Sprint Cup Series standings

Nationwide Series standings

No more Mr. Boring

When Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup title a few years back, he took plenty of heat for being too boring.
He droned along, racking up enough top-10 finishes to win the title, but had only one win all season. The criticism had to sting a bit. Because after all, a driver gets paid to win races, not cruise along amassing 7th- and 9th-place finishes.
With his win in Sunday’s Auto Club 500, Kenseth is on a mission.

Matt Kenseth is out to prove his back-to-back wins and his points title in 2003 aren't flukes.

Matt Kenseth is out to prove his back-to-back wins and his points title in 2003 aren't flukes.


While all the attention focuses on Jimmie Johnson going for his fourth consecutive title, and Carl Edwards trying to chase him, and Tony Stewart starting over, and Kyle Busch’s “Wild thing” style, Kenseth lurks.
Just like the quiet Midwestern guy you’d run into at the Farm and Fleet, Kenseth doesn’t really intimidate most.
But he should. The Wisconsinite has shown tenacity ever since he came up through the ranks at local tracks in the Northwoods.
His back-to-back wins aren’t a fluke. He’ll be in the Chase this year, in the mix for the title. You can bet your Work ‘n’ Sport boots on it.

Who can you blame?

The greater drama in Sunday’s Daytona 500, other than when the rain was going to show up was the Brian Vickers vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. who wrecked who saga.
Junior might have deliberately knocked Vickers out of the way, thus creating the huge chain-reaction wreck that always hangs over superspeedways as long as restrictor plates are involved like a rain cloud. Despite that, Vickers is guilty of an indefensible crime — blocking.
There is no excuse for blocking. And to qualify for the free pass, Vickers blocked Junior.
When Earnhardt stepped out, Vickers followed, and clearly blocked, forcing Junior almost to the grass. What followed after, whether Junior deliberately wrecked Vickers, or simply slid up the track as he tried to get back in line, we’ll never know.
So, in some ways, Vickers got what he deserved. It’s just too bad he took half the front-runners with him.

Bad economy, good competition

I won’t root for a bad economy.
Newspaper employees, of all people, certainly shouldn’t be in favor of a recession.
But the recent downturn might actually bring some good news for NASCAR fans.
NASCAR should have quite a title chase on its hands this season because sponsorship dollars have dried up. The lack of money has forced the circuit to ban testing in season, thus creating a more level playing field.
The lack of money has forced incompetent, low-budget operations to fold, or merge with slightly more competent teams. This possibly could create more teams with a chance to compete for victories.
Outside of the history, would anyone really miss the perpetual backmarker Petty cars?
Juan Pablo Montoya is a great addition to NASCAR, but he isn’t worth watching in lackluster equipment with Ganassi Racing.
Without Dale Earnhardt Jr., DEI was little more than a museum.
Does anyone really even know who drives for Bill Davis Racing?
But mix some of these teams together, and then you might have something worth watching. You might actually see drivers who have the skill compete for something better than just a top-20 spot. In the past NASCAR has been dominated by three teams.
But with so many teams forced to pool resources together, more could join the fray.
Don’t think of the recession as a downer that might suck the life out of NASCAR. Think of it as an opportunity for new blood.

Danica is a serious talent

Danica Patrick in Super Bowl ad Danica Patrick is better known for her looks than her driving talent. On Sunday, one of her sponsors, GoDaddy.com, capitalized on those looks in a Super Bowl ad. According to TiVo, it was the most-watched ad during the game.
But does that mean we shouldn’t take her as seriously? Does it diminish her racing credentials? Does this belittle her pioneering efforts on the track?

Danica Patrick appeared in the 2008 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Danica Patrick appeared in the 2008 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.


For most of her career she has taken criticism for her getting more attention than she deserves. She didn’t have the talent to merit the publicity, critics said. She was a pretty face. She didn’t deserve the premier ride she received.
That’s not surprising. Forty years ago she wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near tracks’ garages, and many in racing aren’t the most enlightened folks in the world.
But last season she proved she had the skills with a victory.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t celebrate athletes as beautiful people and at the same time criticize them for using that to their advantage.
About this time last year, Patrick appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and the same criticisms were raised. They were dumb then and still are now.
Anna Kournikova received similar flak because she never won anything of importance.
But Maria Sharapova and others have used their good looks for great gains and no ever has raised a peep about it because they are legit talents. Patrick is no different.
Racing is different from other sports because team owners play a diminished role.much as you are at the mercy of your sponsor.
If your sponsor plunks down the millions it takes to race and compete at a high level and they ask you to jump in a skimpy bikini, you ask “how skimpy?” and then you do it.
If the other drivers in the Indy Car Series had better bodies, or people actually knew who they were, their sponsors might use a racy ad campaign similar to GoDaddy.com.
Ever wonder why NASCAR drivers agree to do goofy things in commercials? It’s because their sponsors want them to do those outrageous things to get their products noticed.
Patrick is no less serious of a driver than the best in her class. Unlike them, everyone knows who she is.

