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Pruett's Preview: Iowa Corn 300

There’s a genuine night-and-day difference with this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300. The popular stop on the Verizon IndyCar Series championship trail visits the spectacular 0.875-mile oval where, compared to last year’s event, wholesale changes have been made in the schedule.

As defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay points out, “First, it’s gone from a night race to a day race, and instead of it being a two-day event on Friday and Saturday, now it’s a Saturday-Sunday race held in full sunlight. Those are two pretty big things already, and IndyCar also put some new limits on downforce, so if you look at all those changes, it could shake things up quite a lot.”

Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Honda and Josef Newgarden’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy produced an unforgettable finish to Iowa’s 2015 race as they pitted for fresh tires during a late yellow and charged to the front. But with the shift from night to day, and the same downforce guidelines used by the series on the 1-mile Phoenix oval, the 2014 Indy 500 winner says it’s hard to predict how the 300-lap race will play out.

“You never know how the yellows are going to fall, but the cat’s out of the bag on what Josef and I did last year,” he added. “It’s a pretty obvious thing to say, but the trick is to be fast. If it was going to be identical to [2015], I think you could say it should be really similar, but with the sun, which will bring higher temperatures, and all the other things to consider, I think it’s going to be like a brand-new race.”

Andretti’s 2012 IndyCar Series champion is also chasing his first win of the year, and he knows a victory at Iowa 2015 won’t guarantee the same result on Sunday afternoon.

“The other manufacturer dominated the first half of the race until we put ourselves in the position to win, and it took getting everything absolutely perfect to get that win,” he said. “It’s the same thing this year; you try to start towards the front, make your car better throughout the race, and be in a position to go for the win in the end.

“Iowa’s really a handling track, so it’s about getting the Firestone tires to work the best for you, and as I said, a lot has changed since last year. Honda did a great job at Indy, and we’ll have that same caliber of engine at Iowa. We all want to win really badly; I’m the one who wants it most, so all you can do is your best work to create that shot in the end. This series is too competitive to think last year’s result will fast-track you to the same outcome. It should be pretty intense at Iowa.”

The race will air at 5 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN.

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