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Iowa Corn 250 News and Notes

Iowa Corn 250 News and Notes

Driver to win the Iowa Corn 250

801 Tony Kanaan      +350     
802 Sam Hornish Jr    +400     
803 Helio Castroneves +400     
804 Dan Wheldon        +450     
805 Scott Dixon           +600     
806 Dario Franchitti      +800     
807 Danica Patrick       +1500     
808 Vitor Meira           +1500     
809 Marco Andretti      +1800     
810 Thomas Sheckter  +2500     
811 Scott Sharp          +3000     
812 Field (All Others)   +1800 


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Re: Iowa Corn 250 News and Notes

Iowa: AGR IRL IndyCar Race Preview - New Track, New Challenge

Danica Patrick, #7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone
"Having never raced or even tested at Iowa, I don't know a lot about it myself. But, a few drivers have tested there and from what they've said, I know it is going to be fast and a very physically-demanding race. The test on Friday is going to be very important for all of us to find out right away what we need to be fast around there. It's going to be a tough weekend, but hopefully the Motorola team can keep building on the momentum we've picked up the past few races." 

Tony Kanaan, #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone
"I've been to Iowa testing and I love the place. I think it's going to be an exciting race for the 7-Eleven team and I can't wait to go there. It's in the middle of nowhere with corn all around but they sure got it right. It's a fun race track. With the nature of the track and type of racing our cars are capable of producing, it will be an exciting race and people will have a blast."

Marco Andretti, #26 NYSE Dallara/Honda/Firestone
"I'm excited to be going to a new track, especially one that sounds like a driver's track that's pretty physical with constant turning. The NYSE team had some success on similar tracks last year like Nashville and Richmond. If we can avoid mistakes and bad luck, we'll be alright."

Dario Franchitti, #27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone
"After the weekend off, I am looking forward to heading to Iowa. I always enjoy going to new tracks. Iowa is a track similar to Pikes Peak and Richmond, which are both tracks that I enjoy, so it should be an exciting weekend. We are heading into a stretch of five consecutive races so it will be important to get off to a good start in order for us to fight for the championship."

Jaime Camara, #11 oso*fresh Dallara/Firestone
"Iowa is going to be an exciting race. With our test there, we learned that there will be a lot of side-by-side racing which will be great for the fans to see. We are coming off of two top-five finishes in the oso*fresh car and hopefully we'll be able to build on the momentum we gained last weekend."

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A New Challenge Awaits in Iowa

While he is no longer a full-time commentator on IndyCar Series telecasts, Rusty Wallace will be a key figure during this weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 250. He may even have a major impact on who will be crowned Indycar champion at season’s end.

In a year which has already seen several twists and turns, the IndyCar Series is preparing for a whole new experience this weekend as it heads to Iowa Speedway, the first driver-designed racing facility in history.

"I've been waiting for this event for a long time to happen," said Wallace, who helped co-design the .875-mile oval. "I watched the testing. I watched Scott Dixon do the (feasibility) test last year and saw his smile. He was just beaming when he jumped out of the car.

"I'll have my racetrack owner hat on. It's like a child to me, it really is. I watched it be built since birth, you know, and it was just an amazing track."

Even though the track was not complete when he took part in the compatibility test, Dixon is convinced it will be an amazing show this Sunday.

"The track is unique. I think it's not like any other that we run on. I think more racetracks that we get to go to with different character, different kind of size, configuration for us is very good," said the driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Dallara-Honda. "We have a lot of mile and a half tracks and even sister tracks that we race on, which the racing is great. But having a track I think under a mile length while still providing the banking and the progressive corners, will enable us to race side by side, and I think that will make it a huge race and extremely close with a lot of passing for the fans to watch."

More important that the action though, may be the impact the Iowa event has on the season-to-date picture. This weekend’s race, the eighth of 17 this season, marks the beginning of a five-week, five-race stretch that may dictate who is crowned champion. In the next five weeks, teams will compete on the 7/8th-mile variably banked oval at Iowa Speedway, the physically demanding 3/4th-mile oval at Richmond International Raceway, the 1.33-mile concrete oval at Nashville Superspeedway and the road courses at Watkins Glen International and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Entering the stretch, Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti leads the championship by 12 points over Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan, who comes into the weekend with momentum as he won this year’s only other short-track event (tracks 1-mile in distance or shorter).

