While some drivers may take it easy Friday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) during the first of two scheduled Iowa 250 races this weekend at Iowa Speedway, defending track and series champion Josef Newgarden is not one of them.
“Win both races,” he said.
“You have to be measured, to some degree, with double the points available. You can either benefit or double the negative. I don’t think you want to find yourself in a compromised position for the next day, but you still want to maximize race one. They are both important so you can’t really leave much on the table.”
The defending Iowa 250 champion (Iowa 300 last year), Newgarden has enjoyed the environment the track provides.
“I love the place,” said the 29 year-old American driver. “It’s one of my favorite tracks we race because I’m a huge fan of short ovals and it really races well. I think about all of the racing action when I think of Iowa because there are multiple lanes to drive, where some short ovals become one lane.
“At Iowa you can put your car wherever you want which really creates an exciting race.”
The main challenge teams will face at Iowa is tire degradation.
“That’s the key at Iowa because your tires wear out quick,” Newgarden said. “You’ll start losing 3/4 of a second and getting your car to do that less is really the key. Honestly, most drivers prefer a track with character because it makes it more difficult to engineer and gives you a lot of opportunities to spread out the field.”
Along with battling the heat of their tires, drivers will need to address the real challenge, the unforeseen issue.
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“I love the process,” Newgarden said. “Showing up at the track to try to solve a problem with your engineers. Every team has issues and we’re trying to solve ours faster than the other guys. That’s the challenge.”
For the second week in a row, fans will also be at the track to cheer on the drivers.
“It’s been strange driving without anyone there,” Newgarden said. “It was really nice to just see them lining the track and being able to take it in even if they are social distancing.
“It’s a different world we are living in, but we will show up to the track with the fans and start the baby steps to getting back to normal.”