We are just over three hours away from the start of the Iowa 300 and here’s what’s going down as the clock ticks towards the 6:15 CDT green flag.

*Will the weather hold off? That’s the biggest question mark this afternoon. The temperature has dropped about eight degrees and thunderstorms are forming north of us. If the rain stays away, it will be hot and humid, but not necessarily the blast furnace we were faced with during final practice conditions Friday night, when the heat index was 114, which will be a good thing. If it does start to rain, some of us will be looking for another hotel room tonight after the race.

*Can anybody hold off Penske? Or will the Summer of Simon continue? Similar to last week at Toronto, Simon Pagenaud has been the class of the field again this weekend, taking the pole and posting the fastest lap in practice last night. He also put on a clinic while knifing through traffic during his first tire stint. If Pagenaud falters, Team Penske mates Josef Newgarden and Will Power start second and third, respectively, and have been pretty impressive as well. I’m not going to hand the podium to them as the changing conditions may make others’ cars come alive, but I’m not going to bet against any of them for the win.

*Where’s Andretti Autosport? Iowa Speedway used to be a playground for Andretti Autosport. AA entered the weekend having won seven of the 12 races contested here, including six in a row from 2010-15, but this weekend is a bit off the pace. Alexander Rossi is the highest starting AA car in sixth, while Ryan Hunter-Reay is ninth, Marco Andretti 18th and Zach Veach 20th. Look for a good showing from Hunter-Reay who has won three times here and has registered two podiums in the last three years.

One more. Congrats to Sebastien Bourdais, who makes his 200th career career start this evening.

Predictions! Who ya got? Here’s mine.

Winner: Pagenaud

2nd: Newgarden

3rd: James Hinchcliffe

Biggest mover(s): Sage Karam and/or Ed Carpenter.


Photo: Joe Skibinski // IndyCar Media