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HyVee IndyCar race at Iowa

Source: Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment / other

NEWTON, Iowa. — The NTT IndyCar Series is going oval racing for the first time since the Indianapolis 500 this weekend.

They return to Iowa Speedway for a doubleheader weekend including the Hy-Vee Homefront 250 on Saturday and then the Hy-Vee One Step 250 on Sunday. The whole weekend will be critical for several drivers who are now in a desperate position in trying to keep pace with points leader Alex Palou.

“If you’re winning and you’re consistent, you’re definitely going to win the championship,” said defending series champion Will Power of Palou’s performance this year. “Certainly, as a team, that group on that car, their strategies, pit stops, the full package. Obviously, Palou, full package as a driver. Extremely tough to beat”

Palou is 117 points clear of his Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon in the point standings, and 126 points clear of Josef Newgarden who sits third in the points.

Qualifying this weekend will be slightly different than what you normally see when setting the grid for oval races. It will be a one-lap qualifying format on Friday within a two-lap run for each driver. The speed of their first lap will set their position for the first race on Saturday, the second lap will set their starting spot for the second race.

For Power, having a good result in qualifying will be key since they says they have struggled in qualifying all season long.

“The thing that’s hurt us the most is qualifying because our race pace has been really good, strategy has been really good, pit stop’s been great,” Power said. “As a team, we have all struggled the most to extract the most out of the car in qualifying.”

Power is eighth in the points and running out of time to mount a charge to contend for another championship. He would need a little help from Palou in the sense that he and the rest of the field may need him to slip up at some point. Power said at this point, because of Palou’s recent run, the focus is shifted.

“He’ll probably have a bad race. He could have a couple to not even turn up and still win the championship,” he said. “Now I think everyone is just absolutely going for wins. It’s not even — you know, you’re not really championship racing anymore. You’re just going for wins.”

Saturday’s race will roll off around 3:00 p.m. EDT. Sunday’s race will go a half-hour earlier at 2:30 p.m. EDT.