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Iowa's long draught came to an end today as a severe thunderstorm hit the Iowa Speedway around 5:45 p.m., pushing back the start of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 to around 9:45 p.m. today. The rain and the late start didn't put a damper on the hopes of the #78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing team. The team has struggled on ovals this season and was eager to get their first oval finish of the season. Not only did they finish, they had their second-best finish of the season. The race saw some attrition, starting with a blown engine by pole-sitter, Dario Franchitti on the warm up lap. Cars continued to struggle throughout the evening, but Lotus HVM Racing driver Simona De Silvestro pushed hard, drove a consistent race and stayed out of trouble. De Silvestro was happy with the final result. "I'm pretty happy with 14th", she said, "that's our second best finish this year, and it was on an oval. I think there was a lot of survival going on out there, but I think we had a really strong race car. It was really comfortable out there so I could stay in the tow of other people. A big thanks to the team, they kept working really hard every time. Even when we know it's going to be a tough weekend we always hope for the best. I think today we had a pretty good result at the end. Hopefully we'll get some improvements for the road courses and start sneaking into the top-ten. " Team owner Keith Wiggins was pleased with the outcome as well. "I think we should be quite happy," he said. "Bottom line is she did a great race. She got some more confidence and practice on the oval. Obviously we were down on power so she suffered a bit in traffic, but with the momentum when she was up to speed and we were doing the same lap times as most of the field, which is really good. I'm happy for the team and with the car setup and happy for Simona. We've just got to get a few more horses." Shane Seneviratne, team manager, is already looking ahead. "I'm glad we finished the race," he said. "Simona did a great job. Everything held up. Hats off to the crew on the pit stops. We're looking forward to Toronto." The team heads back to Indianapolis tomorrow looking forward to next weekend at home. The team travels next to Toronto for the Honda Indy Toronto on July 8th at 1:00 p.m. ET. The race will air on ABC.
Iowa Speedway saw a change in the qualification format tonight with IZOD IndyCar drivers participating in a three heat race format rather than the traditional single-car qualification process. The new format benefited Lotus HVM driver Simona de Silvestro as her pass of Simon Pagenaud netted her two spots on the starting grid instead of just one. It was a bit confusing, but in the end worked out well for the #78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car. Here's a breakdown of how it worked... Teams were split into three groups based on their performance in today's second practice session. Race one consisted of the cars that finished the practice session in an even-numbered spot starting with the 10th-quickest practice time. Race two consisted of the cars that finished the practice session in an odd-numbered spot starting with the 9th-quickest practice time. The third and final race consisted of the top-eight finishers in the practice session. The third race determined the starting position of the first eight starters with the cars in race one filling the even-numbered spots from 10th down and the cars in race two filling the odd-numbered spots from 9th down. By finishing one spot ahead of Pagenaud, De Silvestro made the jump to 23rd on the grid with the slowest car from the group one qualifiers, Takuma Sato, starting 24th. E.J. Viso had an unauthorized engine change and incurred a 10-spot penalty which moved him back behind Sato, moving both De Silvestro and Sato up one spot to 22nd and 23rd respectively. Team owner Keith Wiggins spoke about the new format. "Well, it was an interesting format," he said. "Let's hope that the fans appreciated it. For us, we picked up a couple of spots so we'll take that and obviously focus on the main race tomorrow." De Silvestro was pleased with the results. "Today was a big learning curve," she said. "We've never been here with this car; we didn't test here, so we just threw some things at it this morning and it was alright; we worked through it. We learned a lot in the first session, improved it in the second session and I think even in the third session we went a bit quicker, so those are really good things. If we keep progressing like this it really shows that we're a pretty strong team and can improve every session out there." Shane Seneviratne, team manager, agreed with Wiggins about the heat race qualifying. "Interesting format," he said. "I think it worked out better for us. We gained a couple of positions so it looks like we'll be starting 23rd. Simona did a good job. She gave us a good indication for the race. We just need to take advantage of it and set up a good race car. What does De Silvestro think about the team's chances tomorrow? "I think we have a good car," she said. "We're hoping that tomorrow some people will fall off a little bit like in Milwaukee and that's going to play in our favor. You know if we have a solid car for a full stint, so we'll see. We're just working at it, progressing. I don't think we'll be able to make real passes at real speed, but if people are going to struggle that's where our chance is going to come. We're really going to be ready when that chance comes." The Iowa Corn Indy 250 airs tomorrow night under the lights on NBC Sports at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. local time.