The 1997 Motorola 300-Indycar’s Debut at Gateway

The second year of the Indycar split between the IRL and CART saw CART change their Memorial Day weekend tactics. In 1996 they held their own 500 mile race at Michigan International Speedway on the same day as the Indianapolis 500.

The US 500 started after the the race in Indianapolis was about halfway through. The start featured a multiple car crash involving the front row. CART decided to allow teams to repair their cars or use a backup and restarted the race. Jimmy Vasser won the race from the pole position.

For 1997 CART staged a race at a brand new tack in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. The track’s owner, Chris Pook, also created the Long Beach race. The oval surface had been laid 20 days before the race. None of the drivers were entered in the Indianapolis 500 the next day.

48,500 fans, a sellout, turned out for the race despite a slight chance of rain. The rain would have little impact on this race, as the system moved east, it would have a huge effect on the 500 the following day.

Raul Boesel won the pole with a speed of 187.963 miles an hour. Nine cautions consumed 88 of the 236 laps. The worst accident occurred late in the race when Scott Pruett spun in turn 1. The heavy impact with the rear of his car caused the gearbox to explode. The car then spun around and made wall contact with the nose. Pruett was able to get out of the car on his own. Cleanup for this accident, plus light rain which began to fall, prolonged the caution to 37 laps.

Michael Andretti had assumed the lead by not pitting. He hoped the rain would shorten the race, which was well past the official race distance. He lost the lead quickly after racing resumed.

Patrick Carpentier took the lead. Paul Tracy was in fifth place with 25 laps remaining. He climbed to second place and began to chase Carpentier, who was told to slow down to conserve fuel. He finished the race with 0.2 gallons left. Tracy took the lead with two laps left and won his third consecutive race of the season.

CART raced at Gateway the following three years on the weekend of the 500. From 2001-2003, the IRL had the track on its schedule. Indycar didn’t return until 2017.

After the race, track owner Pook hoped the 1998 race would be on a different date.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he said, ” I’m very happy with what happened here today, but I’d be happier if all these guys were running at Indy next memorial day weekend. There needs to be a resolution between CART and the Indy Racing League so these guys can go back to Indianapolis where they belong.”

When the rain got to Indianapolis the next morning, it was bad enough to cause a postponement. After getting in just a few laps on Monday, the 1997 Indianapolis 500 finished on Tuesday.

Bommarito to Sponsor Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood will carry the main sponsor of the Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway next weekend in the final oval race of the Indycar season. Sexton properties has been Kirkwood’s main sponsor since Mid Ohio when Rokit was dropped from the team.

The release from A. J. Foyt Racing:

ST. LOUIS (August 10, 2022) — The Bommarito Automotive Group continues to expand its footprint in motorsports. Missouri’s #1 automotive group has signed as the primary marketing partner of AJ Foyt Racing’s No. 14 Chevrolet for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway August 19-20. Associate sponsor and friends over at Rebel Bourbon are also proud to be a part of the 6th Annual Bommarito 500 NTT INDYCAR Series race.

A.J. Foyt, the first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, started his race team over 50 years ago.

He won three of his seven INDYCAR championships and claimed the final two of his Indy 500 victories while driving for his own team. Since his retirement from driving in 1993, his team has continued to win, claiming two more national titles and the 1999 Indy 500 with Kenny Brack. At WWT Raceway, the team has five top-10 finishes, three of which were in the top-five, including a fifth place last year with Sebastien Bourdais and a third place in 2019 with Tony Kanaan.

The No. 14 Bommarito Chevrolet will be driven by rookie Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 Indy Lights Champion who won a pole and finished second in both Indy Lights races last year at the 1.25-mile oval track at WWT Raceway. The 23-year-old Floridian’s meteoric ascent to the NTT INDYCAR Series is marked by consecutive championships in the three-tier Road to Indy ladder series.

Bommarito Automotive Group is Missouri’s largest automotive group that began with a single Oldsmobile dealership managed by Frank Bommarito over 50 years ago. In 1998, Frank Bommarito handed over the reins to his son John Bommarito who continued to build the network of dealerships to its present number of 20 locations employing over 900 team members in the St. Louis area.

“We are honored to be a part of bringing the NTT IndyCar Series to the St. Louis region. Thanks to the support of race fans across the country, we’ve demonstrated that when you win on the weekend it generates sales on Monday,” said John Bommarito, President of the Bommarito Automotive Group.

“As an iconic brand here in the St. Louis marketplace and selling vehicles nationwide, the Bommarito Automotive Group could not be more proud to adorn the iconic AJ Foyt Racing No. 14 Chevy, driven by Kyle Kirkwood, for the 6th Annual Bommarito Automotive Group 500 right here in our own hometown. Bommarito and A.J. “Super Tex” Foyt, together making history.”

“I’ve been a dedicated race fan for decades and to have the opportunity to partner with AJ Foyt Racing at the sixth annual Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is an honor,” said Chuck Wallis, Vice President and General Manager of the Bommarito Automotive Group. “To be able to be involved in the motorsports industry at the level Bommarito has dedicated to it is an absolute dream come true.”

