NTT IndyCar Series: Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Preview

Will Power at Gateway Motorsports Park. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

The Bommarito Automotive Group’s successful promotion of Indy car racing at Gateway Motorsports Park over the past two years has brought life back to oval track racing at the facility that overlooks the famed St. Louis Arch. As the final oval race on the 2019 schedule, the round-track specialists have their final chance Saturday night to gain ground on winning the series’ NTT IndyCar Series’ championship.

Race Facts: Gateway’s Darlington-shaped oval measures 1.25-miles with narrow turns banked between 11-degrees (Turns 1-2) and 9-degrees (Turns 3-4). The high-speed race will run for 248 laps/310 miles. The first open-wheel race was held here in 1997 with CART and later IRL  sanctioned events continuing until 2003 when sagging attendance ended open-wheel racing until IndyCar brought it back in 2017. Track records include: Qualifying-2017, Will Power, Two laps, 47.4579 seconds/189.642 mph. Race-2018, Power, 1:59:30.197/155.644 mph. No driver has ever won here twice. Only Josef Newgarden and Power have visited victory lane among current drivers. Team Penske has five wins in the nine races held.

2018 Gateway Race: Will Power narrowly beat pole-winner Scott Dixon to score his third win of the season for Team Penske. He won by just 1.311seconds after giving up a seven second lead  following a fuel stop with 18 laps to go. Power led 90 of the final 98 laps. His win came after finishing last a year earlier due to an early race crash.

2019 So Far: Josef Newgarden, the 2018 NTT series champion, continues leading the points chase with 535. Alexander Rossi is second with 500, followed by Simon Pagenaud (-40), Dixon (-52) and Power (-128)…Pagenaud leads the series’ oval track points with 212. Newgarden trails with 202, Rossi has 163 and Power 154…Honda leads Chevrolet by 79 points for the Engine Manufacturers championship.

The Field: Twenty-two cars are entered for Gateway, with Ed Carpenter making his final driver appearance for 2019. Trevor Carlin’s two cars are entered for Conor Daly and Charlie Kimball this weekend.

Notes: Michael Andretti won the 1999 CART race at Gateway after starting 11th…Some are saying that a return of the IndyCar Series to Pocono may not happen after three years of major in-race incidents. Tracks that are being mentioned as possible 2020 schedule additions include returns to Richmond and Watkins Glen with a “dreamer’s double header race with NASCAR Cup cars” floating around in the minds of some…Former Indy car driver Gil de Ferran, who is scheduled to lead McLaren’s return to the IndyCar series in 2020, finished third at Gateway behind winner Helio Castroneves in 2003…TV: NBCSN, Qualifying, Friday, 6:15 p.m. ET Live…Race, Saturday, 8:45 p.m. ET Live.

Our Take: If the four series’ points leaders can get through Gateway unscathed Saturday night, road course races at Portland and Laguna Seca will decide the 2019 championship. With just six oval races on the schedule (including the Indy 500 which some say is an outlier, and not a true oval) it’s not impossible to think that the future of Indy cars on oval tracks could follow board tracks and dirt miles into history. The NTT IndyCar Series is certainly the only major open-wheel series in existence that features 30% of its events on paved ovals. Other than the historic Indianapolis 500, do we really need oval tracks on the schedule? We can think of at least five road courses in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America that could host a series’ race. Add in a return to Australia and the schedule could reach 20 or more. With safety concerns at Pocono leading the conversation, a road course, plus Indy 500 series deserves some conversation.

Final Words: Takuma Sato (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda): “We have a good car on ovals this year…particularly on short ovals. St. Louis is a great, unique track. Turns 1-2 have a lot more banking but Turns 3-4 are flatter. You can make a very good exit from Turns 3 and 4 (and) there are tons of overtaking opportunities going into Turn 1.”

Next Race: Sunday, September 1, 2019 – Portland International Raceway

Share Button