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IndyCar Series race preview: Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline Fast Facts

by Mike Haag | Posted on Friday, August 25th, 2017

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns this weekend to Gateway Motorsports Park for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline. Photo by: Chris Owens

Race weekend: Friday, Aug. 25 – Saturday, Aug. 26

Track: Gateway Motorsports Park, a 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Illinois

Race distance: 248 laps / 310 miles

Entry list: Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline (PDF)

Firestone tire allotment: Ten sets for use throughout the weekend

Twitter: @GatewayMSP @IndyCar, #Bommarito500, #IndyCar

Event website: www.gatewaymsp.com/ 

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com 

Most recent race winner (2003): Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota)

Most recent pole winner (2003): Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota), 25.5732 seconds, 175.965 mph (one lap)

One-lap qualifying record: Raul Boesel, 24.324 seconds, 187.963 mph, May 23, 1997

NBCSN television broadcasts: Qualifying, 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 26 (tape delayed); Race, 9 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 26 (live); Kevin Lee is the lead announcer for the NBCSN broadcasts this weekend alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Anders Krohn and Robin Miller.

Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query is the turn announcer with Rob Howden, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young reporting from the pits. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. All Verizon IndyCar Series practice and qualifying sessions are available on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Video streaming: Practice and qualifying for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar).

INDYCAR Mobile app: Verizon’s INDYCAR Mobile app is available across all carriers. Exclusive features for Verizon Wireless customers will stream live through the app and include enhanced real-time leaderboard and car telemetry; live in-car camera video streaming for select drivers during Verizon IndyCar Series races; live driver and pit crew radio transmissions during races and live Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network audio streaming during all track activities.

At-track schedule (all times local):
 
Friday, Aug. 25
4 – 5 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live) 
6:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single car/cumulative time of two laps), RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)/NBCSN (Taped, 7:30 p.m. ET Aug. 26)
9 – 10 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series final practice, RaceControl.IndyCar.com (Live)

Saturday, Aug. 26
7:15 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series pit stop competition
8:01 p.m. – Driver introductions
8:40 p.m. – Command to start engines
8:45 p.m. – ABC Supply 500 (248 laps/310 miles), NBCSN (Live)

Championship facts:

• Josef Newgarden leads the Verizon IndyCar Series championship with three races to go for the first time in his career. Newgarden took the championship lead for the first time in his career following his win at Mid-Ohio on July 30.

• Josef Newgarden leads Scott Dixon by 18 points with Helio Castroneves (-22) and Simon Pagenaud (-26) just behind. Will Power is fifth, 42 points behind Newgarden. With 54 maximum points available at Gateway, the points lead could change for the fifth time in 2017.

• There are 15 drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship: Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Ed Jones and JR Hildebrand. Any driver who trails the points leader by 159 points or more following the race will be eliminated from contention.

• Since the first Indy car race at Gateway Motorsports Park in 1997, only Alex Zanardi (1998) won the Gateway race and the championship in the same season.

Key championship point statistic: The driver who has led the championship with three races to go has failed to win the championship in five of the last seven seasons. Will Power in 2014 and Simon Pagenaud in 2016 are the exceptions.

Point differential: The 18 points which separate Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon is the third smallest margin with three races to go since 2010. Will Power led Helio Castroneves by four points in 2014 and Ryan Hunter-Reay by five points in 2012. The average deficit with three races to go since 2010 is 22.6 points.

Championship-eligible drivers results at Gateway: Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan are the only drivers to have raced Indy cars previously at Gateway Motorsports Park and all have led laps there…Castroneves won at the track in 2003 and has never finished outside the top 10 in five starts…Kanaan finished second in 2003.

Race notes:

• There have been nine different winners in the 14 previous Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2017: Sebastien Bourdais (Streets of St. Petersburg), James Hinchcliffe (Streets of Long Beach), Josef Newgarden (Barber Motorsports Park, Streets of Toronto and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Simon Pagenaud (Phoenix Raceway), Will Power (INDYCAR Grand Prix, Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway), Takuma Sato (Indianapolis 500), Graham Rahal (Raceway at Belle Isle-1 and Raceway at Belle Isle-2), Scott Dixon (Road America) and Helio Castroneves (Iowa Speedway). Bourdais’ win at St. Pete on March 12 gave him sole possession of sixth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 36 wins. Dixon’s win at Road America on June 25 was his 41st career victory and he will tie Michael Andretti for third all time with his next win. Castroneves’ win at Iowa on July 9 ended a 54-race winless streak and gave him sole possession of 12th all time with 30 wins. Power’s win at Pocono on Aug. 20 gave him sole possession of ninth on the all-time list with 32 wins.

• The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline will be the eighth Indy car race at Gateway Motorsports Park. Helio Castroneves won the last race at the track in 2003. Paul Tracy won the first Indy car race at Gateway in 1997. Castroneves is the only former winner entered in this year’s race.

• Three drivers have won the Gateway race from the pole – Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Gil de Ferran (2002) and Helio Castroneves (2003).

