Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hunter -Reay Repeats at Iowa Speedway In Iowa Corn Indy 300

By Dean Reller

Ryan Hunter-Reay pulled off the unbelievable as a late race move paid off as he won the Verizon IndyCar Series Iowa Corn Indy 300 at the Iowa Speedway.  Pitting for 4 fresh tires allowed Hunter-Reay to pick through traffic in the last five laps, de-throwning what appeared to be a sure win for Tony Kanaan, who dominated much of the race. "What a crazy day," said Hunter-Reay.  "We had troubles all night, on the track, on pit lane and couldn't get anything to go right.  Then, Michael Andretti made a gutzy call to take tires."  That call turned things around for Hunter-Reay who moved from tenth on the lap 291 restart and tore through the field.  "When you do take tires, you might not have enough time."  It was just enough as he took his second win in two years at the Iowa Speedway.

Josef Newgarden, who also pitted for tires late, following Hunter-Reay as he finished second. "There was no reason not to pit for tires," said Newgarden following the race.  "I didn't know how effective they would be.  It was almost easy."  Kanaan was very disappointed after leading 247 of the race's 300 laps and defended his teams decision to stay on the track.  "You can't compare 20 lap tires to new ones," said Kanaan.  "You can't pit when leading the race.  I think I did everything I could.  I didn't leave anything on the table."

Scott Dixon ran up front with teammate Kanaan much of the race and was relegated to a fourth place finish. "Those sneaky little buggers", said Dixon in disbelief following the race.  Ed Carpenter ran near the front most of the night and took home fifth.

Iowa Corn Indy 300

1. Ryan Hunter-Reay 2. Josef Newgarden 3.Tony Kanaan 4. Scott Dixon 5. Ed Carpenter 6. James Hinchcliffe 7. Grahm Rahal 8. Helio Castroneves 9. Ryan Brisco 10. Charlie Kimball 11. Simon Pagenaud 12. Carlos Munoz 13. Justin Wilson 14. Will Power 15. Jack Hawksworth 16. Juan Pablo Montoya 17. Sebastian Saavedra 18. Marco Andretti 19. Sebastian Bourdais 20. Carlos Huertas 21. Mikhail Aleshin 22. Takuma Sato

Margin of Victory:  .5814 seconds
Time of the Race:  2 hours, 1 minute, 58.8160 seconds
6 Cautions for 68 laps
6 Lead changes among 4 drivers

Iowa Speedway Saturday July 12, 2014

By Dean Reller

It's race day for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Iowa Speedway.  The Iowa Corn Indy 300 is currently scheduled to start at about 7:30 PM tonight.  The start time has been moved up a few minutes due to storms that are expected to move into the area this evening.  The race can be seen LIVE on NBC Sports Network.

6:30 PM Iowa Speedway is under a Tornado Watch.  However, storms are developing to the south and east of the track.  Other areas of rain are continuing to track to the north.  Temps and dew points are starting to drop as well.  Things look promising for the race tonight.  A stray shower or storm still could pop up, but things are looking good to go now.

2:20 PM  Things are relatively quiet right now.  The Temperature is 84, with a dewpoint of 75, making it feel a tropical 92 with the sun shining. 

Check back later for more updates.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jones Wins American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway

By Dean Reller

"It was a night where everyone was on top of their game and it showed on the race track," said Erik Jones who capped off a strong night as he won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 200 at the Iowa Speedway.  Jones led 131 of the races 200 laps, setting a new career high for the 17 year old up and coming driver.  Ryan Blaney battled all night long, but came up short as he finished 2nd. "I tried all I could in traffic, he (Jones) wasn't very good in traffic," said Blaney about coming up just short in his bid for a second win on the 7/8ths mile track.

 Matt Crafton and Joey Coulter swapped third a few times in the race's final laps, before Crafton was able to lock down the spot.  "It's a brand new truck, they built it in the last four days, these guys did an awesome job", said a very pleased Crafton following the race.  Coulter seemed rather pleased as well with his fourth place finish.  "It's getting better and better every week.  We talked today about putting this whole puzzle together and we did that tonight," said a smiling Coutler as he caught his breath following the race. 

 With the finish, Crafton now leads Blaney by 2 points in the Championship standings.

American Ethanol 200
1. Erik Jones 2. Ryan Blaney 3. Matt Crafton 4. Joey Coulter 5. German Quiroga 6. Ben Kennedy 7. Jeff Choquette 8. Cole Custer 9. Tyler Reddick 10. John-Hunter Nemechek 11. Spencer Gallagher 12. Chase Pistone 13. Darrell Wallace Jr. 14. Jeb Burton 15. Justin Jennings 16. Mason Mingus 17. Tyler Young 18. Johnny Sauter 19. Chris Eggleston 20. Justin Lofton 21. Ron Hornaday Jr. 22. John Wes Townley 23. Tayler Malsam 24. TJ Bell 25. Brandon Brown 26. Norm Benning 27. Dustin Hapka 28. Eric Caudell 29. Bryan Silas 30. Jennifer Jo Cobb 31. Timothy Peters 32. Raymond Terczack Jr. 33. Korbin Forrister 34. Charles Lewandoski 35. Caleb Roark 36. Tommy Regan

Margin of Victory: .629 seconds
Avg. Speed: 110.429 MPH
Lead Changes: 6 among 4 drivers
Cautions: 4 for 19 laps
Time of Race: 1 hr, 35 min. .05 sec.

Iowa Speedway Friday July 11th, 2014

By Dean Reller

It's a double header weekend at Iowa Speedway.  I'll be covering both the American Ethanol 200 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Iowa Corn Indy 300 for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

4:30PM  IndyCar Practice is over.  Juan Pablo Montoya was fastest with a lap of 17.4327 seconds.  Followed by: Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Calos Munoz, Tony Kanaan, Mikhail Aleshin, Marco Andretti.  

