Friday, September 22, 2023

DEHARDE: Five Takeaways from the Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend at Iowa Speedway

The start of the 2022 Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300.
The start of Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 at Iowa Speedway. Photo courtesy of Chris Jones / Penske Entertainment.

The NTT IndyCar Series return to Iowa Speedway was certainly memorable for multiple reasons as the teams and drivers continue through the summer stretch of the IndyCar calendar. Here are my five takeaways from the 11th and 12th rounds of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season.

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1. Josef Newgarden was on Another Planet

Whenever Josef Newgarden leads at Iowa, he leads a lot of laps. The Tennessee native won Saturday’s 250 after leading 208 laps and was en route to a possible win in Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 when a suspected suspension failure sent his car spinning into the outside wall after leading 148 laps.

In theory, nobody was going to catch Newgarden on Sunday, but that’s why they run the races. However, after Newgarden’s accident on Sunday, there is another issue that needs to be addressed.

2. That Fall in the Motor Coach Lot

Newgarden was in the motor coach lot when he fell outside of his particular motor coach, hitting his head and suffering an abrasion on the back of his head. Because of the traffic outside of the track, IndyCar felt that it would be quicker to airlift the two-time IndyCar champion to a hospital in Des Moines rather than to use an ambulance.

When getting out of the car, Newgarden didn’t look like everything was fine, and it was the same in the post accident interview.

IndyCar said they would re-evaluate the four-time Iowa winner on Thursday because of the G-force data that the ear piece accelerometers recorded. Team Penske announced Santino Ferrucci is on standby in case Newgarden is not cleared to race in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix at the IMS road course..

However, could there be a change in post-crash procedure going forward? If a certain threshold is met, it might be a wise idea to send that driver directly to the hospital instead of keeping them at the track’s medical center so situations like Newgarden’s doesn’t happen again.

It is better to be on the side of caution.

3. Chevrolet Domination

Chevrolet didn’t just win both races, they dominated the entire weekend at Iowa Speedway. Out of 550 racing laps in both races, a Chevrolet-powered driver was up front for 525 of those laps. Jimmie Johnson led 19 laps in Saturday’s race, Takuma Sato led five laps in Sunday’s race and David Malukas also had one lap in the lead of Sunday’s race.

Both podiums were swept by Chevrolet drivers as Newgarden beat Pato O’Ward and Will Power on Saturday while O’Ward won on Sunday ahead of Power and Scott McLaughlin. This put Chevrolet on top of the manufacturer points by 114 over Honda with five races to go in the 2022 IndyCar season.

4. Marketing and Activation

It was clear looking at the grandstands that Hy-Vee threw their entire marketing department behind the race weekend and it worked. There were pre and post race concerts on Saturday and Sunday keeping the crowds entertained and bringing in new fans, with lots of people enjoying themselves as Gwen Stefani rocked through many of her and No Doubt’s hits on Sunday morning.

Visiting a Hy-Vee grocery store for the first time, it was great to see the different types of activation all around the building. The only complaint to be made was that while Jack Harvey is the driver of the Hy-Vee Indy car, it was nearly impossible to find his name on a lot of the merchandise and activation except for a few shirts near the IndyCar merchandise in the store.

5. Matthew Brabham Just Wingin’ It

Matthew Brabham had the best car at the end of Saturday’s Indy Lights race. With five laps to go, he was going outside of Linus Lundqvist but Lundqvist swerved and had contact with Brabham’s front wing, damaging the aforementioned wing and causing Brabham to have to slow dramatically, eventually losing second and third place in the last corner of the final lap.

While Lundqvist crossed the finish line in first place, race control would have their say, penalizing the Swede three positions for the contact. That elevated Hunter McElrea to the win ahead of Christian Rasmussen and Brabham.

The contact did cause Brabham and Lundqvist to have words on pit road after the race, but the discussion was civil as the pair exchanged their opinions.

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