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IndyCar: Ganassi pair stay in control in Iowa on Friday

Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon remained in charge of proceedings in Friday's second practice - but Penske's Will Power is looming ominously.
Just as he had in the first track session of the day, Tony Kanaan stayed in charge and once again topped the timing screens in early evening second practice at the seven-eighths of a mile Iowa Speedway ahead of this weekend's Iowa Corn 300, round 13 of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

"The track suits my style, short tracks are one of my strengths," explained the 40-year-old Brazilian veteran. "The track suits my style. The short ovals are definitely one of my strengths. So far, we're pretty happy with the race car so we'll see what's going to happen.

"There's just something about these short ovals that I love," he added. "It's always such an exciting race, and with the way we've been running this season, I don't see this weekend's race being any different."

Kanaan's best time came early in the session when he posted a lap at 181.273s (17.7544s), edging closer to last year's pole-winning pace of 186.256mph recorded by Dixon. The Kiwi was just 0.043s off Kanaan's time in Friday's final practice.

CLICK: Full Friday practice 2 times from Iowa Speedway

If one of the Ganassi drivers can pull off a victory in Saturday night's 300-lap, 268.2-mile race then it will be the team's 100th win in the series. Kanaan is making his 246th consecutive IndyCar race start this weekend (from a total of 296) which stretches all the way back to Portland in June 2001.

"I think straight-out speed we're definitely okay," said Dixon, who made his 250th IndyCar start last time out at Milwaukee. "The car seems decent in race trim. With the ambient conditions and track temps way up, grip is going to be definitely key to the race."

No driver has won an IndyCar race at Iowa from pole position, so topping tomorrow's qualifying could yet prove to be a poisoned chalice. Dixon has started on pole three times and has seven top-10 finishes at Iowa in eight starts, but he has never finished better than third, while Kanaan is a former event winner and has a string of podium finishes to his credit after initially having failed to finish better than 15th in his first three starts here.

"Over the past five years I've had solid results there with five podium finishes, but I haven't been able to come through with another win since my first and only win there in 2010," noted Kanaan.

However there were ominous signs as far as Ganassi were concerned that the Penske squad is now on the march, getting up to speed and massing for action at a track where the team has never won before. Having been been just 14th fastest in the earlier session, reigning series champion Will Power moved up to third place in the times in second practice. That put him just ahead of his team mates Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya, who currently has a 54 point lead in the championship standings with only four races remaining in 2015 including this week's event at Iowa.

“We've got to keep doing what we've been doing,” said Montoya, who has two wins so far in 2015. "What we've been doing has been working. We've been competitive every week. That's the main goal. You got to be good, run a smart race and see what happens.

"I think as a team we've been doing a really good job all year,” Montoya added. "Hopefully, we can get more wins and some more good results."

Ganassi's third driver Charlie Kimball was sixth fastest, narrowly edging out last week's race winner Sebastien Bourdais in the KVSH Racing #11. Just behind Bourdais was the Milwaukee race runner-up Helio Castroneves in the final Penske car.

Rounding out the top ten were CFH Racing owner-driver Ed Carpenter and Ganassi's rookie driver Sage Karam in the #8 car that he time-shares with Sebastian Saavedra. Just missing out on the top ten was the second CFH car driven by Josef Newgarden.

The sliver of hope given to Honda by defending race champion Ryan Hunter-Reay's first practice pace promptly evaporated in the early evening session, which saw Hunter-Reay fall out of the top ten and into 12th place - and yet he was still the Japanese manufacturer's fastest runner, a little over a tenth off Kanaan's timesheet-topping time.

Hunter-Reay was just ahead of his Andretti Autosport team mates Justin Wilson and Marco Andretti, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal in 15th position at the end of the 45-minute session.

KV Racing Technology's Stefano Coletti was the only Chevrolet representative in the bottom half of the times in 16th place. After that, it was Hondas all the way down to Dale Coyne Racing's Pippa Mann in 23rd just ahead of Ryan Briscoe who is sitting in once again in the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport entry in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe.

The weather remained extremely hot for second practice and the big problem for the drivers was staying hydrated. They were helpfully handed two rest breaks during practice to do just that when the yellows came out for debris clean-up and for a track inspection.

There are no further practice sessions scheduled for the weekend. Next up is qualifying on Saturday afternoon starting at 3pm local time (9pm BST) which takes the form of single car time trials with each car completing two laps apiece. Each driver's starting grid position will be set according to their average speed and aggregate time over the two laps.

The Iowa Corn 300 itself is scheduled to get underway later on Saturday evening just before dusk at 7.50pm (1.50am BST).

See full Friday practice 2 times from Iowa Speedway

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Pit lane comes to life prior to practice for the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay on track during practice for the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud waits outside his pit stand prior to practice for the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power chats with his race engineer in the Team Penske pit stand following practice for the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for practice on Wednesday May 13 2015.(Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan chats with teammate Scott Dixon during qualifications for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) celebrates winning the 2016 IndyCar title with victory at Sonoma   [pic credit: Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Will Power - Team Penske
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to victory at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) on his way to pole at Watkins Glen   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Scott Dixon leads the Indycar field   [pic credit: Indycar media/Bret Kelley]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Jones]
Will Power - Team Penske   [pic credit: Indycar media/Chris Owens]
Simon Penske - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar media/Bret Kelley]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Scott Dixon - Target Chip Ganassi Racing   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/JOE SKIBINSKI]

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