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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

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COLUMN: NTT IndyCar Series set for pivotal weekend in Iowa

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The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Iowa Speedway for a doubleheader weekend on Saturday and Sunday in what has the potential to wind up as the season’s most pivotal weekend.

Although Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou was unable to win his fourth consecutive race last weekend in Toronto, Canada, the Spaniard holds a commanding 117-point championship lead over his teammate Scott Dixon.

With Indianapolis 500 winner Josef Newgarden entering the weekend 126 points behind Palou, there is no better track for him to attempt to mount a comeback. Newgarden has won four times before at Iowa’s 0.875-mile tri-oval track. His most recent win was in the first leg of the doubleheader in 2022.

Entering Saturday, Palou has made four starts at Iowa and has finished in the top ten just once. He has been dominant this season, but I have my eyes on a few drivers who could have a pair of strong races this weekend and cut into Palou’s lead.

Personal thoughts:

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden

With his four prior wins and his dominating performances in the doubleheader weekend last season, Newgarden must be the favorite. Although he wasn’t victorious in the second leg last season due to a wall collision near the end of the race, he dominated up to that point.

Newgarden has work to do if he wants to fight for a championship with Palou, but Iowa’s the best speedway to start as it’s arguably his best track on the circuit.

Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward

Although Pato O’Ward has finished on the podium in four out of 10 races so far this season, the Mexican driver has yet to be victorious. After Newgarden’s mistake in Sunday’s race at Iowa last season, O’Ward went on to dominate the end of the race en route to a victory.

O’Ward sits 143 points behind Palou in the standings, but a pair of strong showings this weekend could propel him into the championship hunt. 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard

Though Newgarden and O’Ward enter the weekend with confidence from past Iowa results, Christian Lundgaard is coming off his first career win last weekend in Toronto, Canada. 

The Danish driver has finished in the top ten once before at Iowa and will look to string together a pair of nice finishes after last weekend's dominant performance.

Team Penske’s Will Power

Entering the weekend, Will Power held the all-time IndyCar Series record for the most poles in a career with 68. After his dominant showing in qualifying Saturday morning, the Australian now stands at 70, tacking on a pair of poles as he will start each race this weekend from the first position.

Although he trails Palou by 175 points and is unlikely to propel himself into the championship fight, a pair of top-five finishes this weekend could boost Power into a strong second half of the season.

My prediction to win Saturday: Will Power

My prediction to win Sunday: Josef Newgarden

My longshot to win: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Takuma Sato

The green flag will fly at 3 p.m. EST on Saturday for the Hy-Vee Homefront 250 in the first leg of the twin bill. Sunday’s Hy-Vee One Step 250 will begin at 2 p.m. EST. Each race will be televised on NBC.

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