Another Oval on the Endangered Species List?

The signs were there and yesterday I was able to confirm through several sources that World Wide Technology Raceway will host a NASCAR races June 5, 2022. I have many feelings about this announcement, which becomes official this morning. First, I am insulted as an Indycar fan at the post WWTR put out the other day about the track’s local announcement. To paraphrase, the track said the announcement would be the biggest in the track’s motorsports history.

Second, I fear for Indycar’s future at the track as well as how modifications NASCAR will inevitably want to make will affect the racing. NASCAr has a history of pushing Indycar off of track schedules and modifying the track to make tgheir racing better. The modifications usually are at Indycar’s expense. The first turns at Phoenix and Texas were changed to accommodate NASCAR. Indycar no longer races at Phoenix, and Texas may soon be off the schedule. Eddie Gossage, who remained loyal to Indycar throughout the split and reunification, is stepping down at Texas.

Indycar just signed a three year extension plus a two year option at WWTR. At the race last month, track management treated it as a five year deal. I’m wondering about the option years now.

Curtis Francois and Chris Blair have been model promoters for Indycar. They have sent a team to IMS during test days and have tirelessly promoted the event. The race sponsor, Bommarito Automotive Group, has also boosted the race well. I wonder how much the Indycar promotion will change now.

Fans in the area now have to make a choice of which race to attend. Entertainment dollars only go so far. As we have seen at other tracks, Indycar attendance seems to suffer when NASCAR joins a track’s schedule. Texas had great crowds when Fans had to buy a season ticket to the track,. When Indycar was no longer a part of the season package, attendance dropped.

I understand that tracks need all the income they can get, and NASCAR is a cash cow. Still the diminishing of Indycar at This particular track is very hard to take. The promoters have been great for Indycar. I hope I’m wrong, and the track continues to boost Indycar as they have in the past. Francois and Blair have broken new ground in Indycar promotions. Let’s see if they will break new ground in treating Indycar as an equal to NASCAR.

Bommarito 500 – The Race of Many Faces

Photo: Josef Newgarden may not have had the fastest car, but he had the best looking one. Photo by Chris Owens, indycar

The Bommarito Autuomotive Group 500 last night was many things. It was messy, it was great racing, it was processional, and it was dramatic. When six cars are knocked out of the race in the first 65 laps, you have to wonder if anyone will be left by the end. The race then settled down and Colton Herta, who had the fastest car took control on lap 139. behind him was a great battle for second and Takuma Sato and Romain Grosjean kept the crowd’s attention. Sato with a couple of close calls as he battled Ryan Hunter-Reay- they have tangled several times in the past- and Grosjean, in his first ever oval race, wowing the crowd with good passes and some anxious moves toward the outer wall. In the end, after Pato O’Ward’s best chance at catching winner Josef Newgarden’s car failed, it was a procession to the end.

Finally a clean first lap at Gateway, but the relief was short lived. Indycar Photo by James Black

The race changed after Herta’s third pit stop when the drive shaft broke on his out lap. That left Rossi as the only other driver to contend with Newgarden, although his car was not good after his last stop. Rossi crashed on lap 200, and O’Ward had one last chance to catch the leader on the final restart.

Saturday’s race was the second of the last three with six or more cars eliminated by contact. Two of the four title contenders, including Alex Palou, the points leader, were involved last night. It didn’t help either of them that the other two contenders finished 1-2. Just 43 points separate the top four in the standings with three races to go. The next race, Portland, has the always risky first turn, which has resulted in lots of car damage in the last two starts.

Notes

Josef Newgarden has won three of the six Indycar races since the series returned in 2017.

Foyt’s Best Track? World Wide Technology Raceway has produced great results for A. J. Foyt Racing the last five years. Last night Sebastien Bourdais finished fifth and led 18 laps. Dalton Kellett finished 12th. In 2019 tony Kanaan stood on the podium in 3rd, and in 2017, Conor Daly ended the race in fifth. Larry Foyt told in 2017 that the team found something about this track and whatever they learned still seems to work.

