For the third time in three weeks, the IndyCar Series will head to an oval with the points championship lead up for grabs. Heading into Iowa for Saturday night's race, both Will Power and Dario Franchitti are tied at the top of the standings. One of them will leave with the lead, as we will turn our attention back to the road/street courses.
There are a couple of favorites that I think will miss the podium this weekend. Defending race winner Tony Kanaan is one of them. After a great showing early at Milwaukee, he lost control trying to catch race leader Helio Castroneves. While he did get the win here last year, he started that race in 15th position, which isn't that surprising. Looking at his other three races here, he has finished 16th, 18th, and 14th respectively.
Another driver I have missing is the man tied for the points lead, Will Power. Power started in 11th and finished in ninth in 2008, and grabbed the pole last year and finished in fifth. I see Dario putting some distance between himself and Power before we head back to the road/street courses, which are Power's strong suit. His stats and his talent should get him a podium finish, but I am going with my gut feeling on this one.
Some things never change. In three races here at Iowa, he has never started outside of the top five. He obviously has a fast car, and this shouldn't really surprise anybody. He will be in a very familiar place at the start of the race on Saturday night.
I am still not sure what to think about Charlie. I didn't expect much coming in, but it seems he just goes away once the race starts. I think the success of his teammate Graham Rahal might cause him to push a little more, which could get him into trouble.
Speaking of Kimball's teammate, is there a more under-the-radar driver that is ready to bust out for a win? Rahal has three podium finishes this year, including last weekend's runner up finish to Franchitti at Milwaukee. In three races at Iowa, he has finished in 10th, 11th, and ninth. He is coming along nicely this year, and his progression could get him another podium on Saturday.
I am still waiting for this guy to get into victory lane this year. He has had some great opportunities, only to see lady luck wash them away. I think he may be getting a little frustrated, and a little desperate for a first place spot on the podium. It will take some misfortune of a few other drivers, but Briscoe could finally get one at Iowa. In three races here, he has finished seventh, second, and fourth, respectively.
It was extremely hard for me to keep him out of the top spot this weekend, but I think the series is too competitive for him to do it. If my prediction of a pole comes true, that would mean winning the pole and the race, two weekends in a row. While I think he will be a contender all day, I'm still putting him in second this weekend. The two-time winner here (2007 and 2009) is looking to bounce bad from a disappointing 18th place finish here last year.
Many people have already forgotten that he has already won a race this year. We all know he is one of the most complete drivers in the series, and his track record here is about what you would expect. He won the pole in 2007 and 2008, while finishing in fourth, fifth, and sixth the past three years. In the four races at Iowa, he has never finished outside of the top ten.
I think this race will be dominated by the Ganassi boys once again. Outside of Power, Penske hasn't really had an answer for them. We could see more strong finishes from Newman Haas and KV Racing, but don't expect to hear much from the Andretti camp.