Tickets for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 are on sale now at WWTRaceway.com. The race will be broadcast by the USA Network Aug. 20, Saturday night starting at 6 p.m. ET.

About Bommarito Automotive Group For over 50 years, Bommarito has been a staple in the St. Louis marketplace. The Bommarito Automotive Group currently operates 20 automotive locations throughout every St. Louis neighborhood, led by President John Bommarito and over 900 dedicated team members. Bommarito is recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as Missouri’s No. 1 Automotive Group.

Bommarito Automotive Group continues to grow its brand while also growing its involvement in motorsports. Bommarito began its motorsports involvement in 2015 with Jordan Anderson Racing and since has evolved into Jordan Anderson Racing with Bommarito Autosport and are owners of the No. 31 NASCAR Xfinity team with driver Myatt Snyder and the No. 3 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Bommarito also holds the title sponsorship for the Bommarito 500 NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at WWTR since 2017. In addition, Bommarito now is involved with the sponsorship of the Vasser Sullivan IMSA team which recently has earned podium finishes in consecutive races. Recently they were the primary sponsor on the iconic #43 Richard Petty NASCAR CUP car at the inaugural Cup Race at WWT Raceway. And now they are proud to announce the partnership with AJ Foyt Racing for the 6th Annual Bommarito 500 with Kyle Kirkwood in the driver seat.

Visit online 24/7 at Bommarito.com and follow their social channels @BommaritoAuto and @BommaritoAutoSport

Rebel Bourbon

For more than 170 years, Rebel Bourbon has been bridging the gap between its proud heritage and modern tastes to honor the rebel spirit that lives in each of us. Featuring an award-winning recipe that dates back to 1849, Rebel Bourbon is made using only the purest Kentucky limestone-filtered water, a wheated mash bill and new, charred American white-oak barrels for aging. The result is a bourbon with a big, round body and full flavor that is defiantly smooth. A spirit of rebellion can be found in every bottle of Rebel Bourbon, making it a favorite among purists and trailblazers alike. Unapologetically original and brazenly bold, Rebel Bourbon invites anyone seeking a bit of defiance, freedom, attitude and a taste of the rebel spirit to “Be More Rebel.” Visit rebelbourbon.com to learn more.

Nashville Wrap Up

Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

The Race

Fans either enjoyed or hated the Music City Grand Prix. Overall, I thought it was a terrible race with some intriguing twists and turns. My parameters for a good race include no more than 25% under caution. 46% is way too high.

Four drivers have had contact in both Nashville races. Colton Herta was able to continue this year and finished fifth. Dalton Kellet, Takuma Sato, and Jimmie Johnson have not seen the checkered flag in the Music City.

Indycar photo by James Black

I am out of ideas for how to improve the racing. The track revisions didn’t help produce a better race. Maybe it is on the drivers. I had a conversation with some Twitter friends last night. We discussed the aggressive driving this race seems to produce. I wonder if Nashville’s place on the schedule has anything to do with what we see?

I don’t recall seeing such aggressive moves throughout the race in St. Pete, Detroit, or Long Beach. By the time Nashville occurs, with just four races left, drivers at the top are trying to get every point they can. Other drivers are fighting for jobs for the following season, and some may be fighting for the last spot in the Leaders’ Circle. Would this race be better earlier in the year?

History

The Music City Grand Prix snatched a permanent place in the Indycar record book as the track where Scott Dixon won his 53rd career race. Now only A. J. Foyt, with 67, is ahead of him. I was happy to hear the two men in their twenties sitting next to me talk about this near the end of the race. I hope they appreciate this in future years.

Chris Owens photo

I’m not sure how many times I have seen Dixon win in person, but I think it is at least a dozen. I have seen him win in the manner of legends- starting last at Mid Ohio and ending up in the winner’ circle; coming from nearly 60 points behind to win the last race of the year for the championship; saving fuel to outlast the rest of the field.

Dixon is just six points behind Will Power with three races left. he is the last person Power wants to see this close to him at this point of the year. Should Dixon emerge as the season champion, he will earn anbother place in history- tied with Foyt with seven titles.

The Event

Music City Grand prix organizers made a lot of improvements since their first event last year. Digital tickets were much easier to access since fans didn’t have to go through the Titans’ app to try to find them.

Gate access was much easier this year. The staff was friendlier and the line moved quickly. There was some confusion as to which gate was for fans with VIP access and which gates ere for other fans.

The grandstands and other infrastructure was all in place buy the time the gates opened Friday morning. The crossover bridge from turn 1 to the infield had an in and an out bridge, which made the trip much easier both ways. Track crossing points were added for fans who have mobility issues. They should have adjusted the times yesterday during the rain delay. many fans hoping to cross to the outer grandstands needed to take the long trek around to get to their seats.

Another crossover bridge near grandstands 6 and 7 might solve a problem here.

Suites and Stands

I am glad that the event has enough interest that more suites appeared for this race. The suites cut off some good grandstand views, however. The new grandstand 7 blocked the view of turn 9 from grandstand 6, which I expected when i chose to sit there. I was not that thrilled with the sightline from my seat. The suites need to be moved back about five feet.