More from Mark Luna

Quad-Citian Mark Luna is racing at the American Iron Series Nationals this weekend in at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It will be his last time competing in the series full time. He has won more than 30 races in sports cars and a handful of championships. To check out the story click here.

Here’s more of what Luna had to say about his career.

The difference between drag racing and wheel-to-wheel racing:

(Wheel-to-wheel) racing is more finesse. There’s mechanics involved. Drag racing is more a mechanics game with the driver put in and in wheel-to-wheel racing it’s a drivers game with mechanics put in.

What is the biggest challenge for you in racing?

My biggest challenge is learning the track, just trying to understand the car. And trying to set it up for each track. My first race was in Michigan, I got second place. But after the first race we went out and walked the whole course, it was dark and we had flashlights. And the next day we knocked 3 seconds off each lap.

I’ve either walked or ridden a bike or walked ever track. You need to know where the bumps are huge. Looking at the rumble strips, seeing how high they are. Knowing where the asphalt is. It’s also about really knowing where the braking point is.

How do you outbrake other drivers?

Outbraking someone is just guts. It’s looking at 155 mph down the straightaway and looking at the guy next to me and saying, “When is he going to brake?” and I know I’m going to brake after him. You can modulate the brake so its right on the ragged edge between locking up and getting on right.

Eighty percent of the people I pass I do under braking. That’s what it takes to pass somebody.

Are the cars the same as passenger cars?

It is and it isn’t. The doors are the same, the firewall is still there. The entire subframe itself is not modified. Everything else is. We cannot run alumninum blocks, we have to run a stock steel block. We can run 6 cylinders, we can run turbos as long as they stay within the parameters of the weight to horsepower ratio.

A good Road America story…

I was on pole and the second-place guy wanted to get around me. This guy decides he wants to use the pit lane to go around me — bad idea. He ended up running into a BMW and ended up running into me and I t-boned another guy. I got stuck in turn 1. I was so mad that I ended up trying to chase him down, but he wasn’t on the track anymore, which I didn’t know, and I ended up winning the race. I was screaming mad, but my radio wasn’t working, and I couldn’t talk to my crew chief, and then I ended up winning. They gave me the checkered flag, and I was like, “What the hell is this for?”

Live from Chicagoland Speedway

11:40 a.m. – The drama started before I got here, although it might temper what sort of suspense might exist today.

Helio Castroneves will start from the back of the field after officials ruled that he ran below the white line during his qualifying lap.

For Castroneves to even have a chance at the championship, Scott Dixon, who will start on the outside of row 1 today, must finish eighth. The only good news to come out of the situation is that Castroneves’ teammate, Ryan Briscoe, will start from the pole.

Factor in the fact that Scott Dixon has won all of the past four ovals on tracks 1.3 miles and larger, and it seems like it’s all but a given that Dixon will win the title.

11:55 a.m.: Spoiler alert — Arie Luyendyk Jr. won the Indy Lights race at Chicagoland. After Raphael Matos led every lap, Luyendyk Jr. and Ana Beatriz got around Matos on the final-lap restart.

“In years past you’ve seen a lot of side-by-side racing and impatience,” Luyendyk said. “I’m sorry it couldn’t be a better show, but it worked well for me. It’s a great relief for me to finally get that win.”

It was Luyendyk Jr.’s first win in more than 60 starts in Indy Lights. Luyendyk Jr. gained notoriety after he was the only driver to be bumped in qualifying for the 2005 Indianapolis 500. He is the son of 1990 and 1997 Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. Luyendyk Jr. finished second in points in the first Indy Lights season in 2002.

The win puts Luyendyk into fourth in the points. Matos won the points title. The race will be broadcast at 9 p.m tonight. But then, if you just read this, what do you need to watch?