Changes at the Top- yesterday was a day of changing leadership. Not only did Pato O’Ward retake the lead in the Indycar standings, David Malukas is the new leader in Indy lights after sweeping the two races this weekend. Whether they can stay on top is going to be exciting to watch.

Lots of Beer, Little Food– It seems the beer vendors decidedly outnumbered the food vendors Saturday by at least two to one. i saw mostly barbecue and the standard track fare of burgers and little else. But if you wanted a beer or other adult beverage, a booth was always in arm’s reach. It seems to me that there were more food vendors in previous years. The event is supposed to be growing, and Indycar will be back for five more years. It’s an area th track needs to give attention to.

Scott Mclaughlin increased his lead over Romain Grosjean for Rookie of the Year to 23 points with his fourth place finish last night. I still think Grosjean will be ahead going into the season finale at Long Beach.

Thanks for following along on this hectic weekend. I am going to take a break for a couple of days unless something major happens, like F1 replacing the Japanese Grand Prix with an oval race at IMS.

Race Day

It’s also practice and qualifications day for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 as Indycar has a one day show at World Wide Technology Raceway. Right now 8ts cloudy and there have been sprinkles in the area. It looks like qualifications might be impacted by the best chances for rain this afternoon but the weather should be fine for the race.

Today’s schedule:

In last evening’s Indy Lights race, David Malukas won to cut Kyle Kirkwood’s lead to just 2 points. Race 2 is today.

II’ll be heading out to the track for practice in a bit. I’m looking forward to a fun day.

Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Preview

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.

Romain Grosjean will make his first oval start Saturday.

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.

Daly, Rossi Looking for Good Results at Gateway

Indycar photo

Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi both enjoy World Wide Technology Raceway, and they are looking forward to good results Saturday. Both drivers said they enjoy racing there. Rossi is eager to race at the track near St. Louis after his team had a very good test there this year. Rossi is anxious to see how the one day event plays out.

” I love that we’re having the night race again,” Rossi said, “I think that’s critical for short
oval racing. Short oval racing but for the 500 is meant to
be raced at night, easier to follow cars. Everything about it is better. Looking forward to that, having the fans back. Yeah, I think it’s going to be an
interesting kind of experiment for us to do a one-day event.
See how that goes.”

Daly added, ” Yeah, it’s one of my favorite tracks. I
couldn’t tell you why. Ever since our very first test day with
Foyt, where we were quickest, we kind of all looked at
each other, This is weird, not really sure why this is
happening.
I love racing there. Love the way that track challenges us
as drivers and challenges these cars. It will be fun. I’m
just happy to be racing, honestly, which is nice.”

Alexander Rossi photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Rossi talked about his season and how situations have prevented him from showing better results. the last three races have had mostly better results, and he is confident of a strong finish to the season.

” Yeah, I mean, the pace has been great; it hasn’t really
resulted in much. Obviously with the field now, every small
mistake and issue and mis-step in setup decisions from
session to session has a bigger effect than it used to. It
requires everyone to really be perfect throughout the
weekend.
It is what it is. I think the Indy GP, this past race was good.
Nashville we obviously had good pace, but it didn’t result
in anything. Yeah, I mean, I think it’s all down to some
circumstances ultimately/”

, who isDaly talked about the challenges Romain Grosjean driving his first oval race this season, faces.

“… it’s going to be tough without a doubt. I think when you show
up to, like, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it being your
first oval, there’s so much practice, right? There’s so much
testing. Romain obviously got to test, which is great.
When you’re out there, at Indy when we practice, you get a
lot of traffic, you get kind of a feel for what’s going on.
Realistically there’s so little track time in Gateway, he’s
going to be thrust into a very, very new situation.”

The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is scheduled for a green flag start at 8:40 pm EDT Saturday night.

Quick Thoughts- Gateway Race 2

Photo: The race on the pit road exit lane decided the race.

Passing has always been difficult at World wide Technology Raceway, and yesterday was an extreme example of it. When leader Takuma Sato couldn’t lap Ed Carpenter or even get close to him, it set the tome for a very processional race. It was definitely a race that could ahve been helped by a yellow flag or two.

While pit work is very much appreciated, I would rather see races won on the track. The pit crews were on their game this weekend, but on track action is what the series needs to showcase.