Getting Around

One addition I would like to see for 2023 is a tram shuttle. Fans with seats in the outer stands have a very long walk to get to their seats. For some, the distance may preclude them coming over to the main area around the stadium of the in field to visit friends.

The path from the stadium to 6and 7 also needs work. it is a narrow sidewalk which is used by both pedestrians and golfcart. The accumulated water at the end of the walk Sunday made it even more congested. It appeared there is enough room to accomodate a wider path. One of their clubs might have to give up some space, but it would improve safety.

The Back Entrance

On Friday my Uber driver let me off at the back entrance, near grandstands 6 and 7. This entrance looks like it was added as an afterthought. There is no welcoming signage, just TSA style security gates. Next door is an auto recycling yard, fully visible to all who enter. I understand the need for this entrance. It does take some pressure off the main entrance for the crowds who will sit over there, but the area needs some major spiffing up.

An overhead banner, some signs of welcome, and event volunteers to greet fans would help this desolate outpost feel like it was part of the event.+

Thanks to everyone who followed this lowly site this weekend. I had a better time this year than I did here in 2021, and I was pleased to see the improvements that were in place. I realize it takes several years for an event like this to get everything right. This event is going in the right direction. Let’s work on the racing.

A Few Thoughts on the Music City Grand Prix

Move over, kids, the adults are back in charge. Scott Dixon’s historic win today moves him into second place in the championship, six points behind Will Power. It is going to be fun watching these 40 year olds duke it out the last three races of the year.

Dixon also pased Mario Andretti to take sole possession of second place on the Indycar career victory list with 53. I was sad that I missed his record tying win in Toronto last month, but seeing him move into second place alone more than made up for missing the Toronto race.

The track underwent some changrs since last year’s caution filled race. The result was even more caution laps and another totally unnecessary red flag with four laps to go. Indycar was lucky that another caution didn’t occur in the funal two green laps. The odds certainly favored that outcome.

Missed Opportunities

There missed career best finishes. Kyle Kirkwood and David Malukas were both headed for their best results of their rookie campaigns until they collided in turn 9 on lap 63. Kirkwood has had difficulty completing races this season, but Malkukas has bee coming on strong.

Christian Lundgaard was in line for his second straight podium but faded to eighth as he had no push to pass left on the last restart.

Marcus Ericsson had worked his way from 18th spot to get ahead of Power and at one time closed to within three points of the points leader. It all went away as his car stopped with two laps to go. He is third in points, 12 behind Power.

RLL Continues Improvement

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has come to life the last two weeks.

Lundgaard was in contention for his second consecutive podium until he rab out of push to pass at the end. He finished eighth. Meanwhile Jack Harvey finished 10th. The team has ahd two top 10 finishers for two consecutive weeks.

What Else Can Be Done?

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix made changes to the track afetr the 2021 race to eliminate some of the problems we saw last year. The resuklt was even more cautions. Last year I thought it was the track design. Improvements. This year, I’m thinking it was not the track. I will have to look at last year’s race summary to see if any of the same drivers were involved in incidents last year.

Indycar can’t keep having nearly 50% of an event run under caution.

Final Thoughts

Much of the very large crowd stayed through the rain delay and many stayed for the entire race. Grandstands 4 and 5 were completely filled for the whole race.

The event was much improved in many ways, which I will discuss in my wrap up tomorrow afternoon. There are still a few things to tweak. I realize it takes several years for an event of this type to get things right. The Nashville group made very good progress in their second year.

Thanks for following along this weekend.

Nashville Race Day

Today’s Schedule: All Times Central

8:00 AM GATES OPEN

9:15 AM INDYCAR WARMUPS Peacock

10:00 AM VINTAGE INDY SESSION

10:55 AM GT AMERICA RACE 2

12:10 PM INDY LIGHTS RACE Peacock

1:20 PM INDYCAR PRE RACE CEREMONIES

2:30 PM INDYCAR BIG MACHINE MUSIC CITY GRAND PRIX NBCPeacock

4:45 PM INDYCAR VICTORY LANE CELEBRATION

5:05 PM STADIUM SUPER TRUCKS RACE 2

5:45 PM POST RACE CONCERT – BRANTLEY GILBERT & CARLY PEARCE

It will be another hot sticky day in Nashville, Temperature at race time will be 91 degrees with a heat index approaching triple digits. Stay hydrated if you are at the track.

Drivers expressed concerns about the heat in the cars yesterday. Apparently cooling shirts will not be used as of now. I’m not sure why. If everyone used them the wieght disadvantage is neutralized.

Can Scott McLaughlin win from the pole again? he is the only driver to do so this year. The driver starting second has woin seven times in 2022. Team Penske has looked strong all weekend. I’m going with Josef Newgarden today. His strategy during the Fast Six yesterday tells me that team is on to something.

From Last Night

McLaughlin on Music City Pole

https://thepitwindow.blog/2022/08/06/mclaughlin-on-music-city-pole/

Marcus Ericsson won from 18th last year, and he starts there again today. I don’t think this race will be as chaotic as the 2021 race to allow him to move that far forward. again.

The Starting Lineup