NEWTON, IA – The last time the NTT IndyCar Series visited the Iowa Speedway, James Hinchcliffe was celebrating in victory lane. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver found speed in the end of the 2018 edition and passed Josef Newgarden in the closing stages to earn his sixth career Indy Car victory.
As we head back to Saturday’s Iowa 300 (7 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network), Hinchcliffe looks like a solid sleeper pick once again.
The only reason he’s only a sleeper and not a favorite is because how well the “Big 3” teams have done on the season.
The “Big 3” have obviously been the odds on favorites to win each Indy Car race this season. Heading into this weekend’s race at the Iowa Speedway, an Andretti, Penske or Ganassi driver has won eight straight races. If you go back to the start of the last season, the first with this new car, these three organizations have won 82-percent of the races (23 of 28). On top of all of this, these three teams have won 10 of the 12 visits the series has taken to Iowa including the first nine years of this races’ existence.
But, over the last three years, Ed Carpenter Racing and Schmidt have won two of them. So, while Penske starts 1-2-3 on Saturday, Hinch may have something for them.
Despite all the changes to the race between last year and this, Hinchcliffe is confident he can at least earn his third straight top 10 finish on the season and sixth straight in Iowa.
“It’s always nice coming back to a track you’ve had success at,” Hinchcliffe said after qualifying fifth for Saturday’s race. “But, racing is a very much what have you done for me lately kind of sport. Iowa 2018 was a long time ago. They’ve changed the engine boost for this race. They’ve changed the time of the race, switching to an evening race. A lot is different but hopefully the No. 5 Arrow car can still be strong. It will be a better qualifying effort than last year.
“Sure our wins came during day conditions but it’s still going to be pretty bright and pretty hot when we go out running tomorrow night. I don’t know if that helps us or hurts us but time will tell. With the change to the 150 boost, it’s a boost range where the 140 where we had before were weakest of the three for us as a manufacturer. So, getting rid of it obviously puts us in a good spot. There’s still some quick cars with some other guys motors in them.”