First, congratulations to Curtis Francois and Bommarito Automotive Group for bringing Indycar back to Gateway Motorsports Park and for drawing the biggest oval crowd outside of Indianapolis in many years. As with any new event, there were issues. My group encountered a couple of issues, but I heard from other fans and media members of significant issues that need to be improved.
Parking was poorly marked and there seemed to be no overall plan for entry or exit. It looks like the track could use a second entry. Exiting the track we didn’t see anyone directing traffic until we got the exit drive. cars were pointed both east and west waiting to leave.
The track seemed understaffed. On Friday only one person was handling pit/paddock pass redemption. The line wasn’t too long, but it took a while. Two of my friends in the media told me only one person was distributing credentials and it took them nearly an hour to get their cards. Much of the staff didn’t seem to know where things were or what areas fans were or were not allowed into.
I also heard concession stands ran out of bottled water Saturday early evening. A friend told me she couldn’t find any water Friday afternoon. She was told it wouldn’t be available until 4 pm, two hours after the gates opened, and only certain stands had water available.
These issues can all be fixed with planning, training, and additional staffing. I know the track will be hearing from fans about these and other problems. I plan to be back next year. I just hope many who came decide not to because of their experience this time.
My first impression of the track was it reminded me of the Milwaukee Mile. It has the look and feel of a traditional short track. I liked it immediately. This is the type of track Indycar needs to race on a couple more times a year. Two more ovals like this, for a total of five short tracks and the three larger ovals of Indy, Pocono, and Texas would be great.
On my pace car ride Saturday, I noticed turn one is downhill on the approach and the track sweeps uphill into turn two, making the track more like a road course. After riding around the track, the downhill became very noticeable from the stands. Oh yes. There was a race Saturday night. Let’s talk about it.
A rather ordinary race got very interesting the last 50 laps Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park. Helio Castroneves had an extended pit stop, dropping him to fourth place after leading with a car good enough to win. Josef Newgarden lost the last pit stop round to teammate Simon Pagenaud, setting up The Pass.
With 30 laps to go Newgarden saw an opening low in turn one and squeezed into it. The slight contact with Pagenaud caused the defending champion to slide up the track, allowing Scott Dixon to grab second place. Pagenaud was not happy with the move, talking after the race about losing trust and respect for Newgarden. My seat was in turn one, and Ihadve no problem with the move or the pass. It wasn’t a nascar-like move as some have suggested. He didn’t bump him from behind to push him out of the way. It was a clean move from my vantage point.
The race got off to an awkward start with Tony Kanaan spinning on the pace lap then Will Power spinning on the first attempt to go green following another great pass by Newgarden. It was his second great pass of Power in three weeks. Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato also spun, with Carpenter’s landing on top of Power’s.
The race officially went green on lap 18. As I feared, it was a Phoenix type affair for the most part, with passing extremely difficult. The leaders had a tough time getting past the end of the field. Friday’s night practice had given me hope that passing would be easier, but we didn’t see that in the race.
Conor Daly had the best drive of the night, finishing fifth after starting 11th. He challenged Castroneves for fourth but could not get past him. The Foyt team was encouraged after testing here, and their optimism held to a great result. Carlos Munoz finished tenth giving ABC Supply cars their best finish as a team this year.
The three wide fan salute on the parade lap was a great gesture for the fans.
Newgarden solidified his lead in the points with two races to go, but Scott Dixon continues to lurk in the shadows. Dixon though this would be a throw away race with a poor result, but his runner-up finish keeps him within striking distance of the lead with the series finishing on two of his best tracks.
It appears Sato is headed for Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing next year as graham Rahal’s teammate. If true, it likely means Andretti Autosport is switching to Chevy.
What is happening at Ganassi? Saturday was the second consecutive race they parked a car that was capable of continuing. Could Ganassi be a one car team next year?