NEWTON, Iowa -- The Verizon IndyCar Series is setting up for its 10th race at Iowa Speedway on today. Tony Kanaan, Josef Newgarden and back-to-back defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay may be the early favorites, but don’t count out Max Chilton in the Iowa Corn 300 (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
The 25-year-old rookie bettered his Chip Ganassi Racing teammates in Saturday’s qualifying to start a career-high fourth at the 0.894-mile oval with a two-lap combined time of 34.7148 seconds (185.433 mph).
“Great job by the Ganassi guys,” Chilton said. “It was nice to be the fastest (among the team), no easy feat. Really happy with that and (the race) is what counts.
“I hear no one's won (from) pole here, so I'm obviously in the right sort of area to have a good result.”
Last year, Chilton enjoyed a breakout win at Iowa with Carlin in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, starting from the pole and leading 87 laps en route to his lone Mazda Road to Indy victory.
“The (Indy) Lights car, you can't fault it,” Chilton said. “It's a great feeder series. Especially here (at Iowa), the speeds aren't hugely different.
“I think it just put me in a good spec to come through into INDYCAR here, and it's obviously paid off today with my career-best (qualifying effort) in INDYCAR.”
Chilton is aiming for an encore performance at Iowa, but acknowledges that getting a proper race setup is more important than the starting position.
“Qualifying sort of doesn't mean anything around here,” Chilton said. “You know, it’s 300 laps, anything can happen.
“It's more to do with who has got the most comfortable race car, and you're going to constantly to be behind people in dirty air here. So I want to make sure I have got a car I feel comfortable with.
“It might not necessarily be the quickest. I think if we can do that and keep the wheels rolling tomorrow, we'll come away with a different result.”
The No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s best finish of the season thus far came on another short oval. On April 2 in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway, the Brit came ran an impressive seventh in just his second Verizon IndyCar Series start and first on an oval.
After running 18th in a frantic final practice session Saturday evening, Chilton understands what it is going to take to be around at the end today.
“Perseverance,” he said. “We need to keep the wheels rolling. It isn’t an easy race to try and stay clean here.”