It’s a completely different race weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Okay first we have to talk about the name…too long. Given the schedule mishaps of the 2020 season this was quickly turned into a double-header. Then after being a night race for the past three years, both races are in the middle of the day. Oh also fans are allowed. That’s right…we’re back! We knew for months that this track would have fans in attendance. Chris Blair, their track president, was keeping fans out over his dead body. I like the guy he’s got such a promoter’s heart, but I kept expecting a speech like Charles Heston at the NRA Convention. Regardless, we fans are getting to see INDYCAR in person again*.
I’ve actually been to every race at Gateway since INDYCAR returned in 2017. It holds a somewhat special place in my heart. It’s also a very interesting track. It’s an oval, but I always think it’s slightly egg shaped with one end of the track more narrow than the other. It also has the added bonus of being able to see all 1.25 miles from seats higher up in the stands. Great place to watch a race. For both races, drivers will do 248 laps for a total of 310 miles (the track is 1.25 miles and if you convert to the metric system, it’s 500 kilometers). Every year there has been drama and a show for race fans. Back in 2017 there was teammate on teammate bumping between Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden. In 2018 a whole day was rained out and pole was award to Scott Dixon based on points. Last year the closing laps featured a duel between Takuma Sato and Ed Carpenter. Again I would like to personally apologize for anyone sitting near me as I was jumping up and down cheering for that show.
I’m expecting another show this year. A different show perhaps, stamina is the name of the game. The weekend got bumped to a double header and is the race following the Indianapolis 500. Teams have a short turn around. Rookies start off with their own practice session on Friday, followed by the whole field later right afterward. Thankfully the drive time is just under four-hours, plus you gain an hour heading out! Since this is an oval double-header, it’s the same format as Iowa. Lap 1 will set the position for Race 1 and Lap 2 sets the position for Race 2. What will be interesting is that there’s practice and qualifying on Saturday before the race, but there’s no morning practice on Sunday. It’s also just disappointing neither race this weekend is after the sun goes down. That track in the evening is gorgeous.
It will still be a strain on drivers and teams, I think we’ll see some more pit-stops curses this weekend. Also drivers will have to go from Indiana summer heat to Missouri summer heat. Same temperatures, just more humidity thanks to the closeness of the river. The series has implemented a car cooling system. It works similarly to air conditioning, pulling air into the car, we’ll see how that stacks up against Midwestern heat. Currently my A/C needs recharged so all my car does is recycle air, and even in the short distances I travel…it doesn’t help.
As far as drivers to put money on, or not to put money on. Put something on Tony Kanaan. Last weekend I said don’t bet with your heart HOWEVER, TK had a great race here last year, this is his last time as a somewhat regular INDYCAR driver, plus it’s a double header. TK isn’t called Iron Man for nothing, he’ll handle a big weekend easily. I would say avoid putting money on the rookies who crashed out during the 500. Alex Palou and Oliver Askew. Yes they’re young, and yes they both were checked and released during the race, but it’s not just physical it’s mental.
More importantly this is a redemption weekend. Chevy has a chance to redeem themselves after the Indianapolis 500. In the past three races, Chevy has had a phenomenal showing at this track. It will also be, as sad as it is to type this, the final race weekend for Tony Kanaan as a series regular in INDYCAR. He has not ruled out other Indianapolis 500s, but this it it. Truly his last lap as a series regular. Tears will be shed in the stands and on the track.
It may be, though no one wants to admit it, the last race for INDYCAR this season. The next scheduled race is the Harvest GP in October, and it’s not sure fans will be allowed. If fans aren’t allowed, does the series even hold that race? Plus there’s the rescheduled St. Petersburg Grand Prix but Florida is, pardon my french, a shit show. Regardless of this being the last race weekend with fans this season, or even the last race weekend of the season: we’re going to have a fantastic show.
* I know, it’s not the smartest thing to do during a public health emergency. As someone who works in public health and my father is the at-risk population it’s stupid. I’m self-isolating for two-weeks afterward. If people do not choose to attend, I completely support that decision and would not think of mocking them for it.