NEWTON, Iowa – After missing last year’s Iowa Corn 300 recovering from injuries sustained in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, James Hinchcliffe was eager to make up for lost time in team testing at Iowa Speedway.
Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was one of 18 Verizon IndyCar Series cars on track today in advance of this year’s Iowa Corn 300 weekend July 9-10. On-track action was interrupted in late morning by rain but cars were able to return to the high-banked 0.894-mile oval by early afternoon and work through their testing regimens.
It was of particular importance for Hinchcliffe to get seat time at Iowa, since it was his first at the track following last year’s introduction of aero kits by manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda.
“I know what a good car feels like around this place so it’s just getting the baseline setup sorted,” Hinchcliffe said. “Especially for me not being here last year, with the new body kits, there’s a lot of stuff for me to learn in that sense.”
Hinchcliffe was also looking to “mileage out” the engine in his car so he could have a fresh Honda powerplant in place for race weekend, when he and the rest of the field look to break the dominant run of Andretti Autosport, which has won the last six Iowa races – including Hinchcliffe’s victory in 2013. The “Mayor of Hinchtown” said he would be paying close attention to what his former team was doing.
“The big thing we’re looking for is anything Andretti Autosport does,” Hinchcliffe joked. “They seem to have a pretty exemplary record here and I think they should be banned from testing. I don’t think that should be allowed, I don’t think it’s fair, but no one asked me for my opinion, so here they are.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay has won three of the past four Iowa races for Andretti, finishing second to Hinchcliffe the year he didn’t win. The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion took part in an INDYCAR test at the track in May to confirm the aero package for the race, but was looking forward to getting through the team testing checklist with teammates Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and Alexander Rossi.
“Coming back now, we’re working on team items like dampers, spring rates, roll centers, geometries,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda. “Things that can really help the car in qualifying and in traffic. A long list of items to get through, but with four cars at Andretti Autosport we’ll start picking through that.”
The team went down a car in early afternoon, however, when Rossi spun in Turn 2 and made contact with the SAFER Barrier. The rookie and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner was uninjured.
Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet for KVSH Racing, said the lost track time from the rain hindered one-car teams like his more than multi-car efforts.
“The (to-do) list got longer after the first couple of runs (before the rain) and the time available got shorter, so we’re going to have to pick the list of priorities and see what really matters the most,” the four-time Indy car champ and 35-time race winner said. “We’re not going to get through all of the items we were hoping to go through. It is what it is.”
Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (pictured at right) was also on hand for the test. Castroneves holds the one-lap track record (17.2283 seconds, 186.809 mph) and is the defending pole winner, but is winless with one podium finish in nine previous Iowa races. Still, the Team Penske driver enjoys the track.
“It’s a small track but it’s fast,” Castroneves said. “Even though we don’t reach 230 mph like Indianapolis, it feels more like that – more than that – when you’re going around this short track. When you’re going around 17 seconds (a lap), and on the (race) weekend, we might be breaking into the 16s, it’s super-fast and it’s fun at the same time because you do have some challenges.”
Practice for the Iowa Corn 300 begins at 11 a.m. ET July 9, with qualifying that afternoon airing live on NBCSN (3 p.m. ET). Race coverage on July 10 begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The 11th race of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season is also on the schedule.
For race and ticket information, visit IowaSpeedway.com.