After an extremely busy spring, the Verizon IndyCar Series slows down for the second half of the season with less frequent back-to-back weekends. After taking last weekend off, this Sunday will see the series return to action at Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn 300, the series’ 12th visit to the midwestern track.
A torrid June has four-time series champion Scott Dixon holding a solid championship advantage for Chip Ganassi Racing, but many of the sport’s top drivers are lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce on any bit of bad luck that the Iceman might face. With that in mind, here are some of the top drivers we’ll be watching on Sunday:
Last Race’s Winner: Josef Newgarden
One of Iowa’s best drivers (his 7.5 average finish is third-best among active full-time drivers) visits the tricky short track coming off of one of this year’s dominant performances. At Road America, the defending IndyCar champion qualified on pole and led 53 of 55 laps on the way to his third victory of the season, and his second win from the pole. While the Team Penske driver hasn’t taken any non-winning podiums yet this year, he’s back up to fourth in the standings, just 50 markers off of the lead.
Last Year’s Podium: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Neither winner Helio Castroneves nor runner-up J.R. Hildebrand is entered in this weekend’s event, leaving Hunter-Reay in third as last year’s best finisher on Sunday’s entry list. He’s actually the top IndyCar regular here, period, as his average finish of 7.3 tops all full-time competitors. Hunter-Reay boasts wins here in 2012, 2014, and 2015, and has never finished worse than eighth here when he’s completed the race—including five podiums in the past six years.
Consistent Contender: Scott Dixon
If you thought Newgarden and Hunter-Reay were good picks for this weekend, just wait until you check out Dixon. The current IndyCar points leader, 45 points ahead of Hunter-Reay, slots right between those two drivers with an average finish of 7.4 at Iowa. Tied with Alexander Rossi atop the series with five podiums in the first 10 races, Dixon only has two at this track, but has only missed the top 10 twice since IndyCar made its debut here 11 years ago.
On a Hot Streak: Ed Jones
After only one podium to four DNFs in the first six races, Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate struggled in the start to his first season with the team. But after crashing out at Indianapolis, Jones has begun to right the ship, taking sixth and third places the next weekend at Detroit, and a pair of top 10s since. The 2017 IndyCar Rookie of the Year, Jones is looking to improve dramatically on his current 12th place in the standings, but has still tripled his career podium count already this season.
On the Hot Seat?: Will Power
Power’s bid to become the first Indianapolis 500 winner to take home an IndyCar title in the same season since Dario Franchitti in 2010 has hit some recent snags. Out from contact with Zachary Claman Demelo in Texas, Power only completed two laps at Road America as the race’s only DNF after qualifying second. Once the points leader, the Australian has sunk to fifth in the standings, but enters a track where he’s placed second and fourth in the past two years. Can he turn it back around here?