Lock: Tony Kanaan
He’s back! Apologies if this seems somewhat redundant, but Kanaan has returned to the form we remember. The defending winner at Iowa, Kanaan has shown nice speed there, overcoming three crashes during the first three races at the 7/8 mile oval to take last year’s Iowa Corn Indy 250. He has been knocking on the door with the Geico No. 82 KV machine all year and Saturday night could be the night he knocks it down.
Drop: Simona de Silvestro
Even though short ovals tend lessen the influence of the car and its aerodynamics, de Silvestro and HVM are in a tough state right now. They are down to “Porkchop,” their affectionate nickname for an old, 2003 chassis they’ve been using, which was damaged last week in qualifying for Milwaukee. Though the team will undoubtedly have it ready to roll this weekend, it simply lacks the speed to compete. At this point, completing all the laps and having a clean weekend would be a victory. Sorry to say it, because de Silvestro is supremely talented and her team has worked very hard to improve, but they may struggle again this weekend.
Sleeper: Oriol Servia
Third in the standings right now, Servia is proving he is one of the most underrated drivers in racing. Finally in a stable environment and with a full-season schedule (his last full-season run coming in 2008 with KV Racing Technology), he is consistently at the front week in and week out, with the Texas Firestone Twin 275s his only poor showing of the season. Coming off a third in Milwaukee, Servia should contend again this weekend, and just may give Newman/Haas their first win in nearly three years.
---Kyle Lavigne’s picks
Lock: Alex Tagliani
Forget about his poor Milwaukee result—due to time constraints, the car they prepared for Milwaukee was not the car they'll have for Iowa. Alex qualified 6th here last year, and could have a similar result this week. Sam Schmidt's team has been good as gold on oval qualifying so far, and should be due for another Top 10. If you've not picked Tag much yet this year, now's a good place to start using him.
Drop: Simona de Silvestro
The “Iron Maiden” (hat tip to Rick DeBruhl) has survived damage this year that would send us mere mortals to the mat, but it's a quick turnaround for the team between Milwaukee and Iowa. Given Simona's hard hit and a car that probably still needs some work, she's not a safe pick this week for a high finish.
Sleeper: EJ Viso OR Takuma Sato
It's a risk, given KV Racing's proclivity for having incidents that kneecap what would otherwise be great results. But this KV team is close. Viso finished P3 here last year in his best series race to date. Sato has made great strides. If you need to stretch your roster, consider one of these two—but know the risks involved. If the payoff's great, so is the danger.
---Zachary Houghton’s picks
Lock: Marco Andretti
Texas has been one of the third-generation star's better tracks for a couple of seasons now. He comes back to the 1.5-mile oval after collecting fourth and third-place finishes there in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him at or near the front again. He and Andretti Autosport seem to have a good grip on the place.
Drop: James Jakes
The British rookie took his first-ever laps on an oval last month in his ill-fated attempt to make the Indianapolis 500. Expect things to stay tough for the driver of the No. 18 car as he tackles a track where constant wheel-to-wheel action and vicious G-forces in the turns wear out even the heartiest of veterans.
Sleeper: Tony Kanaan
Indy showed once again that the former IZOD IndyCar Series champion is a threat to win from anywhere and at anytime. As long as his KV-Lotus team gives him a good race set-up, he'll be contending regardless of where he qualifies in the first race -- and where he lands on the blind draw for the second one.
---Chris Estrada’s picks
Lock: Tony Kanaan
Who wouldn’t love to see TK back in victory lane? To be honest, I doubted he would be much of a factor this season, after spending his entire off-season desperately searching for a ride. But KV Racing seems to be the perfect fit for this veteran. He won in Iowa last year and I think it’s a great opportunity to grab his first win of the season.
Drop: Helio Castroneves
I never thought I’d see the day, but Helio just hasn’t been clicking this season. He’s still one of the greatest drivers of all time, but something has clearly been off recently. While he may not finish dead last, he certainly won’t have the kind of finish we’re used to seeing out of this former champ.
Sleeper: Takuma Sato
Might as well make it a team affair at Iowa, right? I’ve been very impressed by KV Racing this year, especially Sato and Kanaan. They’re not a team one usually hears talk of on the podium, but Sato has shown great improvements this year. I think the Iowa oval will be a great chance for him to shine.
---Kristen Slevin’s picks