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Monday, June 27, 2016

Wallace: Iowa Corn 250 is racing's 'Field of Dreams'

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Iowa Speedway has been Rusty Wallace's baby from the start.

The former NASCAR champion designed the site of the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250, laying it out like the short ovals he dominated in his days on the circuit, and has a 10 percent ownership stake in the track, which opened last fall.

The main road entering the speedway is called "Rusty Wallace Drive."

The track, cut out of a swath of cornfields 35 miles east of Des Moines, was built to be quicker than the average short oval, with variable banking and tons of grip. Wallace wouldn't have it any other way.

"The drivers really thought they were coming to a short race track, and have been pleasantly surprised that it's driving like a superspeedway. They're running over 180 mph, wide open every single lap," Wallace said. "It's like the field of dreams, man. They've all come here, they're pumped up, they're excited. The atmosphere is electric in the place."

Dario Franchitti hung around the lead as car after car ran into trouble on the Iowa Speedway's new short oval Sunday. He made a daring move to grab the top spot as soon as he saw an opening, then kept it by using his head.

Franchitti, the IndyCar Series points leader, survived a slippery track and a furious late charge from teammate Marco Andretti to win the inaugural Iowa Corn Indy 250 on Sunday.

Franchitti, whose other victory in 2007 came at the Indy 500, held the cherished bottom line on the final laps to win by 0.0681 seconds. The victory helped Franchitti open a 51-point lead over Tony Kanaan in the overall standings.

"I knew if I stopped at the yellow line, Marco was going to have a hard time getting around me," Franchitti said. "He was very smart."

Eight of the top 10 drivers in the points standings, including Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr., were either involved in crashes or had mechanical trouble through the first 100 laps.

Unseasonably cool weather left the drivers with cold tires coming out of pit stops. That led to three accidents that knocked out seven cars on the 0.875-mile track, which ran fast and offered very little room to maneuver.

A multiple-car crash on the 99th lap changed the course of the race, knocking Danica Patrick, Sam Hornish Jr., A.J. Foyt IV and Kosuke Matsuura out of contention. Patrick made contact with Ed Carpenter, and Hornish and Foyt got tangled up in the mess. Carpenter's car spun around completely, but he continued.

"It's a cold day and the tires are really hard," said Patrick, coming off the best finish of her career, third, at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago. "Unfortunately, this is just a lost race."

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