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IndyCar Open Wheel

2017 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Preview

Momentum?  It’s more like we are down to just three more races for the season, so every race is magnified in importance, and there is no clear favorite for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar championship.

Look Out For?  It’s a matter of what rather than who. Since Gateway is more of a NASCAR track, and geared for their slower cars, we need to be concerned about attrition, which has been minimal this year, except for Phoenix and Texas.

Sentimental Favorite?  This is the series’ return to Gateway, which is in Illinois but is closest to St. Louis, so no one.

Challenges?  The track owners repaved the surface to the tune of seven figures after IndyCar testing revealed “issues” earlier this year. Whether or not these improvements will mitigate the concerns remains to be seen.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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By Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson is a graduate of the University of Arizona and spent her corporate career as a Controller. She is a lifelong writer who has been covering open wheel racing since 2000 and is the author of historical articles and co-author of one book She and her husband, photographer Jeff Davidson, have two daughters and make their home in Murrieta, CA.