• Team Penske has won three times at Gateway Motorsports Park. Penske’s winning drivers are: Paul Tracy (1997), Gil de Ferran (2002) and Helio Castroneves (2003). Chip Ganassi Racing has two wins at Gateway with Alex Zanardi in 1998 and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000.

• Only three drivers entered in the event have competed in past Indy car races at Pocono. Helio Castroneves has five starts, most among the entered drivers. Three entered drivers have led laps at the track (Castroneves 219, Scott Dixon 71 and Tony Kanaan 21). 

• Tony Kanaan seeks to start his 280th consecutive race this weekend, which would extend his Indy car record streak that began in June 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 221 consecutive starts heading into the weekend, which is the second-longest streak in Indy car racing. Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti has made 197 consecutive starts, which is the fourth-longest streak in Indy car racing.

• Helio Castroneves will attempt to make his 342nd career Indy car start, which ranks third on the all-time list. Tony Kanaan is fourth all-time with 340 starts.

BOMMARITO AUTOMOTIVE GROUP 500 PRE-EVENT QUOTES:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s three fun weeks. We’re racing every week now. It’s crunch time for the championship. This is what racing is all about when you have to bring your ‘A’ game in tough situations. Gateway is a new track for me. It’s a fast, short oval. I think for our package, it’s going to be quite good. They just resurfaced the track and it’s beautiful. Everyone did a fantastic job. We’ll have the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet this weekend. It’s great to have them on board in their Midwest footprint and always great to go to victory lane with them and that’s what we hope to do.”
 
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet):“Gateway is going to be really exciting since I haven’t ran a race there. It’s been a long time since INDYCAR has been there, which presents a new challenge especially with a brand-new track surface. The No. 2 PPG Chevy crew and I have hit a stride as we continue to run well, including a podium finish at Pocono. We continue to try new things and really gel. We’re really happy with how this season has been going and know we have to continue to work hard because, with only a few races left, anything can happen. So we want to do whatever we can to have great points days so we can maintain our lead. I can’t wait to see a new crowd of fans and know that the whole series will put on a great show for those fans.”
 
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m really excited to go back to Gateway. Last time I was there, it was a really fun crowd and I can’t wait to see them all again. I’m one of the few in the Verizon IndyCar Series who have actually raced there since it’s been awhile since the series has been there. I feel that we have an advantage since we won there when we used to race there. However, with a new track surface, it’s anyone’s game. The No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy team and I know we have a lot of work to do to gain back some points, but we’re ready to perform well and make it happen.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I’ve been looking forward to the Gateway race since our first test there in May. I’ve really enjoyed the testing we’ve done there this year, and we’ve been quick every time on track, so I have high expectations for the weekend. It’ll be supremely close as INDYCAR weekends normally are, but I hope to be fighting at the front end of the field all weekend long.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Any time a new track is added to the schedule, people get pretty excited about it. Gateway is definitely one of those. The repave was really well done and the surface now is as nice as any track on the calendar. It should lead to some great racing. Obviously (Pocono) was a strong run for us until the crash, so we are hoping to be able to keep that speed and bring home a solid finish with the Arrow car.”

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):“We’re looking forward to Gateway. It’s a place which, historically, has given great shows for the fans to watch. Speaking to Hinch (James Hinchcliffe), who tested there a bit ago, he enjoyed it very much and gave me really good viewpoints to help me get better prepared. I’m looking forward to working more with the No. 7 crew. We have created a great relationship and continuing work with the engineering staff to continue to evolve the car and bring some points home for the team.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): “Having only completed a short test (in May) due to the surface issues, I am really looking forward to seeing what the track and its new silky surface has to offer for us. I feel like we have unfinished business after an unfortunate weekend in Pocono, so I’m happy we have only six days between the two races.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “2003 seems like such a long time ago when we last ran at Gateway. I love oval racing and am excited the series is expanding and the track is investing back into the sport. The track was repaved recently so there will definitely be a learning curve for the race this weekend. With a two-day weekend format, you’ll really need to maximize practice time and get all the data you can for the race. I’m looking forward to going back to a great market and a Saturday night race.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): “I love that INDYCAR is going back to Gateway after such a long hiatus. The last time we ran there in 2003, I came so close to getting a win, but just didn’t have enough to get past Helio (Castroneves) and had to settle for a runner-up finish. From what I’ve heard, the repave has made all the difference after our first test on the oval in May, so I can’t wait to get out there and see for myself. It sounds like the St. Louis INDYCAR fans are really embracing this race, so hopefully we can give them a great show under the lights Saturday night.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “What a win that was at Pocono. We definitely did not see that coming, but it was awesome. Now we’re headed to Gateway and we’re really excited. There’s only a few races left, so points are critical and myself and the No. 12 Verizon Chevy crew are working hard to try and do well to move up in points. It’s a tight battle with the top five right now, and that’s really great. It makes it more fun but challenging every weekend knowing what’s at stake. We haven’t raced at Gateway before, and it’s a new track surface, so we will really have to be on our game. The team continues to give me strong cars, so I feel we can definitely bring home another great finish this weekend.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “After they repaved the track at Gateway, my teammate Conor Daly ran there a few hours. The car seemed pretty competitive – he was second fastest. I think we have a strong package. In the open test (in May), our team was really quick. It seems like a nice track, it’s new for everyone and they did a great job with the repaving. I’m looking forward to Gateway. We need to keep the top-10s coming.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda): “St. Louis is going to be a difficult race for a lot of people. It’s a challenging place. We had a decent test there after the repaving, so I’m looking forward to going back for the race. Hopefully we can gain some points and have Lady Luck on our side and have a good weekend. The repaving was good. The track is extremely grippy on the racing line. If you get off line, it’s a bit slippery, but it’s grippy on line and it’s also very smooth. Curtis (Francois) and his team did a phenomenal job. Everybody is going to go there and have a great time. We will put on a great show. I think it’s going to be the best short oval show of the year because the straightaway is so long. In essence, Turns 3 and 4 are fairly easy so it makes for a very, very long straightaway. Turns 1 and 2 though are a lot like Pocono with very heavy loads, and things happen in the blink of an eye, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. INDYCAR will put on a good show for sure. Thanks to Fifth Third for their increased involvement in our program. I’m excited to race in their colors and put on a good show. They have been a great supporter of ours for a few years now but to see them step up the way that they have means a lot to our program. We’re going to go out there and try to make them proud.”

ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): “I’m enjoying this back-to-back racing as we have a rhythm going. Obviously, the weekend at Pocono was quite interesting. Hopefully we can use the progress we’ve made and the experience I have gained so far to try and do things better at Gateway. I also hope that my experience from Pocono and Iowa will allow me to use the practice session to work on getting the car better instead of me having to learn, which will allow us to tune everything for qualifying. It’s a night race so that will also be quite interesting and a bit different for me. I’m quite looking forward to that. I hope that everything will go well this weekend for us as a team. We need to stay focused on our targets and try to accomplish them this weekend.”

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): “The group at Gateway has done a tremendous job to get the facility ready to bring the Verizon IndyCar Series there. It was such a huge difference from our test there earlier this year to when we tested again earlier this month on the new surface. I’m really excited to go back for the race. I really enjoyed it, and it’s now among my favorite ovals to drive, so I can’t wait to get there. It should be an interesting race. It might be a little challenging with our aero package on the short oval, but it should still be a fun event.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I am very excited to be coming back to Gateway. Having raced there in the past (in Indy Lights), I think that it will be a great show. A lot of racetracks we go to are fairly symmetrical from one end to the other. Gateway isn’t. Turns 1 and 2 in St. Louis are very tight and a little more banky, very challenging. Turns 3 and 4 are more open radius and fast cornering. It’s similar to Pocono (Raceway), not in layout but in uniqueness and character. When you have that, it really makes it a challenge for the driver and the team to get a balance in the car that works at both ends of the track. When you have that compromise, I think it produces really good racing.”
 
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “I’m looking forward to the last short oval on the schedule, where I hope we can continue to be as strong as we’ve tended to be earlier in the year. There are certainly still some unknowns with this being a new event, but the Fuzzy’s Vodka team has been doing a great job and we’ll be looking to make good on that.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Adding a new venue to the schedule always brings excitement. I only drove on the Gateway track a few laps when we tested there, so I was never completely up to speed, but I’m looking forward to this challenging track. Gateway is our last oval race for the season, and I hope we can show the speed there that we have shown at all the other ovals.

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It’s always exciting to add a new venue to the schedule, and I’m really looking forward to get to Gateway. The track did a great job with the repave, and I can’t wait to try it out. It will be fun seeing what the new track surface wants – setup-wise. I think it will be an exciting race with a lot of drafting, so I hope we can put on a good show for the fans

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I really love short ovals, so the addition of Gateway on the INDYCAR schedule was really good news. I’ve been looking forward to racing the DHL Honda there for quite some time. Gateway did an excellent job on the repave. I’m eager to see how the racing will be.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): “I’m excited to get to Gateway Motorsports Park this weekend for some short-track racing. I had the opportunity to take a few laps on the new asphalt during a media event last month, and while I was driving a Honda pace car instead of my No. 83 Tresiba Honda, I got a good sense that it’s so much smoother and will create some great racing under the lights on Saturday night. The pavement investment by the track and all of the excitement surrounding this new event on our schedule helps bring some momentum as we head toward the season finale. There will definitely be quite a few unknowns and challenges for the teams, with limited testing and Turns 1 and 3 being so different.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): “Coming off two podiums in three races, we have the momentum we need going into the closing stages of the season. Gateway is going to be a new experience for all of us, but like every chance to get in a race car, I am excited. The promoters and track have done an incredible job preparing for us, and I look forward to putting on a great show for the fans.”

Courtesy of the Verizon IndyCar Series

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.