1:10 p.m.: What will the future of the IndyCar Series look like? Hopefully not bull riding. But that sport might be its timeslot lead-in.

All but five IndyCar Series races will be on the Versus channel next season. You know, the Outdoor Life Network? Not rinigng any bells? The channel with Tour de France on it? You know, the one where the NHL ended up? No? Anyone…. Bueller?

OK, so maybe it’s not quite that obscure. But compared to the Worldwide Leader, just about everything else is. But ESPN did the IndyCar Series no favors. I can’t count how many times it was bumped to another network (read ESPN Classic) because some other event ran long. IndyCar nearly had to buy its 2 hours of TV time, a la infomercials. With the new 10-year Versus deal, the IndyCar Series will get paid.

So, what will it look like?

“We want to dive deeper by having expanded hours to have more of the personality and more of the sport out there,” said Marc Fein, executive vice president of programming, production and business operations at Versus. His title has about as many words as the Tour de France had viewers.

But Versus is eager to put its own stamp on the IndyCar Series, whatever that means. If the broadcast looks like its hockey coverage, the series is in good hands. If it looks like more of the same from ESPN and ABC, forget it.Versus hasn’t picked its broadcast personalities yet, but Fein said the network is starting “with a blank piece of paper.” It’s looking at guys who have done the broadcast before and guys who could do the broadcast but haven’t.That’s good news for fans. Probably bad news for the tired Scott Dixon and Marty Reid.Now if fans can just figure out what and where Versus is on their TVs.

2 p.m.: The buzz around pit lane is that Helio Castroneves changed engines. Normally that would be a penalty. But because he’s already starting in the back, he has nothing to lose.Word from Castroneves’ crew is that they talked about changing engines, but didn’t do it. We’ll see how that plays out in a few minutes.2:15 p.m.: Not really breaking news, but it’s news nonetheless.Sarah Fisher, a former most popular driver in the series, will race continue to race for her own team next year with Dollar General sponsorship. The only question is how many races.She competed in four this season, including the Indianapolis 500.Klint Briney, the public relations chief for her team, said the team is hoping to put a deal together to at least race at all of the ovals. Beyond that, it’s not certain. That means, most likely, she’ll return to Iowa Speedway next year. 2:45: After 10 laps, Castroneves has gained 14 positions. He’s up to 14th already. Looks like that engine, new or old, is working well for him. His qualifying time, before the penalty, would have put him in fourth. So, it’s clear the car has speed. No doubt he’ll charge to the front more.

3:30: Need an underdog to root for? Try A.J. Foyt IV. He has been close to the top five. And if he has a similar setup to Ed Carpenter, who ran fourth before crashing, he can run up front before the end of the day. Foyt runs in sixth right now.

3:45: Foyt has the best seat in the house right now, for a three-wide battle in the front. Expect him to sit back and wait to make his move. He can conserve fuel while Wheldon/Castroneves/Briscoe duke it out. Sarah Fisher update: She’s in 15th. Not bad for someone who only races once a month.

4:45: It doesn’t get any closer than this. Helio Castroneves won the race, but not the championship. His margin of victory in the race — .001 seconds. The closest finish in the IndyCar Series. Scott Dixon finishes second in the race but won the championship.

Give Will Power runner-up honors for best race. He finished fifth, by far the best finish for a former Champ Car guy on an oval.

4:55: Here’s what Will Power, who behind Scott Speed has the best racing moniker in the business, had to say about his run:

“It was incredible. You could not believe how close that racing was. I’ve really got to give it to my guys in the pits. Every stop they gave me positions. This is the most fun I’ve had all year.

“I think we definitely closed the gap this weekend. We showed that in qualifying. We’re only a mph off the Ganassi guys. We definitely need to do some development over the winter to further close that gap. I don’t really think we’re going to fully close it ever, until we get a new car.”

“We’re closing the gap. It’s going to take a bit of time. But what can you say. We just got this car at the beginning of the year and look what we’ve done.”

“It’s going to become very competitive.”

5:22: The IndyCar Series clarifies the margin of victory. The finish was the second-closest in history. The margin was .0033 seconds.The closest margin of victory came in 2002 at Chicagoland — .0024 seconds.

An interview with Helio Castroneves

castroneves.JPGAn excerpt from a recent interview I had with Helio Castroneves, who is in second place in the point standings.

Have you ever thought about a career in TV or movies after you are done racing?
I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think my English is good enough. But hopefully right now it’s racing, that’s where it’s at right now.