Sato showed no signs of an Indy hangover this weekend with a second, a pole, and an eight place finish. He is still fourth in points.

Points for the weekend– Dixon 81, O’Ward 79, Newgarden 69, Sato 67

Congratulations to Rinus VeeKay for his career best fourth place finish Sunday. VeeKay finished sixth on Saturday. He has improved a lot this year after a shaky start at Texas. The rookie is carrying Ed Carpenter Racing this season.

Conor Daly and Carlin is a great pairing. This weekend he earned his third and fourth top tens from his five oval races with the team.

Last year at Gateway vintage cars dropped oil on the track just before qualifying. This year the first responders parade, which was great, also left some fluid on the track. I understand the need for prerace presentations, but Indycar might want to begin the festivities a little earlier to allow for these issues to be resolved.

Was yesterday the last race of 2020 where fans will be allowed? Jay Frye said he is 80-90% certain Mid Ohio will take place, but he said nothing about fans being able to attend.  The Harvest Classic is iffy for fans. and I am stoill skeptical about St. Pete running or running with fans.

The first through fourth finish for Chevy powered cars Sunday was a bit of redemption for their showing at Indianapolis.

I thought Indycar threw the yellow awfully fast when Sato hit the wall. He kept going and maybe should have been black flagged. I don’t think O’Ward would have caught or passed newgarden in any case.

I’m glad that Tony Kanaan had one top ten finish this weekend in what may have been his final Indycar race outside of the Indianapolis 500. He has been a great driver and very popular with the fans. I know many fans who became interestd in Indycar because of him. Sponsorship may prevent him from running more races. If that is the case, I want to say thank you, Tony. You have been a great ambassador for the sport.

History Made – Quick Thoughts on Race 1

Photo: James Black, Indycar

We were going to see history today. We just didn’t know what it would be. Was it going to be O’Ward’s first victory, Dixon’s 50th, or a repeat winner at this track?

50 Indycar wins for Scott Dixon. Nothing else to say. The way his season is going, he could catch and pass Mario Andretti this season for second place on the all time win list.

Asking for a friend- Is someone really old if they have seen all three Indycar drivers who have won 50 or more races drive and win?

Pato O’Ward will sometime soon get the last stint right and stand atop the podium. Maybe tomorrow.

What Indy 500 hangover? Takuma Sato finished a strong second today, starts on pole tomorrow, and moved up to fourth in points. This ranks as one the best next races after winning the 500 I remember.

Andretti Autosport has a lot of work to do tonight. Losing three cars before they even reach the starting line typifies the type of season the team is having.

I still need to see the replay of the start, but from what I have seen it looks like Power brought the field to the line too slow and drivers in the back got anxious. I’m not sure what Alex Palou was thinking being that far out of line.

Starts and restarts have been a problem this year. Road America race 2 also had a slow start. Colton Herta had the restart problem at Iowa.

Conor Daly earned another top ten finish for Carlin Racing. Daly has really helped that team. Sad that tomorrow is his final race with them this season.

Runus VeeKay’s sixth place finish is his best oval result this year. After a rough start at Texas, VeeKay has worked hard to improve on ovals.

Tony Kanaan’ s ninth place is a nice finish as he closes his season Sunday.

Herta had a quiet fourth place finish.

The points race is all but over. Dixon holds a 117 point lead over Newgarden, and O’Ward is another 13 behind. It has been a while since the pints leader has had such control of the championship. It’s been a long time since someone had won half of the races this deep into the year.

O’Ward Leads Practice

Photo: Indycar, James Black

Pato O’Ward lead the field in the only practice session for the Bommarito Autuomotive Group 500 this afternoon. O’Ward turned in a 181.532 mph lap on the 66th lap of his 75 circuits.  Qualifying is at noon Eastern time tomorrow, followed by Race 1 at 3:40 Eastern Sunday’s race is also at 3:40 eastern. Both races will be on NBCSN.

Santino Ferrucci lost the drive in his car and sat out most of the session, turning just 40 laps. Ryan Hunter-Reay also had issues and ran a session low 32 laps. Points leader Scott Dixon was third quickest. The entire field was within 1.1 seconds of the leader.

