PREVIEW: 2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Gateway

by Jordan Groves

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series heads to Gateway Motorsports Park this weekend for the final oval race of the season; the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. With just three races left until this year’s champion is crowned, this Saturday’s race under the floodlights has the potential to put drivers right back in the fight or completely out of it. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s race.

What happened in 2018 at Gateway?

As was the case last weekend at Pocono Raceway, qualifying for last year’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park was cancelled due to rain. This, therefore, saw the grid set by championship order, with Scott Dixon starting from pole position alongside his closest rival, Alexander Rossi.

The vast majority of the first half of the race would be dominated by the pole-sitter, with Dixon sprinting away into an early lead whilst Rossi lacked pace and fell behind the Team Penske cars of Will Power and Josef Newgarden. However, Power would soon begin to find his form and would carve his way up into the lead of the race and would then build up his own advantage to over seven seconds.

The drivers encountered a hurdle as the race drew to a close. A caution with just over seventy laps remaining would give the teams a strategic dilemma. All would put under the caution, but after that the teams could choose to either make a final pit-stop for fresh tyres and fuel, or gamble by staying out and trying to make it to the end with better track position.

Power and Dixon opted for the extra pit-stop strategy, whilst Rossi and the remainder of the field tried to make it to the end with what they had. The two strategy options converged on eachother as the race entered it’s final laps, with Rossi leading the race until the final ten laps when Power would catch, pass and pull away from the Andretti Autosport driver.

In the end, Power would cross the line to take only his second victory of the 2018 season, following up from his win in the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the year. He would hold an advantage of just over a second over second-placed Alexander Rossi as the race concluded, with Scott Dixon completing the podium in third place, but losing a few vital points in the championship fight to Rossi in the process.

You can read the full qualifying and race report from last year’s race at Gateway by following the link below: 

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

What should I look out for this weekend?

The 1.25-mile short track at Gateway Motorsports Park will provide a vastly different kind of oval racing compared to that seen last weekend at the high-speed Pocono Raceway. This will come as somewhat of a relief to many, after Pocono produced yet another controversial accident in the early stages that caused one of our four championship contenders to lose ground to the leader.

After seeing his gap to championship-leader, Josef Newgarden, increase from sixteen points to thirty-five on Sunday, Alexander Rossi will be hoping for nothing short of a victory to try and gain as many points as possible to put himself right back in contention for the title.

Alexander came so close to taking victory at Gateway twelve months ago, with a strategic call from the team seeing him narrowly miss out on the win after being overtaken in the final ten laps. This time around, Rossi will be hoping to simply have the sheer pace to win without a strategy gamble.

On the flipside, Newgarden will be hoping to be in contention for the victory to try and give himself every chance at extending his lead in the standings. Josef has not really been a factor for a race win in the last two races, only extending his advantage last time out at Pocono thanks to Rossi’s involvement in the lap one pile-up. A win on Saturday would make it even more difficult for his rivals and it would also be his second trip to victory circle at Gateway in the last three years.

Both Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud will be hoping to be in contention for victory on Saturday night to keep their championship hopes alive. Both gained ground on the championship leader at Pocono and are now both within fifty-two points of Josef. Any further gains would put the pair firmly in striking distance heading into the final two rounds, especially with double-points at the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

There are a number of drivers this weekend who will be looking to spoil the evening for the championship hopefuls. The driver with the most momentum heading into the weekend is Team Penske’s Will Power, who finally scored his first win of 2019 last time out at Pocono Raceway. What’s more, Power won last year’s race at Gateway. A second win of the season for the Australian could easily happen on Saturday and would give Will more things to smile about at the end of what has been a troubling year.

Other dark horses for victory in the final oval race of the season could come from up and down the grid order. After coming under fire for his involvement in last weekend’s wreck at Pocono, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato will be seeking redemption this time out and will be seeking his second victory of the season. The Japanese driver has won on IndyCar’s two superspeedways but would love to add a short oval victory to his resume by winning on Saturday night.

Additionally, keep an eye out for Ed Carpenter on Saturday. The oval-only driver has had a year to forget and has not yet found himself properly in contention for a win. This will be his last chance to get a win this year before he hands the #20 Chevrolet back over to Ed Jones for the final two rounds. He will be hoping to take the momentum from his reasonable sixth place finish last time out to be in contention for what would be his first win since Texas in 2014.

Similarly, Carlin‘s Charlie Kimball could be one to watch this weekend. The American made his return to the cockpit of the #23 Chevrolet last weekend and took the team to an impressive top ten finish. The team bought Kimball back in with the hopes that his vast experience will pay off. He’ll be hoping to finish higher than eighth-place to better the team’s current best result of the season.

Finally, keep an eye, once again, on the battle of the rookies. After being involved in last weekend’s scary accident at Pocono, current rookie leader Felix Rosenqvist has had his advantage over Santino Ferrucci trimmed to just thirteen points.

Ferrucci, who has shown speed at every oval thrown at him in his rookie season, has a chance to trim that advantage even further this weekend and will be hoping to leave Gateway with as good of a result as he can manage before the final two races of the season, both of which being road course races where Felix has seemingly had the advantage over Santino this season.

What is the schedule for the weekend?

Friday 23 August

14:00 ET / 19:00 GMT – Practice one
18:15 ET / 23:15 GMT – Qualifying
21:15 ET / 02:15 GMT (Saturday) – Practice two

Saturday 24 August

20:30 ET / 01:30 GMT (Sunday) – Race

Where can I watch the 2019 Bommarito Automotive Group 500?

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

As a part of the IndyCar’s UK coverage deal, both qualifying and the race will be broadcasted live on Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, television coverage for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway will be shown on NBC Sports.

Further coverage of practice and qualifying will be provided in the United States by NBC Sports Gold.

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 this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions.

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

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