Target Chip Ganassi’s Dixon and Dan Wheldon sit third and fourth, with defending champion Sam Hornish Jr. rounding out the top five. Like Kanaan, Hornish comes in on a bit of a hot streak, having won the last event on the calendar, the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway.

Not to be forgotten is Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves, who sits sixth in the standings, 51 points adrift. Although he has fallen behind in recent weeks due to consecutive 16th-place finishes at The Milwaukee Mile and Texas Motor Speedway, the Brazilian driver can rebound in the championship as he is amongst the best drivers on short tracks, claiming four poles and one victory in the last seven IndyCar Series events at Richmond International Raceway and The Milwaukee Mile – the only other tracks measuring 1-mile or less.

"I had a chance to test at Iowa in May, and I was very impressed with the track," said Castroneves. "My first impression was that it's a mix of Richmond and Texas. It's small like Richmond, but you can go full throttle all the way around the track like you can at Texas. These two characteristics should create some intense, side-by side racing action. I also think the race will be very physically challenging."

Who will win this weekend’s race at Iowa Speedway? The answer may help solve the 2007 championship riddle as well.

The inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 is slated to take the green flag Sunday shortly after 1 p.m. (ET). Live television coverage will be available on ABC.

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Iowa Speedway expecting wide-open race

NEWTON -- Helio Castroneves is well known for his Spider-Man routine.

The two-time Indianapolis 500 champion celebrates each Indy Racing League win by scaling the catch fence near the starter's stand before heading to victory lane.

While Castroneves is among the favorites in any IRL race, fans at Iowa Speedway may just get to see the invention of a new post-race celebration this weekend.

That's because Sunday's inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 is as wide open as any event on the IRL's IndyCar Series schedule, with all 19 teams working out of the same blank playbook.

Some -- including Castroneves -- had the opportunity to turn a few laps around the 7/8-mile oval in a tire test for Firestone last month, but no team has much experience to lean on heading into today's first practice session at the new track, a venue that is a unique stop on the 17-race IRL circuit.

That's good news for Vision Racing.

The team, which consists of drivers Ed Carpenter, A.J. Foyt IV and Tomas Scheckter, is in its third season of competition but still seeks it first IndyCar win.

"That's a good thing, that no one in the series has raced here before," said Foyt, who will pilot his Honda-powered Dallara for the first time at Iowa Speedway today. "It's going to be a new event for everybody, so everybody should have a fair chance at winning."

Vision, which is owned by IRL founder Tony George and wife, Laura -- Carpenter's step-father and mother -- has not enjoyed the success of top-tier teams like those owned by Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi but will find itself in the same position as those powerhouses this weekend.

"It definitely puts us on more of a level playing ground," Carpenter said. "We missed out on a test here, but it's still like starting out even.

"The big teams that have been around forever have a playbook on a race track and know the tendencies, but no one has that here and it should even things out."

Teams likely will use setups from 3/4-mile Richmond International Raceway as a starting point as it is the only other track on the circuit less than a mile in length. But, with its 60-foot width and compound banking of 12, 13 and 14 degrees, drivers expect Iowa Speedway to present its own set of unique challenges.

Tony Kanaan, who sits second in the IRL points standings, has referred to the track as "Richmond on steroids."

"We're going to be wide open most of the time," said Foyt, the grandson of Indy legend A.J. Foyt who joined Vision this season after a one-year flirtation with stock cars in the NASCAR Busch Series. "If the outside groove is (working) then you're going to see us side-by-side a lot."

Another factor that could open up Sunday's race is the design of the track itself. Former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace, who owns a 10-percent stake in the Speedway, helped craft the wide, sweeping circuit with side-by-side racing and the tight finishes the IRL prides itself on in mind.

