I wrote earlier in the week that we shouldn’t take the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo lightly for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300. Just look what they’ve done in the previous ovals in 2018. James Hinchcliffe started fifth, led 20 laps and finished sixth back at the ISM Raceway in April. In Texas, he charged from his 15th starting spot to bring his No. 5 Honda home fourth.
He did it again on Sunday. Hinchcliffe, started 11th but by Lap 20, he was battling for positions inside the top five.
What about his rookie teammate Robert Wickens? The Canadian is fearless. He’s never raced on an oval before coming to INDYCAR this year and here he is with shots to win at all three of them.
Wickens, led 44 laps at Phoenix and finished runner-up. He finished in the top 10 of the Indianapolis 500 and earned Rookie of the Race honors because of that. At Texas, he was lightning quick and if not for a crash while trying to pass a lapped car (Ed Carpenter) late in the race, he was likely winning that night too.
On Sunday, the two drivers nearly came away with dual podium efforts. A late race caution and a bizarre situation derailed that. More of that story later.
Hinchliffe, was as fast as anyone all day despite Josef Newgarden dominating the race in leading a race high 229 of 300 laps. He used lapped traffic to his advantage and passed Newgarden for the lead with 44 laps-to-go and never looked back en route to his sixth career Verizon IndyCar Series victory and first since his win in Long Beach last year.
Hinchcliffe, led 226 laps en route to a win at Iowa back in 2013.
The popular Canadian was well on his way to winning before the second caution flag flew with seven laps left when Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato made contact with one another in Turn 2. There was speculation that we’d get a one lap shootout for the win as Josef Newgarden and Robert Wickens hit pit road in hopes that they’d get to go back to green on fresh tires. It was a Phoenix situation all over again.
Hinchcliffe would have likely been a sitting duck.
The only problem for them, we’d never go back green. Newgarden and Wickens gave up their second and third place positions for no reason and would finish fourth and fifth respectively.
Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato were the biggest beneficiaries as they’d come home second (Pigot) and third (Sato) instead.
Pigot, backs up his recent hot streak to where he’s finished inside the top 11 in every race with the exception of one since the start of June. This very car had also finished on the podium in each of the last two years prior to this weekend and now Pigot charges hard and brings his No. 21 Chevrolet home runner-up for his best career INDYCAR finish.
Sato, brought his No. 30 Honda home third for his best result of the season.
Newgarden, gave up at least eight points by pitting which cost him his fourth top two finishes in five years at Iowa. Wickens, gave up a for sure podium too which would have given SPM two of the three podium positions.
The main contenders struggled all day which was also a bigger thorn in Newgarden’s side. Scott would finish four laps down in 12th. Alexander Rossi stalled his car on pit road early in the race and would finish ninth, two laps off pace. Ryan Hunter-Reay had his fair share of issues and would finish 19th.
The late caution and pit stop could cost Newgarden a potential second consecutive championship.
Iowa Corn 300 Results
- 5 Hinchcliffe
- 21 Pigot
- 30 Sato
- 1 Newgarden
- 6 Wickens R
- 12 Power -1
- 15 Rahal -1
- 22 Pagenaud -1
- 27 Rossi -2
- 20 Carpenter -2
- 18 Bourdais -3
- 9 Dixon -4
- 10 Jones -5
- 23 Kimball -5
- 59 Chilton -5
- 98 Andretti -7
- 14 Kanaan -8
- 19 Claman DeMelo R -9
- 28 Hunter-Reay -17
- 26 Veach R -21
- 88 Chaves OUT
- 4 Leist R OUT