For several Star Mazda and Indy Lights drivers, adjusting to the .875-mile Iowa Speedway oval didn’t take long.
Sage Karam topped the first Star Mazda session, touring the track in 21.832 seconds. That flyer — which came late in the session — was quicker than the track record set by Conor Daly in 2010 (21.933) and was run on tires with approximately 14 miles scrubbed in.
In the second session, Karam moved to the top of the charts after just four laps with a 21.780. Five laps later, he produced a 21.76 which was more than good enough to lead the field for the remainder of the session.
“The car feels excellent,” Karam said, following the first practice session. “I love this place. This is my favorite type of race track. Any place where you’re really on the edge is the best; Mosport is another favorite. I was flat out within the first four to five laps today and then we continued making small adjustments.”
The small adjustments worked and the car handled well over the notorious turn 1-2 bump.
“The bump hasn’t changed much from last year,” Karam said. “Supposedly they made some changes but I haven’t noticed a difference. I think the bump adds character to this track, especially during qualifying when you’re trying to get up to speed quickly on cold tires.”
Connor De Phillippi — who was third quick in the first practice and second quick in the afternoon session — agreed, “The bump feels the same as last season. After looking at the data the shocks are reacting the same.
“Both sessions were really good,” De Phillippi said. “I started out with a completely different baseline this year [last season he drove for Team Pelfrey] and the car feels totally different. In the Mazdas, Iowa Speedway is a bit like Indianapolis for the big cars; we want to free up the car as much as possible, reduce drag, and roll through the corners here. Last year, I had trouble turning in late because the car would get pretty loose on entry. Today I can turn in as late as I want. Now it’s time to really get to work [for qualifying].”
De Phillippi’s teammate Martin Scuncio was second quick in the first session and fifth fastest in the second. Zach Veach was third in the second session. Karam, De Phillippi, and Veach were the only three drivers to crack the 22-second barrier during today’s practice sessions. Here are the times from Practice 1 and Practice 2.
On the Indy Lights side, Vautier was the driver to beat in the opening session posting a 20.0615. While Vautier ended the session as the quickest driver he traded the top spot with teammates Esteban Guerrieri and Victor Carbone through the closing minutes and throughout the session.
Follow the Indy Lights session results and monitor lap times, here.
“We are flat here so you have to be very smooth with your hands,” Vautier said after the session, echoing the sentiments of the Star Mazda drivers. “The bump in turn 1-2 makes things quite interesting.”
Indy Lights drivers will qualify at 5:15 p.m. CST. Star Mazda will qualify at 2:55 p.m. Saturday.