Hélio Castroneves passed J.R. Hildebrand late in the race to secure his first victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series at Iowa Speedway. It was a dominant performance for the 42-year-old who has been the face of rumors that he may be forced out of the IndyCar paddock next year to help lead a Team Penske sports car program. Castroneves led 217 of the 300 laps in the Iowa Corn 300.
Castroneves’ Team Penske teammate Will Power led the field to green with Hildebrand on the outside. Power shot out to the lead early, leading the first 20 laps of the 300 lap race. Castroneves took the lead from Power with Ed Carpenter pushing closer and closer to the No. 12. The first caution of the afternoon came out as Mikhail Aleshin made hard contact with the outside wall after getting loose on the bottom in the exit of turn two while running fourth.
The leaders all pitted under caution, and Castroneves would take advantage of having the first pit stall to come out leave the pits in the lead. Power would follow Castroneves off pit road with Graham Rahal in third and the two Ed Carpenter Racing cars of Carpenter and Hildebrand side by side in fourth and fifth. Castroneves would lead the field to green with teammate Power in tow. Carpenter would battle with Rahal and would ultimately take the third spot from the No. 15. His teammate Hildebrand would shortly thereafter make the move on Rahal to secure the fourth position.
As Castroneves began to struggle on old tires, Hildebrand, who had made up an additional three spots, would take the lead from the Brazilian superstar. Power would also pass Castroneves for second, and try to chase down Hildebrand for the lead.
The caution flew for the second time of the afternoon when the No. 14 of Carlos Munoz made contact with the outside wall coming to the start/finish line. The caution came at an opportune time as most of the field was set to hit pit road. Castroneves was able to pick up two spots on pit road and regain the lead from Hildebrand by half a car length.
Castroneves would lead the field to green with Hildebrand and Power fighting for second behind him. Power was able to secure second and would make up ground on his teammate. The caution would come back out at Lap 141 for the No. 4 of Conor Daly, who made contact with the outside wall muchlike his teammate Munoz did earlier in the afternoon. Pit stops would begin again with Castroneves maintaining the lead.
Charlie Kimball stayed out under caution to secure the lead meaning Castroneves would restart second. Castroneves made quick work of Kimball to take the lead just a lap after the restart as Kimball would get eaten up by the rest of the field on new tires tires.
A surprise rain shower put a short damper on the afternoon, which put the caution out on with just over 100 laps to go. Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Ed Jones, Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti and Kimball all opted to come down pit road for tires and fuel. Shortly after going under caution, the red flag would be displayed, stopping the race for just a few minutes as track officials dried the track.
When the race returned to green flag conditions, Castroneves blasted off with the lead ahead of teammate Power with Ryan Hunter-Reay just behind. Newgarden was making his fresh tires to pass cars until he got to sixth where he seemed to remain until the end of the race. Castroneves would continue to lead until he brought the car down pit road with less than 50 laps remaining for his final pit stop of the day.
Andretti would be the last driver to come down pit road, but the real battle for the win occurred behind him. Hildebrand, by virtue of a better final pit stop, would essentially inherit the race lead, but he wasn’t able to hold it as Castroneves would stalk Hildebrand and eventually pass the young American. Castroneves wouldn’t look back leading the final 32 laps to secure his 30th career victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series. It was his first win since Detroit in 2014.