NTT IndyCar Series: Gateway Motorsports Park Weekend Preview

A packed field in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. © [Jamie Sheldrick/ Spacesuit Media]

A packed field in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. © [Jamie Sheldrick/ Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

The upcoming Bommarito Automotive Group 250’s (August 29&30) at the oblong-shaped Madison, IL oval finds it in an unusual spot on the NTT IndyCar schedule. The races have never followed the Indianapolis 500 by just six days, and there has never been an IndyCar doubleheader scheduled there. But remember, this is the COVID-19 year when not much is normal. The back-to-back 250’s on the tight, high-speed oval within sight of the St. Louis Gateway Arch across the Mississippi River, will play an important role in determining the 2020 series’ champion. With just three races remaining after this weekend, a sweep at Gateway by Scott Dixon, who holds an 84-point lead over Josef Newgarden, could put him in a position to clinch the crown before arriving at St. Petersburg, FL for the season finale on October 25. We’ll know more on Monday.

Race Facts: Gateway Motorsports Park is a 1.25 mile stretched oval with Turns 1-2 banked 11degrees and Turns 3-4 9 degrees…Records: Race: Will Power, 2018, 1:59:30.197, 155.644 mph…Qualifying: Power, 2017, 23.720 sec., 189.709 mph…Most wins, 10 drivers are tied with one win each…Team wins: Team Penske (5)…Only two drivers (Michael Andretti and Helio Castroneves) have made two podium appearances in the 10 races…Paul Tracy won the inaugural 1997 CART race.

Recent Race History: Takuma Sato beat oval-track specialist Ed Carpenter by a race-record 0.0399 of a second margin to win the 2019 Saturday night Bommarito Automotive Group 500 for his second win of the season. Sato overcame early race problems to take the lead for good on lap188 and held off Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, and rookie Santino Ferrucci for his first Gateway win. Kanaan’s podium finish was his first since a runner-up finish at Texas in 2017. The race was slowed five times for 49 laps.

2020 Season So Far: Standings, including double points at the Indianapolis 500. 1.Scott Dixon (3wins) 335 points…2. Josef Newgarden (1) 251…3. Pato O’Ward (0) 218…4. Graham Rahal (0) 214…5. Simon Pagenaud (1) 212…6. Takuma Sato (1) 207…10. Felix Rosenqvist (1) 157

Race Entries: After a rush to secure the traditional 33 starters for the Indianapolis 500, Gateway’s oval will revert to the usual 23 entries for the doubleheader weekend.

Notes:  TV, Saturday and Sunday, NBCS, 3:00 p.m. ET each day…This weekend will likely mark the final IndyCar appearance for veteran Tony Kanaan. His oval track schedule for AJ Foyt Racing expires with Sunday afternoon’s Race 2 at Gateway where he finished on the podium in 2019…Indy 500 winner Sato pocketed “just” $1,370,500 for his Sunday efforts. The amount was one of the smallest in recent years as the race, qualifying and all the extra activities that usually were held leading up to the race were either cancelled or conducted with no spectators…Some, including this writer, thought that TV ratings would be better than usual since TV was the only way to see the race, We were wrong as the numbers were smaller than 2019. The usual live blackout of the race in the central Indiana area was lifted, but even with that and the 250,000 ticket holders likely watching at home, NBC was likely disappointed in the ratings…While the RLL team was celebrating its win and third-place finish, Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Sato all expressed concern for teammate Spencer Pigot whose violent crash into the barrier at the end of the pit wall ended the race. The sight of him lying flat on the track with medics working over him had to temper their winning excitement. He was taken to Methodist hospital but was later released…Of the 10 previous Gateway winners only three (Sato, Power and Josef Newgarden) are active.

Our Take: Facing a tight track that often produces contact at high speeds, coupled with a quick turn-around should a car suffer significant damage in Saturday’s Race 1, teams could take a significant points hit depending on resources available to repair a damaged car in less than 24-hours in time for Race 2. The larger, better funded teams such as Penske, Andretti or Ganassi, would likely be able to do a quicker repair or car swap, but some others might not easily do what’s required in such a short time. Some might take a more careful approach in race strategy for Saturday’s race, and if that goes well, might come out more aggressive come Sunday.

They Said It: Tony Kanaan (No. 14, AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I’m excited to return to St. Louis this weekend after our podium finish last year. The promoters there at Worldwide Technology Raceway have done a terrific job working with local authorities to provide a race where fans could go and have an opportunity for entertainment in a safe and socially distanced environment, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them at the track. When I announced the TK Last Lap in January of this year, no one had an idea of what 2020 had in store for us, so being able to have fans at these last two races of my season is really special to me. I want to put on a good show for them and for the fans at home, as well.”


Next Race:  October 2-3, IndyCar Harvest Doubleheader, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

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