NTT IndyCar Series: Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Preview

Josef Newgarden - Bommarito Automotive Group 500. [Media Credit Penske Entertainment: James Black]

Josef Newgarden leading the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 in 2021. [Media Credit Penske Entertainment: James Black]

by Paul Gohde

Josef Newgarden has been a regular visitor to the top step of the podium at World Wide Technology Raceway with three wins there in the past five years. But even with four NTT IndyCar wins this season he sits fourth in the 2022 points battle as the series heads for the tight, irregularly shaped oval in Madison, Illinois, within sight of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. With this being the final oval run on the schedule, and two west coast road courses remaining, Will Power, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson better keep an eye out, because starting Saturday evening, Team Penske’s Newgarden will likely be filling their rear-view mirrors,

Race Facts: World Wide Technology Raceway is a 1.25-mile banked oval across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO. The egg-shaped track is banked 11-degrees in turns 1-2 and nine-degrees in turns 3-4. The race will run for 260 laps (325 miles) in about two hours (likely 20-30 minutes more) depending on caution; and there are often quite a number of them. Indy cars have been competing here since 1997 when Paul Tracy won the inaugural CART race before IndyCar took over. Indy-style racing took a break there in 2003 but returned to WWT in 2017 with Josef Newgarden visiting the winners circle with three IndyCar victories there since.

Recent Race History: As noted, Josef Newgarden has won three times at WWT since IndyCar returned to the track in 2017, (actually 3 in the past 5). His most recent win came last year when he led 138/260 laps to edge Pato O’Ward and Will Power in a race slowed eight times beginning on lap two. Colton Herta led 101 laps and looked like a threat to Newgarden, but as he returned to the track after a pit stop, he broke a drive shaft and was forced to retire, giving the lead back to the eventual winner.

2022 Season So Far: Drivers Point Standings after 14 events: 1) Will Power, 450 points, one win…2) Scott Dixon, 444, two…3) Marcus Ericsson, 438, one…4) Josef Newgarden, 428, four…5) Alex Palou, 417, 0…Manufacturer Points: Chevrolet, 1157 points, nine victories…Honda, 1089, five.

Race Entries: Twenty-six cars are entered with Ed Carpenter back for the final oval event of the season. The rest of the field is the usual group of oval entries.

Notes: TV: Saturday, August 20, USA Network, 6:30 P.M. ET, the IndyCar race and many weekend support races and qualifying are streamed on Peacock Premium…Rookie Christian Lundgaard has re-signed with RLL for the 2023 IndyCar season…IndyCar “Rookie of the Year” standings show Lundgaard in first place, leading David Malukas by 42 points with Callum Ilott third, trailing by 130 markers…Team Penske has won here seven times…Twenty entered drivers have competed here before with Scott Dixon having taken the green flag seven times…There have been eight different IndyCar winners this season with four races remaining…

Our Take: The tight, high-speed track with long straights and different degrees of banking (not to mention that egg-shape), presents a variety of problems at WWT for crews and drivers to set up their racers. In 2021 nine of the 24 starters failed to finish due to crashes or mechanical trouble. With a track record qualifying speed of 189.709 mph (Will Power/2017), a lot can happen in a small amount of track, WWT organizers have done a good job of promoting the race since IndyCar returned in 2017. Many support races, combined with a post-race concert and a variety of entertainment, have drawn large, enthusiastic crowds. Hopefully many laps of caution flags don’t prove a negative factor at an oval that IndyCar badly needs on its schedule.

“They Said It”: Alex Palou, #10, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda: “All right, the last three races of the season. Last year was good, (our team) had a podium there and Scott (teammate Scott Dixon) won the race. It was a survival race; and it was a big day for the team. We got some points back for the championship (which Palou won) and we’ll try to get it home this year as we’re less than 35 points (33 actually) behind (in fifth place). I think it’s a great event for the fans as a night race with the Indy cars. We’ll push hard and see what we can do to bring (another) championship home.”

Next Race: Sunday, September 4, Grand Prix of Portland


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