What do you think about going to NASCAR?
It’s all about where you would be with the team. I’m not going to go and take a chance just to go for it. Right now Sam (Hornish) went away. Sam’s learning, he’s learning a lot, but right now he’s fighting for the top 35 instead of fighting for the championship. But right now, I don’t think it’s the right time for me to go there. But we’ll wait a couple of years from now and see what happens.

Would you go on tour with Julianne Hough?hough-anthem.JPG
Not singing a song. But hopefully I will be able to watch her, I was really excited to see her perform at Indy, and I told her how good she was.

Do athletes just naturally have a leg up on “Dancing with the Stars“? Why not just put all athletes on the show?
I think they need to have the performer people to bring in some names, to call attention to the show, to have them there just because of the name. But I did it to win and I practiced hard, as well, and I think that’s the difference with athletes.

What kind of dance moves have you taught your teammate, Ryan Briscoe?

I taught him a bunch. I taught him dropping the coffee, a little bit of the samba, so when you see him, you should ask him to show you the moves. He can do really well.

Are you surprised to see Gil De Ferran back in a car again?
Very much. I don’t know how long he’s going to be there racing. He’s a good guy, he loves racing. I guess he came out of retirement just to see how it tastes. I don’t think it’s going to be very long. A good driver is always going to be a good driver.

What track has the toughest fence to climb?
Japan. It has very little tiny holes on the fence, so it’s very hard to put your fingers in there.

Are you OK with Tony Stewart stealing your fence climbing move?
I have no problems. As long as you have fun. That’s how it should be.

How hard did Tony Romo throw the pass to you, and do you like American football more now?
That was my first play ever. It was incredible. I just turn around, and the ball was right there. But I had a great time with the Dallas Cowboys. I surprise myself sometimes.

The Brickyard Farce-hundred

Maybe NASCAR would have been better off running Michelin or Firestone or Dunlap or even Wal-Mart brand tires Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. One of those tire companies could put together some sort of wheel that would hold up longer than 10 laps.tire-bad.jpg

But it was Goodyears that NASCAR used, as always. And Goodyear, as it has all season long, refused to change. It refused to listen to what drivers have been complaining about. It refused to challenge NASCAR and its Car of Tomorrow’s crappy single-file racing.

The end result at the Brickyard Farce-hundred was as good as the tires on the cars — lousy. If NASCAR can’t fix its tire problem — and it’s an easy fix: use wider tires — then it doesn’t deserve to race at Indy, which is a privilage, not a right.

NASCAR and Goodyear should be embarrassed and offer refunds to the 200,000-some fans who showed up at 16th and Georgetown. Maybe they can offer a free tire to the folks watching at home on TV. Not that a Goodyear would be worth much.

They should have seen this coming a mile away. The drivers warned of it. They complained about the Car of Tomorrow and how it made tires wear much differently than the old car. NASCAR’s response? A “Shut up and drive meeting.” How enlightened.

When the NBA changed the ball players used to a microfiber composite something or other, and it cut up players hands, the NBA listened to its so-called whining players. It went back to the old ball.

When drivers whine, NASCAR turns a deaf ear. After all, drivers are just a big bunch of overpaid whiners anyway, right? At least, until someone gets hurt.

That could have happened on Sunday. A tire blowout at Indy speeds could have been deadly. And so, competition yellows were the order of the day.

NASCAR will blame Goodyear. Goodyear will blame the Indy track surface. But that’s like saying Cooperstown, N.Y., is a crappy town to live in. The hallowed grounds of IMS can do just fine without NASCAR. After all, it was Indy that legitimized the southern niche sport 15 years ago. Purists fought it then, and some still are around now. Those purists might not realize that NASCAR has helped track CEO Tony George keep the Indy 500 afloat as he has been able to turn Brickyard 400 profits into welfare payments for the Indy Racing League’s smaller teams.

Reports said there were as many as 50,000 unsold seats for Sunday’s race. You can double that number and then some for next year’s race if NASCAR can’t solve its tire problems.

The real problem is the Car of Tomorrow. It has less downforce and a higher center of gravity. And Indy’s abrasive surface combined to torture the right-side tires more than at most tracks.

NASCAR took everything into consideration when building the Car of Tomorrow: safety, competition and cost. If they did all of that, and changed so many things how could they possibly run them on almost the same kind of tire. Wouldn’t a wider, softer tire be required to give the cars a chance to grip?

