Home court advantage in basketball, home field advantage in football and baseball. It’s something that every team strives to achieve by the time the Playoffs begin. It’s easy to understand, but is there such a thing in the Verizon IndyCar Series? One team seems to have it, in the small town of Newton, Iowa.
There have been eight Indy car races at the Iowa Speedway. Six of them have been won by Andretti Autosport. Compare that to mighty Team Penske, which has never won on the 7/8-mile oval. In fact, Michael Andretti’s team has won the last five races here, but their dominance extends even further than that.
An Andretti entry has finished on the podium in all eight Indy car races at Iowa. In all, the team has 12 podium finishes in the eight races, including their six wins.
The numbers don’t lie, but what exactly is it about this team and this track? It’s hard to pick one or two things that stand out; it’s a combination of factors, which have delivered fantastic results. Obviously it will be very tough to continue their win streak this year, but it would be a mistake to dismiss their chances on Saturday night. There is reason for optimism when you look at their drivers heading into this weekend's event.
It’s been a very difficult season for the team’s leader, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Actually, he’s having the worst year of his career, but he knows if he is going to break out of his slump, this is his best shot.
"Iowa is another track where we have great history as a team,” he said. “On the 28 side, we've found victory lane twice and are entering the weekend as defending race winners. We hope to get the DHL Honda back up front this weekend."
Ryan has been very good in his seven races at Iowa. His average finish is 6.7, which includes three podium finishes and only one DNF. It is somewhat surprising though that the two-time winner has only led 17 total laps here.
Carlos Munoz was a Rookie last year, but started fifth and finished 12th in his Iowa debut. He completed all 300 laps, which is more than other drivers could say. In two Indy Lights starts for Andretti Autosport, Munoz finished seventh and eighth at Iowa, winning the Pole in 2013.
Justin Wilson will give Michael one more bullet, as he’ll be driving the No. 25 car for the remainder of the season.
Wilson has plenty of experience at Iowa, having competed in seven of the eight events. Interestingly enough, he only has one top-10 result, finishing 10th in 2012. It should be noted that he drove for Newman-Haas, Dale Coyne, and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing during those years. Needless to say, he will most likely have a much better car this weekend.
Marco Andretti is no stranger to Iowa Speedway. He won the 2011 race here, and has four podium finishes in his eight starts. He would love to add to that this weekend.
"I'm looking forward to returning to Iowa this weekend,” said the 28-year-old Marco. “It produces great racing and makes for a great night race, which is cool for the fans. I'm going for my fifth Iowa podium and hope to keep the team's Iowa win tradition going."
This has been Marco's strongest season of his career, and he has been knocking on the door for his next win.
The stage is set for a great race, and plenty of storylines to keep an eye out for. Andretti will try to keep their win streak alive, Hunter-Reay will be looking to end his win drought, and Tony Kanaan will aim for his sixth straight podium finish at Iowa. No one has ever won this race from pole position, and Roger Penske is still searching for his first taste of victory in Newton.
On top of all of this, there will only be three races left to decide the 2015 champion at the end of the night. Iowa may be filled with corn, but this weekend it will also be oozing with drama.
The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Iowa Speedway for the Iowa Corn 300 July 17-18. Follow @VAVELIndyCar on Twitter for coverage leading up to and during the race weekend and don't miss our IndyCar Twitter chat on Tuesday, July 28 from 6-8 pm ET.
Chad Smith is a writer for the VAVEL USA Racing section. Follow him on Twitter at @Chad200.