In 2007, a brand new track in Newton, Iowa made its way onto the IndyCar Schedule. More than a decade later, the .875-mile Iowa Speedway has become one of the most popular tracks in racing for drivers and fans.
This week’s IndyCar Flashback travels back to the race that started it all: the 2007 Iowa Corn Indy 250.
Franchitti Holds off Andretti for Second 2007 Win
Headed into the inaugural event at Iowa Speedway, Dario Franchitti maintained a small advantage in the standings.
The Indianapolis 500 winner had a 12-point lead over teammate Tony Kanaan. Through seven races, just 51 points separated Franchitti and sixth-place Helio Castroneves.
Scott Dixon, who sat third in points, but was without a win headed to Iowa, gained an early advantage for the race. The 2003 series champion would earn the pole for the race, posting a speed of 182.36 MPH.
A new track provided a rough start for the 19-car field. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dan Wheldon got lose and spun in Turn 2 on the first lap.
With nowhere to go, Vision Racing driver Tomas Scheckter was collected. It would be the end of the day for Scheckter, but Wheldon would return on Lap 104.
Up front, the day would go from bad to worse for Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon had complained of a tight race car and despite steering repair efforts, would be on pit road soon after, going 46 laps down.
Following the incident, the race would continue and go through a tame period, as Helio Castroneves took the top spot for 57 of the first 69 laps.
Soon after making his first green-flag stop, the Brazilian fell victim to cold tires. Despite the spin on the backstretch, Castroneves did not sustain damage and continued on.
Another restart would breed more wreckage. Tony Kanaan spun in Turn 2 and would collect Jeff Simmons. Kanaan would cite cold tires as the culprit for the crash.
The field barely came back from green before the crashing continued. On the restart, Franchitti went four-wide on the front stretch with teammate Danica Patrick and the Vision Racing duo of Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV.
Patrick bobbled and collided with Carpenter before sliding up the track and collecting Sam Hornish Jr. Further back, Castroneves spun again, with Kosuke Matsuura touching wheels and crashing into the wall as a result.
Following a 21-lap cleanup from the accident, the race would enter a short green flag run.
Panther Racing’s Vitor Meira, who inherited the lead on Lap 77, would hold the top spot until Lap 146, the longest anyone would be up front in the race. Two laps earlier, the fourth caution flag of the day flew for debris.
After staying out under the caution, Meira’s teammate Buddy Rice would take over the lead.
The 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner remained up front for five laps before Franchitti and his newer tires drove past. The points leader stayed in the lead for 63 laps until he pitted on Lap 215 for the last time.
Franchitti’s teammate Marco Andretti inherited the lead after patiently waiting behind the leader during the green flag run.
Rahal Letterman Racing’s Scott Sharp would lead for three laps as Meira sustained front wing damage. After Sharp pitted for fuel-only as Franchitti had, the latter retook the lead with 32 laps left.
Eight laps later, the longest green-flag run of the day would come to an end, as the yellow flew for debris. The final restart of the day occurred on Lap 232, with Franchitti maintaining a few car lengths of separation between himself and Andretti. Andretti was able to get within reach of the lead multiple times but to no avail.
On the final lap, the sophomore driver mounted a last-second charge for the win but came up .0681 of a second short of the win. It would be Franchitti’s second win of 2007 and the 16th of his open-wheel career.
Sharp finished in third, with Buddy Rice and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Darren Manning claiming the final spots in the Top 5.
A win and the most laps led at Iowa would propel Franchitti to a 51-point advantage over Kanaan, with positions 2 through 6 separated by an additional 29 points.
After an eventful first race at Iowa Speedway and ensuing shakeup in the standings, here’s a look at what would transpire for the event’s biggest stars.
The win at Iowa would be the start of a big summer for the Andretti Green Racing driver. Franchitti would persevere through airborne crashes at Michigan and Kentucky to win the championship when Dixon ran out of fuel on the last lap at Chicagoland. In 2008, Franchitti moved to NASCAR.
After a rough season with Chip Ganassi Racing, including breaking his ankle at Talladega in April, the Scotsman moved back to IndyCar with the powerhouse team. The owner-driver combination would dominate the IndyCar Series.
Over the next five years, they would win 14 races (including the 2010 and 2012 Indianapolis 500) and three championships (2009-2011.
Franchitti’s career came to an abrupt end due to a devastating crash at Houston in 2013. Since then, he has become a competition director for his former team.
The 2006 Rookie of the Year would be unable to duplicate his early success, going without a win for almost five years until the Iowa race in 2011. The second win would be Andretti’s last as his winless streak has run to almost seven years headed into this weekend’s race.
After leading 71 laps and finishing ninth, the Brazilian was left still searching for his first win. Despite seven runner-up finishes, including a second one at Indianapolis the following year with A.J. Foyt Racing, Meira never broke through. He has not raced in IndyCar since 2011.
Its progressive banking and multiple grooves have helped Iowa Speedway become among the most competitive in racing.
The track, which was designed with help from NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace, continues to produce some of the most exciting IndyCar racing on the schedule.
Header Image courtesy of Steve Snoddy/INDYCAR