(via Newton Daily News) – James Hinchcliffe claims he is not superstitious. The veteran NTT IndyCar Series driver heads into Saturday’s 13th annual Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway as the race’s defending champion.
“No, I’m not superstitious,” Hinchcliffe said. “Being prepared and doing your job gets the job done in my mind. We’re looking forward to racing at Iowa again.”
Hinchcliffe said he was excited to be back racing at Iowa under the lights. It’s been four years since the IndyCar Series race has been a night race at “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet” in Newton.
The NTT IndyCar Series Iowa 300 is slated to get underway at 6 p.m. Saturday at Iowa Speedway. The IndyCar Series cars will have two practice runs at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday.
Qualifying for the Iowa 300 is in between practice runs on Friday. Qualifying is set for 1 p.m. Friday at Iowa Speedway.
Hinchcliffe is a two-time Iowa 300 winner, claiming wins in 2013 and 2018. Ryan Hunter-Reay is a three-time winner at Iowa, winning in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Hinchcliffe ran down Joseph Newgarden, who won in 2016, to claim the 2018 win. Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan, winners in 2011 and 2010, respectively, also are in Saturday’s field.
“Iowa has been a great track for me. It really fits with my driving style,” Hinchcliffe said. “We’ve run night races there before and honestly, I love it.”
Colton Herta is one of four IndyCar Series rookies running in Saturday’s race at the shortest racetrack the series races on each season. Herta is the only rookie driver to win an IndyCar race this season — Circuit of The Americas in March.
At the age of 18, Herta became the youngest-ever winner in IndyCar history by winning the IndyCar Classic in Austin, Texas. Then Herta made NTT IndyCar Series history again in June at Wisconsin.
The Valencia, Calif., native won the pole position at Road America. He finished eighth in the race with his No. 88 Honda driving for Harding Steinbrenner Racing.
“I think the most exciting part about Iowa is it’s a night race,” Herta said. “There should be a lot more passing opened up to us. We’ll wait and see.”
Herta is the only one of the four rookies to have raced at Iowa Speedway before. He competed in the Indy Lights series for two years, taking second in the Indy Lights race in 2018.
The other rookies are Hinchcliffe’s teammate Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci and Felix Rosenqvist.
All three took part in an IndyCar Series testing at Iowa in June.
Three drivers have competed in every IndyCar Series race at Iowa and they are 2018 NTT IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon, Andretti and Tony Kanaan.
Sebastien Bourdais will attempt to make his 200th Indy car start at Iowa. Simon Pagenaud is the 2019 Indy 500 winner and comes to Iowa off a victory last weekend in Toronto, Canada,
Newgarden is atop the IndyCar drivers’ points list coming into the Iowa 300. Alexander Rossi is only four points back in second.
Pagenaud sits third followed by Dixon and Will Power to round out the top five. Hinchcliffe is ninth and Herta is 13th in points.
Herta qualified fifth in the 2019 Indy 500. He grew up in the sport watching his father Bryan Herta compete.
Herta talked to the Newton Daily News prior to the running of the Indy 500. He said it meant a great deal to finally being able to compete in the crown jewel of the IndyCar Series.
Unfortunately, Herta never really got started in the Indy 500. He was forced to retire on Lap 5 with a mechanical issue.
“When I finally got to race a go-kart when I was 5 1/2, I fell in love with the sport. I always loved race cars,” Herta said. “Getting that first win in March felt so good. All of our hard work paid off. We’re continuing to work and improve.”
Herta said he learned about how fast and little Iowa Speedway is as a driver in the Indy Lights series. The short oval track makes for quick lap times for the Indy cars.
“My learning curve from Indy Lights to IndyCar Series has been learning the speed and the boundaries of the race car,” Herta said. “At Iowa, the big jump is adjusting to the sheer speed and how tight the race is then knowing how to drive the race with all the pit strategy involved.”
Hinchcliffe said going from driving a street circuit race like Toronto to the short, high-banked oval at Iowa is a tough transition. He said his team was looking at the data from last year’s run and will try to replicate the result they had a year ago.
“Physically, this short oval is very demanding and physically tasking on drivers,” Hinchcliffe said. “The cornering forces are so long and the resting time between corners is so short.
“We’re constantly moving and battling the car. You have to be lasered in on your focus and pay attention to what the car is telling you throughout the race. Remembering to breathe and give your hands a break by loosening your grip on the wheel are very important during the race.”
Hinchcliffe, who drives for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, said the IndyCar Series is a super competitive field of drivers and cars. It gets better and better each season.
“Iowa is another opportunity to get in a race car. We’re so lucky to do what we do. I love the competition and I have a passion for cars and going fast to try to get a car to the absolute limit,” Hinchcliffe said. “That’s the coolest feeling on this earth.”