"It's going to be a weird mixture of short track and speedway," Carpenter said. "There's a definitive second lane here, so it's going to be unique short track racing for Indy cars."

The 30,000 fans expected in Newton -- as well as a national broadcast audience watching on ABC -- can expect 17-second laps and speeds approaching 200 mph.

"I've been looking forward to it," Foyt said. "It's always exciting going to a new track, and it's going to be a new challenge."

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Scott Dixon takes the pole for the Iowa Corn Indy 250
June 23, 2007

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) -Scott Dixon earned his first pole of the season Saturday during qualifying for the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250.

Given how tough passing is expected to be on Iowa's brand new, Rusty Wallace-designed short oval, some think Dixon might not give the top spot back.

Dixon qualified for the top spot with a top speed of 182.360 mph, grabbing the seventh pole of his career and his first on a short oval since 2003.

Helio Castroneves (182.272) also earned a spot in the front row during Saturday's qualifying, which saw the top five spots grabbed by five teams.

Points leader Dario Franchitti and Rahal Letterman's Scott Sharp will make up the second row. Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter earned his best starting post of the year, qualifying fifth.

``We knew we had a decent car going into qualifying. I don't think we thought we had a car for the pole,'' Dixon said. ``Once I saw the first lap I was like, 'Wow, this thing is definitely going pretty quick.'''

The field will try to pass Dixon on a track that won't make it easy. The new track, which is .0875 of a mile with variable banking and strong grip, hasn't played like a surface conducive to passing during testing and qualifying.

The track runs quick for such a short oval, meaning that drivers will be looking all day for the slightest bit of daylight to sneak to the inside.

That is, of course, if they even get such a chance.

``It's possible, and I don't think it's out of the question,'' said Castroneves of Dixon running wire-to-wire Sunday. ``The problem here is, you can run behind a guy and you can get close and you can even try to attempt (to pass), but normally to make the pass you need to get at least side-by-side. But as soon as you do that, because the radials of the turn are so sharp, that it's kind of like track and field. The guy on the inside always has the advantage.''

The Speedway, located 35 miles west of Des Moines, was built in 2006 with hopes of landing an IRL race to anchor its schedule. Wallace, who has a 10 percent stake in the track, even designed the track to accommodate an IndyCar race.

Many thought it might play out like Richmond Speedway - the only track on the IRL circuit smaller than Iowa - but now that the IndyCar's top drivers have run the track, the consensus is that it runs more like Pike's Peak or Kentucky because of its challenging turns and lap times that should come under 18 seconds.

``It's a great track,'' said Jeff Simmons, who will start sixth. ``It's a difficult track. It's very physically demanding.''

Tony Kanaan landed in the seventh spot, with a lap time of 17.7307. Danica Patrick, who picked up a career-best finish when she placed third at Texas two weeks ago, will have a lot of cars to pass if she wants to make the Iowa 250 her first win. Patrick will start 11th, behind Andretti Green teammates Franchitti and Kanaan.

Dixon's strong qualifying time puts him in position to finally break through with a victory this season. Third in the points standings, Dixon has finished second three times, all after starting from behind the front row.

Dixon is also about as familiar with the Iowa Speedway as any driver in the field, having tested the track this spring.

``If you've got a fast car and you're sitting on the bottom, it's going to be very tough to beat,'' Dixon said.

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Re: Iowa Corn 250 News and Notes

IndyCar-Iowa Corn Indy 250 Lineup
June 23, 2007

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 182.360 mph.

2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 182.272.

3. (27) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 182.043.

4. (8) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 181.713.

5. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 181.644.

6. (17) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Honda, 181.527.

7. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 181.516.

8. (6) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Honda, 181.506.

9. (10) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 181.503.

10. (22) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 181.188.

11. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 180.974.

12. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 180.936.

13. (4) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 180.878.

14. (2) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 180.794.

15. (14) Darren Manning, Dallara-Honda, 180.615.

16. (55) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, 180.221.

17. (15) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 178.787.

18. (5) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 178.632.

19. (23) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 175.227.

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