A caution with 20 laps to go set up a strategy play for the end of the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night and it was the Andretti Autosport team of Ryan Hunter-Reay that played the right card. He was running ninth at the time of the caution but pitted and took four new Firestone tires and still restarted ninth with nine laps to go. He surged through the field and on lap 299 passed Tony Kanaan to steal the win away from the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver that had led 247 laps in the race.
Josef Newgarden also took new tires and restarted 11th and drove up to finish a career-best second with a last lap pass on Kanaan who ended up settling for third as he could not hold off the fresh tire advantage of Hunter-Reay and Newgarden.
"We took the tires, it was a big gamble," Hunter-Reay said in victory lane. "I didn't think we would have enough time, the safety crew did an excellent job getting that cleaned up so that we could go racing at the end so that was great. Man that was a lot of fun that was like a video game at the end."
The win was the third of the 2014 season to go along with wins at Barber Motorsports Park and the Indianapolis 500 for Hunter-Reay and it is the 14th of his career.
Scott Dixon led the field to green and led lap 1 however his lead did not last long as it was Tony Kanaan who took the lead on lap 2. By lap 30 the top five was Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe, Dixon, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The first caution flew on lap 34 when light rain started to fall at the 0.875 mile track in Newton, Iowa. It is the smallest track that the IndyCars race on. After lap 39 Verizon IndyCar Series officials put out the red flag. It was about a 30 minute delay until the track was deemed ready for the drivers to get back to racing. Before that everyone came down pit road and it was Castroneves that got off with the lead ahead of Kanaan, Dixon, Power, and Briscoe for the lap 49 restart.
However, a green flag lap was never ran as rookie Mikhail Aleshin crashed coming to the restart off Turn 4 when he clipped the apron and spun. His car went up the track right into the path of Takuma Sato who had nowhere to go and the two collided hard with each other and the outside retaining wall to bring out the second caution. Aleshin finished 21st and Sato 22nd.
The race finally restarted on lap 64 after a lengthy cleanup of the accident and Castroneves got out to the lead. Kanaan fought back though and took the lead in lap traffic on lap 77. Then on lap 80 Juan Pablo Montoya had the end plate on his left-rear wing come off but he still worked his way up to tenth.
The third caution came out on lap 90 for the debris of Montoya's end plate which landed on the track. Off pit road Kanaan retained the lead with Castroneves second, Power third, Briscoe fourth, and Dixon fifth for the lap 100 restart and Kanaan was able to maintain the lead after early pressure from Castroneves.
On lap 130 Sebastien Bourdais slowed with electrical issues and retired from the race with a 19th place result. Carlos Huertas was 20th as he parked for the night before Bourdias' issue. By lap 150 which was the halfway lap Kanaan led over Castroneves, Briscoe, Power, and Sebastian Saavedra. Saavedra was flying through the field in his KV-AFS Racing car and by lap 160 had worked his way to third.
He was catching the two lead cars when on lap 161 he got into Turn 1 a little on the high side and got out of shape and up into the wall pretty lightly but enough to bring out the fourth caution. The contact had broken something in the right-rear of his car and his crew spent the next seven caution laps making repairs before returning him to the track.
Off pit road after stops it was Kanaan maintaining the lead with Power up to second, then Ed Carpenter, Castroneves, and Briscoe for the lap 172 restart. By lap 200 Kanaan led over Carpenter, Castroneves, Briscoe, and Dixon.
On lap 229 Simon Pagenaud pitted from seventh under green for what he thought would be his last stop but that backfired as the caution came out for the fifth time on lap 230 when Marco Andretti blew his engine. He finished in 18th.
Off pit road Kanaan kept the lead but Dixon jumped to second with Castroneves third, Power fourth, and Briscoe fifth for the lap 243 restart. Dixon was able to get the lead on lap 248 but Kanaan would fight back and take the lead on lap 264.
The sixth caution flew on lap 281 when Juan Pablo Montoya tried to make a pass on Ed Carpenter for sixth but Carpenter moved low and chopped off Montoya which put the Columbian driver into the Turn 3 wall hard. Montoya finished in 16th ahead of Saavedra in 17th who had retired a few laps before after his earlier issue.
The caution set up an interesting restart on lap 291 after safety crews did a great job of cleaning up the track after Montoya's wreck. Restarting in ninth place on back were cars with fresh tires including Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden, and Ed Carpenter.
The final nine laps were breathtaking with Hunter-Reay and Newgarden surging toward the front with every passing lap. On lap 294 Will Power had an issue in Turn 1 where he entered too high and brushed the wall lightly off Turn 2 which dropped him to the rear of the field and a 14th place finish.
On lap 297 Hunter-Reay moved past Dixon for second and then with two laps to go passed Kanaan for the lead into Turn 1. Newgarden passed Kanaan in Turn 1 on the final lap but did not have time to run down Hunter-Reay for the win.
Finishing fourth was Scott Dixon with Ed Carpenter coming home fifth. James Hinchcliffe finished sixth, Graham Rahal seventh, Helio Castroneves eighth, Ryan Briscoe ninth, and Charlie Kimball tenth. Simon Pagenaud was 11th, Carlos Munoz 12th, Justin Wilson 13th, and Will Power 14th. Jack Hawksworth was four laps down in 15th.
After 12 of 18 races Helio Castroneves moved into the points lead. He is nine points ahead of his Team Penske teammate Will Power. Ryan Hunter-Reay made up ground and is now third and 32 points back. Simon Pagenaud is fourth and 50 points back and Juan Pablo Montoya is 66 points back in fifth. Carlos Munoz is sixth, Marco Andretti seventh, Scott Dixon eighth, Ryan Briscoe ninth, and Tony Kanaan tenth.
The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Toronto for the 2 In T.O. weekend on with Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto on Saturday, July 19th and Race 2 on Sunday, July 20th.Tags: Andretti Autosport, Helio Castroneves, IndyCar Series, Iowa Speedway, Josef Newgarden, Juan Pablo Montoya, Motorsports, Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon, Sebastian Saavedra, Team Penske, tony kanaan, Verizon IndyCar Series, Will Power