Preview: 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Gateway

by Jordan Groves

There is no slowing down for the Verizon IndyCar Series as we get ever closer to the 2018 season finale at Sonoma Raceway in just over three weeks time. For this weekend’s fifteenth round of seventeen, the series heads to its final oval race of the season, the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi look to be the two main contenders for the crown, but Gateway’s reigning winner Josef Newgarden is only a handful of strong results away from being right back in the mix. Here is everything you need to know ahead of this Saturday’s night race.

What happened in 2017 at Gateway?

Twelve months ago, we saw perhaps the best example of Team Penske‘s incredible speed in qualifying. The team took a sensational 1-2-3-4 result, with Will Power leading the way ahead of team-mates Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Power held a three tenth advantage over Newgarden, but perhaps more impressive was the gap between the leading quartet and their nearest rival. Ed Carpenter qualified in fifth place, with over half a second between him and Pagenaud in fourth place.

Sadly for Power, his time at the front of the pack during the race would be extremely limited. Newgarden flew around the outside of Power at turn one on lap one to take the lead of the race, with Power spinning into the wall and out of the race a few moments later.

Newgarden would stay in the lead of the race until a pit-stop mishap saw him drop behind his team-mates. Castroneves, too, would then have his own problems in the pits, which would hand the lead over to Pagenaud for the final stint of the race. He had Newgarden right on his gearbox for much of the race, with Josef eventually going for the lead with a bold move with around thirty laps to go.

Newgarden got a fantastic run off of the final corner and just about managed to squeeze his car into a gap on the inside of Pagenaud going into turn one. The pair made wheel-to-wheel contact going into the turn, but both managed to keep going; with Newgarden now in the lead of the race.

Josef would hold the lead for the remaining laps, coming home to take a crucial victory which would increase his lead at the top of the championship table with only two races remaining. His closest championship rival, Scott Dixon, would come home in second place after Pagenaud lost all his momentum after Newgarden’s risky overtake. Simon would have to settle for third place.

You can read the reports from last year’s qualifying and race at Gateway by following the links below

What should I look out for this weekend?

After their domination of this race one year ago, it would be remiss to bet against Penske being back on form again this weekend. For the defending race winner, Josef Newgarden, this weekend may well be his best chance to claw back some vital points in the championship. The reigning series champion currently sits third in the points standings and is reliant on great results in Gateway and Portland if he wants to have the best possible chance of being in the fight for the title at Sonoma.

Newgarden may not be the Penske driver with the best chances of victory this weekend, however. Will Power’s pace in the oval races this season has been fantastic, with the Australian having shown speed every time he has taken to a speedway. A year ago, he took pole at Gateway but retired early after spinning into the wall. He will be hoping he can show what might have been had he not crashed out this time around.

The story of the last two races has been the ever-increasing momentum of Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi. The Californian is on a hot streak at the moment having won the last two races at the very different locations of Mid-Ohio and Pocono Raceway. Rossi is the closest contender to Scott Dixon in the championship, with just twenty-nine points now separating the pair heading into this weekend. Rossi finished sixth at Gateway a year ago. He’ll be wanting to better that result if he wants to be certain of further decreasing Dixon’s advantage; as the New Zealander came away with a second-place at the speedway in 2017.

Last but not least, keep an eye on James Hinchcliffe this weekend. James is the most recent driver to have won an IndyCar race on a “short track” oval, having won Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway at the beginning of last month. The pace of his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda that day was impressive and he will be hoping that he is in contention for a win again this weekend.

What’s more, you can imagine that Hinchcliffe will want to put himself and the team back in victory circle, as a win would be a fantastic way to bounce back from a hard race last time out at Pocono, where Hinchcliffe’s friend and team-mate Robert Wickens sustained multiple injuries to his extremities and spine in a horrific crash. Robert, thankfully, is in a stable condition in hospital, but he is awaiting further treatment as his potentially long road to recovery begins. He will undoubtedly be in the minds of his team, his friends and his fellow competitors as they take to the race track on Saturday night.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 24 August

13:15 ET / 18:15 GMT – Practice one
17:15 ET / 22:15 GMT – Qualifying
21:00 ET / 02:00 GMT (Saturday)  – Practice two

Saturday 25 August

20:30 ET / 01:30 GMT (Sunday)  – Race

Where can I watch the Bommarito Automotive Group 500?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Gateway Motorsports Park website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the races only. Race day coverage will start at 01:00 on Sunday morning on BT Sport ESPN.

In the United States, television coverage for the race at Gateway will be provided by NBCSN.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided for all via IndyCar’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.

How can I keep up to date with all the race action?

If you cannot make it to Gateway for this weekend’s race, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

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