But this is all too much mechanical mumbo jumbo to most race fans. For them it’s simple. Put a great product on the track –like the one NASCAR fans have grown accustomed to in the past 10 years – and they’ll show.

If not. Well, you can take those taxicabs and get them the heck out of Indianapolis.

Live from Iowa Speedway, race day

10:30 a.m.: If you’re at Iowa Speedway this early, the place to be is in the hospitality tent. These areas, paid for by the race’s corporate partners are all about free stuff.

There’s free breakfast, free goodie bags, and free publicity, at least, they hope.

I’m hanging out at the ethanol tent, where upwards of 500 people are expected to hang out here at some point today.

10:45 a.m.: Rusty Wallace, the track designer expects more of everything this year.

“There’s more cars, so we’ll see more passing, more and more action,” Wallace said. “There’s a ton of people here having a good time, having fun. There’s way more people here. I know I said I didn’t know if it would sell out, but this is amazing. There’s going to be 40,000 some people here.”

10:50 a.m.: Believe it or not, ethanol has taken a beating lately, at least, outside of Iowa. With this being the Iowa Corn 250 and all, the Iowa Corn Growers Association figured it would be a good opportunity to set the record straight. Ethanol is taking the blame for a lot of this country’s problems right now.

The group pointed out that only 8 percent of corn crop is used for making food, so ethanol, which makes up 17 percent of the corn crop usage, shouldn’t be to blame for rising prices. Fifty-five percent of the corn is used to feed live stock, and 19 percent of it is exported.

Noon: Wallace is right. There has to be close to 40,000 here. Considering the place holds 25,000. That’s quite a feat.

12:45 p.m.: Wallace was right about that side-by-side racing thing, too. Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves just went side-by-side for about five laps before Kanaan made the pass for the lead. And get this… he did it on the high side of the track. That was something you never would have seen at last week’s race.

1:58 p.m.: The race should be over by now, but there’s too many cautions. We’re on No. 6 right now, and we have yet to see a green flag pit stop by the leaders, just like Indianapolis. This race is going to be won on fuel strategy, and Dan Wheldon, the leader has the best strategy so far. More yellow helps Wheldon the most.

3 p.m.: The announced crowd is 39,271. In other words, just short of what turns up at a game at Wrigley Field. Not bad for a place that seats only 25,000.

Live from Iowa Speedway

Check back for updates from throughout the day.

12:30 p.m.: Davey Hamilton helped me cross one off my bucket list Saturday.

The former IndyCar Series driver took me and two other unsuspecting media personnel around the 7/8-mile tri-oval at Iowa Speedway twice.

We took off at the pit exit as Hamilton floored it, quickly pushing the 2008 Honda Accord to 90 mph. As we entered turns 3 and 4 I could feel my internal organs, specifically my stomach push to my right ribcage. I thought I was man enough to handle Iowa Speedway, which, it wasn’t too bad. But then I realized I was only pulling about half the speeds the IndyCar Series drivers were turning.

Meanwhile Hamilton is in cruise control. As the speedometer pushes past 95, Hamilton reclines and casually uses one hand to steer the car through turns 1 and 2. You get the feeling he could talk on the cell phone and do your taxes while steering the car at more than 100 mph.
For fun, he lets the car drift up the track about a couple of feet from the wall. You can hear a crinkling sound under the tires that sounds something like gravel.

What’s that?

“Oh yeah, there’s a lot of marbles (tire remnants) up out of the grove,” Hamilton says. “You hit those and you can easily go right into the wall.”

Great.

While Hamilton is a great driver and all, I would feel a bit safer with a helmet and a 6-point safety harness, and maybe a HANS device for good measure.

Hamilton leisurely points the car through turns 3 and 4 and laughs a bit as the guy riding shotgun squirms a bit. I grimace as I feel the right side of my brain try to push its way against my skull. I guess only 2.5 g-forces is pretty funny when you’re used to turning 4 or 5.

After a couple of laps around the track our ride is through. Someone should give Hamilton a better ride than the pace car because he’s a real pro.

The ride was a blast. Next time I’ll bring a video camera. Maybe Hamilton can use it while he’s driving. After all, he’s got a hand free.

12:45 p.m.: The race hasn’t even started and already the car count is thinning. Marty Roth, who crashed in a practice session will watch the race from the pits. Bruno Junqueira also will sit out this race. Both cars suffered parts failures that sent the cars spinning into the turn 2 wall.