Camping World Truck Series Qualifying is coming up at 4:40, IndyCar Qualifying is at 6:00.  The Truck Series race will start at 7:30 and is televised on Fox Sports 1.

11:30 AM Light rain is currently falling and all on track activities are currently on hold.  Both series were able to get a single practice session in before the rain moved in.

Final Practice for the Camping World Truck Series has been cancelled.  Qualifying is still on schedule.

In the only practice for the Truck Series, Bubba Wallace topped the charts with a lap of 22.949 seconds.  Matt Crafton was 2nd quick, followed by Timothy Peters, Erik Jones, Cole Custer, Joey Coulter, Justin Lofton, Jeff Choquette, Chase Pistone and German Quiroga.

James Hinchcliffe was fastest in the Verizon IndyCar practice with a lap of 17.5249 seconds.  Followed by Tony Kanaan, Carlos Munoz, Charlie Kimball, Marco Andretti, Ryan Brisco, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Win-Tron Owner Thiesse Keeps Minnesota Roots Strong In Growing Team

By Dean Reller

Growing up in the Brainerd area of Minnesota, Nate Thiesse took his love for racing and became a dirt track racer, turned asphalt driver.  Along the way he earned an engineering degree.  Thiesse worked for few race teams and then worked in the racing industry for a while.  “I knew I wanted to get back to the race track and I had a really good working relationship with Kevin Cywinski from back when he was racing and I was working on his stuff as a team engineer for LaFavre Racing and Country Joe Racing”, said Thiesse during a recent interview at an ARCA Racing Series event at Elko Speedway.  “So when Joe Miller decided to sell the team, that’s when Kevin and I said this is a really neat opportunity to come in and buy it and help these kids and we figured if we did it right and were smart about it, we could make it work.  And so, seven years later, here we are.”

Win-Tron Racing (Win, coming from CyWINski’s name and Tron, from Nate’s nickname, NaTRON) became a Minnesota based team with its shop and headquarters located in Lakeville.  The team became what is known as a driver development team, taking young drivers such as James Buescher, Blake Bjorklund, Justin Marks, Matt Merrell and Mason Mingus and giving them the professional opportunities to compete in the ARCA Racing Series.  That was at least until 2014, when the team hired 10-time ARCA Racing Series Champion Frank Kimmel to drive for them.  With a seasoned veteran behind the wheel, the team’s goals changed a bit, but not the focus.  “So its 180-degrees opposite of what we had been doing, but it’s not any different than what you do on a day-to-day basis”, said Thiesse.  “You are still taking the driver’s feedback, making the car better, doing the adjustments and just finding that speed.”  Kimmel has served as a resource for many of the drivers in the series as it is very common to have them come to him for information.  Cywinski’s driver development role as changed a bit, but not a lot.  “Kevin works with the drivers and it’s not uncommon for him to tell Frank to be easy on the restarts and not to spin the tires.”

A little over a year ago, the Win-Tron team moved from Minnesota to North Carolina mostly because of the available resources needed to be successful.  “From a cost standpoint, you almost had to do it for logistics”, remarked Thiesse.  “With Diesel costs up, it’s expensive to keep running cars to North Carolina to get the chassis repaired and get the bodies put on, nobody around here does that.”  Along with the move, the number of cars in the team’s inventory has greatly increased to as many as 22 ARCA cars in various stages of construction or repair, not to mention some NASCAR K & N Series cars and seven NASCAR Camping World Trucks.

The trucks have been something Win-Tron has been gradually getting into. “The last few years we’ve ran the truck races at the end of the year”, pointed out Thiesse.  “This year it’s a full-time effort with Mason Mingus who finished second to Kimmel last year in ARCA points.”  Going up against well established truck teams is no easy task, but the Win-Tron team was somewhat prepared for the challenge. “We knew the first third of the season we were going to take some bumps and bruises as he (Mingus) is still learning and we’re learning what he needs in the truck which is way different than the ARCA cars.”  To help with the development of the truck team, they have hired a few people with truck experience to help with the learning curve.

With an ARCA team and now a Truck team, you may wonder what’s next?  Well, expanding to yet another series isn’t totally out of the question sometime in future, but it isn’t a priority for the team.  “Stick with what you are good at”, added Thiesse.  “We know where we fit in the racing world.  The ARCA Series is awesome to run in, the Truck Series is a great stepping stone for kids coming through our ARCA program to go to.  We are slow to build and very conservative and want to make sure we are doing Quality instead of Quantity.”   

Even though the shop has moved out of state, Thiesse still has his roots firmly planted in the Brainerd area where he and his family reside.  “For me it’s keeping close to family and having that support system is the key”, said Thiesse.  “Kevin keeps everything together at the shop.  I handle more of the business side of it.  So, together it’s a good working relationship.  There are a few things that I can do that I don’t have to be there and we see everybody often.  There are only three days a week that I don’t see everybody and then we are back at the race track, so it works out.”

When the ARCA Racing Series came recently to Elko Speedway, just miles from the team’s former shop, it became more of a homecoming besides just being a race.  “It’s fun to see everybody”, beamed Thiesse.  “After the race, when everyone comes down (to the pit area), you’ll see people that you haven’t seen for years that you used to see at the race track, whether that’s Sauk Centre or somebody that you used to know back in the ASA days, they’ll find their way down here.”  So that Minnesota foundation remains there for Nate Thiesse and Win-Tron Racing which still can be considered a Minnesota based team.