Marti Update: Marti is in a rehab facility in Indianapolis and is beginning to make slow, steady progress. the last two days have been encouraging as she has taken her first steps in 63 days. We still need to do a couple of tests. She is in a much better place today thanks to the awesome peop[e at Vanderbilt University hospital.
The final quarter of the season begins tomorrow night at World Wide Technology Raceway, more familiar as Gateway. The final four races of 2021 will take place west of the Mississippi River. I’m sure that has happened before, but I’m not sure which years.
Indycar began racing at the track just east of St. Louis in 1997, when CART staged the first three races the day before the Indianapolis 500 through 1999. The IRL raced at gateway from 2001through 2003. Indycar returned in 2017 in the current format. The event has been quite successful. Today the series and the promoters will sign a three year extension with an option for two more years.
24 cars have entered for tomorrow’s race, a one day show with practice, qualifying , and the race all on Saturday. The schedule for Saturday:
The main question is how will Alex Palou rebound from the points hit he took at IMS last weekend. Heren is what to watch for:
Palou Starts With Another Penalty
The engine problem which caused Palou’s first DNF of the season last Saturday was terminal, and the engine change resulted in the 10 car’s third grid penalty of the year. The oval penalty is nine spots. The 260 scheduled laps should give Palou time to move up.
I find it odd that Palou is the only Honda car that has needed to make unapproved changes. I hope this his last one of the season. This is not something that should decide the champion.
Grosjean a True Rookie
Romain Grosjean has been impressive in how quickly he has adapted to Indycar and the tracks. His Formula 1 experience makes his rookie status on road courses a little suspect. This weekend Grosjean is a real rookie as he tackles his first oval.
His oval run may be in preparation for the Frenchman to enter the Indianapolis 500 in 2022.
Grosjean is just seven points behind Scott McLaughlin in the Rookie of the Year standings despite the former Formula 1 driver missing three races. I think Grosjean will pass him before the season ends.
Will the Penske Rebound Continue?
What seems like a below average year for the team is really not that bad. The team has two wins and four poles. Most teams would take that. Josef Newgarden and Will Power have won two of the last three races. Power is still without a pole in 2021. I think he will win one, but not this week.
The Title Chase
Palou’s nine grid spot penalty may give his three closest pursuers, Pato O’Ward, Scott Dixon, and Josef Newgarden, an opportunity to tighten the the championship even more. The trio didn’t take as much advantage of the leader’s misfortune last week as they could have.
Both Newgarden and Dixon won at Gateway last year. O’Ward has not shown the consistency needed to win a title, yet the title chase has come to him. Palou’s job is simple. Gain as many spots as possible and stay in contact with the other contenders.
It will be an interesting day tomorrow. Indycar will have its 10th winner of the season in Alexander Rossi. Rossi was very happy with the team’s Gateway test and is confident coming into the race.