The drivers’ cars are damaged too heavily to repair in time for Sunday’s race.

“It was a major disappointment. We worked so hard to get a good race car, and I think we made a really good one,” said Roth, whose best finish this season is 17th in Japan.

Junqueira’s struggles continue in what has been a difficult transition for his team, Plainfield, Ill.-based Dale Coyne Racing, from Champ Car to IndyCar.

“I was running full tanks and new tires, and I was trying to run behind people,” said Junqueira, whose best finish was 12th at Long Beach. “The left rear wishbone (suspension) broke, which is what made me spin.”

1:15 p.m.: When you’re looking for an extra tenth of a second at a track on which you never have raced at, talking to the media is probably not high on your priority list. But that’s what Ryan Hunter-Reay just had to put up with. Here’s what he had to say:

“We keep going quicker every time we go out, so I think we’ll be fine.”

On his first go-round at Iowa…

“We need to have a good strong finish. I haven’t been to any of these tracks, so they’re all new to me. We have to have a good strong finish, it’s pretty simple, really.”

On how you set up the cars…

“It’s small, so there’s a lot of downforce, bank. It makes for a short list of setup issues to figure out. We’re looking for a tenth of a second. A tenth would put is in the top five.”

Difference between driving a Champ Car and an IndyCar at Milwaukee…

“It’s a lot different. This car moves around a lot more, and it wasn’t as nice to drive. But that’s just the specs of the series. It’s a heavier car. But it’s par for the course for what I expected.”

Driving for ethanol?

“I love ethanol. It’s a tight group and we’re a tenacious group. We’ve had some good results and we’re going to have much better ones coming soon.”

Importance of American drivers?

“It’s an American series, it’s IndyCar, it’s American history. We need to get American drivers and we need to make personalities out of them. I think that’s important and the IndyCar Series has the tools to work with. It’s just what they do with them.

How big would it be to get your first win at Iowa?

“It would be huge to win at Iowa. That’s what it’s all about. But I’ll take it anywhere I can get it right now. We’re just going to keep doing what we do and drive solid and we’ll have a good finish.”

After Saturday’s second practice session Hunter-Reay was 13th fastest, .22 seconds behind session leader Ryan Briscoe.

3:30 p.m: Hunter-Reay’s quest for a tenth of a second isn’t going well. But it’s hard to tell. He has climbed to No. 12 on the speed charts, up one spot from a couple of hours ago.

But it’s not clear if Hunter-Reay was searching for the extra speed for qualifying or if he was trying out his race setup. It appeared that’s what a lot of the drivers were doing.

Members of the Andretti/Green team lined up and took turns running in drafts. They tried to pass each other on the high side with little success.

Here’s a prediction — and I hope I’m wrong — this is starting to look like last year’s race. Cars likely will hug the bottom line and it won’t be possible to pass on the high side. If that’s the case, let’s hope for a lot of cautions because restarts are when the action happens.

Here’s the fastest five cars so far:
1. Hideki Mutoh 184.941 mph
2. Ryan Briscoe 184.620
3. Dan Wheldon 184.527
4. Marco Andretti 184.511
5. Vitor Meira 184.354

Less than 5 hundredths of a second separate these five.

5:05 p.m.: Rookie Dillon Battistini wins the Indy Lights Jeld-Wen 100. The Panther Racing driver came on strong late to take the win.

Clinton’s Dan Moeller is a data acquisition engineer for Panther Racing and works with Panther Racing’s two cars in the Indy Lights Series during races.

“I’m just so busy,” Moeller said as Battistini celebrated in Victory Lane. “There’s so much work to do.”

He couldn’t chat long, for obvious reasons. I’ll catch up with him later.

5:35 p.m.: Shortly after Ryan Briscoe, the second driver in line to qualify took the checkered flag on his qualifying run the rain and winds came. There was more wind than rain, but it was enough to put us under rain delay.

The lights are on, so if qualifying starts again, it will be under the lights, which came from Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

5:45 p.m.: You would never know it because the sun is out, but the IndyCar Series has canceled qualifying. The field will be set by points standings, which puts leader Scott Dixon on the pole and Helio Castroneves on the outside of Row 1.

If that sounds familiar, it should. The duo held the same two spots for the first Iowa Corn Indy 250 last year.