I will be traveling to Gateway very early tomorrow morning and should arrive in time for qualifying. Look for a brief qualifying report. my Quick Thoughts on Race 1 will post late Saturday evening.

The time sheet:

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Bommarito 500 Preview-A More Traditional Schedule

An oval the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 hasn’t happened for at least seven years. Milwaukee traditionally followed Indianapolis  on the schedule. One good thing all the schedule changes did was bring this bit of nostalgia. It’s not Milwaukee, but world Wide Technology Raceway, still called Gateway by many, has a double header this weekend.

It will be a different Gateway weekend in keeping with the adjustments 2020 has forced upon everyone. Both races will run in the daytime instead of at night as they have the last three years. The scheduled distance is 200 laps per race. The single race was 248 laps. Like Iowa, the racing should be different in the daytime from what it was like at night.

Gateway has hosted Indycar races since 1997, when CART ran a race the day before the Indianapolis 500 for three years. The last CART race was  September of 2000, as CART teams decided they wanted to go back to Indianapolis. The IRL raced at Gateway from 2001-2003. Indycar returned in 2017.

There are some oddities in the history of the track and the series. Tony Kanaan is the only driver participating this weekend who has driven in every race here, regardless of which series sanctioned the event. No driver has won the race at Gateway more than once. The only times the pole winner won were in 2002, when Gil de Ferran took the checkered flag, and 2003, when Helio Castroneves pulled the double.

Six active drivers have finished in the top ten twice- Conor Daly, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato. Pagenaud has the best average finish of fourth.

The weekend schedule can be found here:

https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/08/25/world-wide-technology-schedule/

500 Hangover?

The winner of the Indianapolis 500 goes on a whirlwind media tour after the race and sometimes struggles the following weekend.  Sato is the defending winner of this race. I look for him to be better on Sunday than he is on Saturday. It has been a while since the winner of the 500 won the next race.

More Success for Daly and Carlin?

This weekend marks the last two races for Conor Daly and Carlin Racing on the ovals. The results to date have been pretty decent. Daly won the pole for Race 1 at Iowa. He has scored  a sixth at Texas, and an eighth  in Iowa race 1. 72 of Daly’s 121 points have come in the Carlin entry.  Daly also has earned a fifth place at gateway driving for Foyt Racing.  I see daly as having another good weekend. in the St. Louis area.

Chevy Comeback?

After Honda’s domination at Indianapolis, Chevrolet looks to rebound. This is a strong track for the bow tie. Chevy powered cars had won three races in a row before Honda’s win last year.  Chevy did win the pole in 2019 and Ed Carpenter came within 0,03 seconds of winning.  Chevy should again have a strong performance at a track that has seemed to favor their engines.

Clean Start?

Since Indycar’s return to Gateway, clean starts have been an issue. Last year there was an incident on lap 2 involving Marcus Ericsson. The previous two years, issues at the start caused yellows just after the green flag. Will a daytime race fix the problem?

Dixon’s Title March

Scott Dixon’s runner up finish last weekend in the Indianapolis 500 gives him an 84 point lead over Josef Newgarden. No one else is within 100 points of Dixon. A pair of good finishes this weekend could put the title virtually out of reach. Dixon won the first three races of the season and has two seconds and a fifth place as well. The second race at road america is his only finish outside the top ten this season.I don’t see Dixon losing ground here. he is having one of the strongest seasons we have seen from a driver in a while.

Notes

Kody Swanson, five time USAC Midget champion, will again drive for Legacy motorsport in the Indy Pro 2000 race at 1 pm Central time on Saturday. Swanson drove the car to victory in his debut at Lucas oil raceway on Carb Night. The deal was put together at the last minute, and the crew worked without pay to get the car ready. Sw2anson drove a great race after starting second. Once he got the lead he pulled away from the field. He is a driver that i hope gets a shot at Indycar in the next couple of years.

Mid Ohio will rune September 11-13 pending government approval. The track plans to allow 10,000 fans. The doubleheader was postponed from August 8 and 9. it will stay as a double header. I wonder if they have already sold more than 10,000 tickets. if so, how will they resolve the excess tickets?