A decade in, Dixon and Team Penske still seeking Iowa's victory lane


NEWTON, Iowa – After a decade of racing at Iowa Speedway, two Verizon IndyCar Series powerhouses remain haunted by a lack of wins at the high-speed short oval: Scott Dixon and Team Penske. Each is looking to rewrite that history this weekend in the Iowa Corn 300.

Dixon is a four-time series champion and taking aim on a fifth this year. Yet the best that the Chip Ganassi Racing driver has been able to finish at Iowa was third place (in 2011 and 2016).

Meanwhile, Dixon’s chief rivals at Team Penske have also come up winless in 10 races on the 0.894-mile oval. That’s a total of 27 entered cars since the inaugural event in 2007, with a trio of runner-up finishes (Ryan Briscoe 2009, Helio Castroneves 2010, Will Power 2016) to show for it.

Check out other things to watch for this weekend at Iowa here:

Both Dixon and Team Penske have renewed hope of breaking into the Iowa win column this weekend.

Dixon notched his 41st career Indy car win – moving within a victory of tying Michael Andretti for third on the all-time list – in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America on June 25. It helped extend the 36-year-old New Zealander’s championship lead to 34 points after 10 of 17 races.

However, Dixon is tempering his enthusiasm for Iowa, citing what he calls “a slight disadvantage” in Honda’s short oval aero kit package compared to Chevrolet. Of course, some felt the same way two weeks ago at Road America and Dixon drove his No. 9 NTT Data Honda to victory lane.

“You have very high G-force loading (at Iowa) and there is always a lot of action on this bullring-style track,” Dixon said. “You really have to be on your game with traffic and the quick lap times.

“The track has a lot more character having weathered in over the past few years and (with) the bumps in Turns 1 and 2. I think we're going to be in for a bit of an uphill battle as our overall package seems to be at a slight disadvantage on the short ovals like this track and likely Gateway.”

Chevrolet did own the top four finishing positions in the only previous short oval race this season, at Phoenix Raceway in April. Three of the four that night were from Team Penske – winner Simon Pagenaud, second-place Power and fourth-place Castroneves. The team also added 2016 Iowa race winner Josef Newgarden to the stable in the offseason, so confidence is high this weekend.

"I think Iowa is going to be a really fun race this year,” Power said. “Last year, Josef had us all covered, so I definitely want to turn that around. With him now being on the team and seeing how he performed there, I think it could be fun to battle again.

“The No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet team's oval program is in a great place. We had an awesome car at Texas and we'll have another one at Iowa as well.”

Newgarden, driving the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet this weekend, shared Power’s enthusiasm.

“We've been working on our oval program since Texas and have a lot of things we want to try out that we think will give us a really strong car,” Newgarden said. “The whole team is really excited to head to that race and see what we can do."

If the perceived Chevrolet short oval advantage holds true, it could help Team Penske trim into Dixon’s points advantage. Pagenaud, the reigning series champion, is second in the 2017 standings, 34 points back. Castroneves, still in search of a first title in his 20th season, is third, 37 behind Dixon. Newgarden is fifth (71 behind Dixon) and Power sixth (73 behind Dixon).

Track action begins with a 75-minute practice at 11 a.m. ET today, which streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Qualifying airs live at 3 p.m. today on NBCSN, with a final 30-minute practice set for 7:15 p.m. (RaceControl.IndyCar.com).

Live coverage of the 300-lap race starts at 5 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Iowa Corn 300 fast facts:

Race 11 of 17 on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule

Track: Iowa Speedway, a 0.894-mile oval in Newton, Iowa. Sunday’s race will be the 11th on the track since it debuted on the schedule in 2007.

Race distance: 300 laps / 268.2 miles

Track records: Helio Castroneves, 186.809 mph, 17.2283 seconds (one lap); Scott Dixon, 186.256 mph, 34.5588 seconds (two-lap qualifying)

Firestone tire allotment: 10 sets of a single specification for the race weekend

NBCSN telecasts (all live): Qualifying, 3 p.m. ET today; Race, 5 p.m. ET Sunday

Ticket information: IowaSpeedway.com

From the fans