles and we see those come to a head on the track all the time. Sometimes it creates an incident, sometimes a close call and sometimes… nothing more than intense wheel-to-wheel racing. Regardless of the type of position battle, there is always someone that maintains or gains a position, and someone else who loses one. So I have to inquire – if that battle for position between Karam and Carpenter had happened on Lap 3 instead of one of the last laps… would Carpenter have reacted differently? Or was the pronounced anger simply due to the fact that the Ganassi rookie was ruining his chances at a podium with it being so late in the game? Sometimes it feels like Carpenter carries around a sense of entitlement, and that’s not the greatest attribute to have as a racing driver. Success CAN come with experience, but it doesn’t have to – and as with anything in racing, there are no guarantees.

No penalties were called on Karam during the race – and frankly, I’m not even sure what kind of penalty Carpenter wanted to be issued. The fact remains that Sage Karam was the highest finishing Ganassi Racing car, achieving his first career podium finish. The young driver maintained his cool post-race, even with Carpenter confronting him on pit lane about his handling.

20150712_161855RLL Racing driver, Graham Rahal, ends the evening in Iowa by jumping up to second in the points Championship. He trails Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya by just 42 points, some of that thanks to the fact that Montoya’s contact with the wall in the first few laps of the race took him out for the night and Scott Dixon from Ganassi Racing ended up with electrical issues that took him back to the garage for a spell before returning to the track. Rahal is the highest Honda driver in the points race, with the next best being Marco Andretti, running seventh. Are we witnessing history in motion? Is this the resurgence of two of IndyCar’s most iconic families? It would appear so.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race will take place on Sunday, August 2nd. The Honda Indy 200 will run on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH and air live on NBC Sports at 1:30 PM ET. You can also watch live on the NBC Sports Live Extra app from your wireless device by logging into your cable or satellite provider account when prompted. The IndyCar 15 app is available on Android and iOS devices, with additional live camera and audio features accessible if your device is powered by the Verizon Wireless network, the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series.

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