Iowa Preview

One of the most anticipated race weekends of the 2022 IndyCar season is finally here – what I unofficially call the Hy-Vee Double-Header Weekend at Iowa. The 250 will run on Saturday afternoon, while the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 will take place on Sunday afternoon.

From what I can tell, sponsor Hy-Vee and IndyCar are re-writing the book on how to put on and promote a race weekend. I have been to races that will go unnamed; where you see the title sponsor’s name in the race promotion, but you never see anything related to that sponsor once you are inside the grounds. The sponsor wrote a big check to get their name on the event logo, but never lifted a finger toward activation on the grounds. That is not the case with Hy-Vee.

I had never heard of Hy-Vee until Graham Rahal ran a car with their sponsorship for a race or two in the 2020 IndyCar season. When Susan and I were in Minnesota later that fall, we visited a Hy-Vee grocery store near our hotel. We were impressed with their size, their cleanliness, their selection and their prices – all very important factors for a grocery store.

In 2021, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing ran a third car at selected races, all carrying Hy-Vee on the sidepods. Since we had been so impressed with their store, we paid close attention – especially since Santino Ferrucci was behind the wheel for most of those races.

From what I understand, Hy-Vee is in major expansion mode. I think they are even planning to expand into the Nashville market, which is needed. They are using IndyCar as a way to become a household name across. It has worked with me, but I’m an IndyCar die-hard. Will those outside of the Midwest that do not follow IndyCar, know who Hy-Vee is when they expand into those markets? Time will tell.

But for this weekend, Hy-Vee is going all-out to make sure their name gets plastered everywhere and that all fans in attendance have a great time. Concerts at a race track are not my thing, but I know it is important to a lot of people. They have brought in some big names for concerts before and after each race on Saturday and Sunday. They are also allowing free admission for Friday to watch the Indy Lights and IndyCar practice. That is how you hook new fans and sell tickets for the next two days.

As for the racing itself, Iowa has always provided good racing. It is technically a short track at 7/8 of a mile, but it seems to race like a super-speedway – meaning it’s fast, yet crowded like a short track. With twenty-six cars entered for each race, things will be very congested at all times. It could get very interesting.

I’ve never been a fan of double-headers, especially on ovals where crash damage can be more extensive. It’s great for the fans in attendance, but is very hard on the teams – even if there is no crash damage sustained by their driver. If their driver crashes in Saturday’s race, that team is looking at little sleep as they rebuild the car for Sunday’s race, which is an hour earlier that Saturday’s race.

With 100 points on the line this weekend, along with bonus points – there could be some major movement in the point standing from Friday to Sunday night. Marcus Ericsson could either extend his lead even further than his current thirty-five point lead over Will Power, or leave Newton, Iowa in fifth place. Those that are in need of a good weekend can suddenly find themselves back in the championship hunt after this weekend.

The thing about double-headers is that if you have a strong car on Saturday and don’t have any contact – the chances are good that you will have a good car on Sunday. But if a driver stuffs the car into the wall in Saturday’s race, not only is Saturday’s race ruined, but the team goes into Sunday with a rebuilt and untested car.

For those of us that are not going to be there, the weekend gets underway with Friday’s IndyCar practice at 3:30 pm CDT (local time) for an hour and a half on Peacock. That will be the only practice session of the weekend, so teams had better get it right then. Qualifying for both races will be at 9:30 am CDT on Peacock. I am assuming this will be one of those deals where Lap One qualifying times determine Saturday’s starting spot, while Lap Two will decide the grid spot for Sunday.

Saturday’s race broadcast starts at 3:00 pm CDT on Big NBC, while Sunday’s is at 2:00 pm CDT on NBC.

So who will win these races? I won’t even try to pick who will win each race, but I will take a stab at who the two winners will be this weekend. Josef Newgarden has won three times at Iowa. He needs a good result to get back on track. In short, he’s due. He will win one of the races. Scott Dixon has never won at Iowa, and his roll has started. He will check Iowa off of his list of tracks and win one of the races also and reinsert himself into the championship picture. We’ll see.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “Iowa Preview”

  1. Kessler Maurice Says:

    Hy-Vee will be opening their first Indiana store next year just a mile East of Exit 130 off I-65, a rapid growing area, with Meijer,their closest competitor, about .5 mile nearby. The store will be about 12 miles North of IMS & about 5 miles East of Rahah’s new corporate headquarters scheduled to be completed in Zionsville,IN. soon.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Iowa has definitely been Newgarden’s playground recently, so he is surely happy to see these two races and I’m sure expects to make progress in the championship race this weekend.

    Andretti has a good track record at Iowa traditionally, but not as much lately, so it will be interesting to see if they can compete for the win. Ganassi has not had much success at Iowa over the years, but the whole team has been so sharp this year that you kind of have to think they’ll be up there. Carpenter, AMSP, and Rahal have had some good runs at Iowa recently, perhaps they will contend.

  3. For me at each race Newgarden is nearly always my expected winner.

    Would be very happy to see an RLL car win here to payback Hy-Vee for all the cash spent.

    If Marcus is going to be Champion I would like to see a minimum of two more wins so maybe one here but the person I really want to win at least one race is Rosenqvist. I want to see him in INDYCAR 2023 if at all possible.

  4. jvolgarino Says:

    Excited to take in the next two days of racing with my wife. Hoping she’ll get into it, but it doesn’t hurt that Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton will be there. I’ve known HyVee since childhood so they’ve been around here for a thousand years. Great stores and excellent company.

  5. I wish that George were there to watch two IndyCar races.

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