Saturday was a busy day at the Iowa Speedway. The qualifying session and races for the US F2000 National Championship presented by Cooper Tires powered by Mazda, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, and the Firestone Indy Lights were all held on Saturday, which made for a packed schedule of on-track activity. I would report on the qualifying sessions for the US F2000 and the Star Mazda, but I didn’t see them. I COULDN’T see them! The track didn’t open its gates until 1:00pm, and since I was tardy with the media cred app, my wife and I were stuck on the outside hearing the beautiful sounds of those Mazda engines, but not able to go and watch. Shame on you, Iowa Speedway! …anyway, enough rant, let me get back to the action.
There really were no surprises during the qualification session for US F2000. Sage Karam of Andretti Autosport took the pole followed closely by his toughest rival this season Patrick McKenna. Sage’s teammate Zach Veach would round off the top three. There was some surprises during the race, however. Zach had a very quick and racy car and challenged Patrick McKenna for P2 when the two made contact between T1 and T2. The contact left Patrick’s machine with a slow leak in the left rear tire, and it ripped off the nose of Zach’s car. The resulting nose change, sent Veach to the rear of the field. Patrick tried to maintain his position and held on to third for most of the 50-lap event until his tire finally gave up and ended up behind Veach in sixth. Veach, meanwhile, came into the pits twice to repair damage to the nose and clawed his way back up through the field to finish in fifth. It was a great drive by the young Ohioian, showing that he can overcome adversity during a race. Sage avoided even coming close to such adversity and cruised to a well earned victory, extending his lead over Patrick in the championship standings to 32 points.
Next round for the series is at the New Jersey Motorsports Park with the Star Mazda Championship.
“It may have looked easy on TV to win that race, but I have to say that it was a struggle,” said Daly. “The track changed a lot between qualifying and the race, and the car behaved completely differently in turns one and two than it did in three and four. There were a couple of times there where the car nearly backed out from under me, so it was a battle of concentration and focus to keep the same level of performance for 100 laps. We had a full-course yellow about mid-way through the race and I saw lots of cars diving for the pits for adjustments and new tires, so it was like an IndyCar race in that respect. The Juncos Racing team and I worked hard this weekend and we plan to just keep executing like we’re doing now and hope to go into the next race at New Jersey with the same strength we showed here.” — Conor Daly, StarMazda.com
Firestone Indy Lights
Saying that Charlie Kimball had a rough weekend would be a gross understatement. After showing serious speed in all the practices, including topping the charts in the final practice, a fuel pickup problem nixed his qualifying attempt and Kimball had to start from the back of the grid. Perhaps being in too much of a hurry to climb up through the field, Kimball ended up backwards and into the T2 wall.
“Starting in the back, I was trying to make a couple of moves early and see if I could get to the front. Heading into Turn 1, I was running a little bit higher than I had earlier. I was way out of the gas and the back just came around. Maybe the tires were a little cold and I was just pushing a little harder. The No. 26 Levemir FlexPen car was going to be quick. It had been quick all day. We’ll just see how much it’s going to hurt us in the championship and move forward from here.” –Charlie Kimball, IndyCar.com
For me, the big story of the evening was the crowds! The turnout for the Firestone Indy Lights race was fantastic. In fact, I’d bet dollars to pesos that there were more spectators watching Saturday night’s Firestone Indy Lights race at the Iowa Speedway this year than there were watching the IZOD IndyCar Series race at the Kansas Speedway this past May. This will hopefully support one of the goals of the Road2Indy program of having a separate race weekend for the various ladder series with the Firestone Indy Lights as the feature race. I’d be one of the first in line for tickets!