It’s time for what we’ve all come to call the home away from home race: Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway (or as I still sometimes call Gateway). The mid-short, but not short, oval. It’s 1.5 miles in length and every corner of that track is different. With the turns, Turns 1 and 2 have 11 degrees of banking and Turns 3 and 4 have 9 degrees of banking. Honestly: it’s shaped kind of like an egg. However the layout of the track and position of the stands means there’s not a bad seat in the house. The past two years they opened up the stadium seats at the end of the track, and that has given just gorgeous views.
Last year the race was one of the handful of races on the schedule that was open to fans (I believe perhaps one of two ovals) and we got a double-header as a treat. The first race on Saturday phew. Just phew! We didn’t even get to the green flag before everything went sideways. It was a late start, and those in the back got impatient. Alex Palou popped out of line. Everyone started checking up around him, and Oliver Askew ran straight into the back of Simon Pagenaud. That spun Simon in Alexander Rossi. At the same time Zach Veach just plowed into his teammate Marco Andretti who was pushed back into Rossi. Somewhere Ed Carpenter ran over the back of Rossi also busting his car. Everything happened in front of our seats, and whoa the sights.
The end of the race gave a beautiful repeat duel between Scott Dixon and Sato, and Dixon holding off Sato by keeping the speed in corners. In my opinion though, the race belong to Patricio O’Ward. He led ninety-three laps, his pit crew challenged the wolf pack, and but for that very last pit stop he would have had the race. He got a third place, but should really be proud of that race.
For all the excitement of the first race, the second race was just not as exciting. I’m an oval fan and a fan of racing on this track. After the first handful of laps it just fell flat. There was one yellow at the end of the race, and no penalties. From my notes, which were scribbled during the race, the last big position change was Lap 164 and nothing really after that. The leaders struggled with lap traffic. Unfortunately, the back markers were not that far off the leader’s pace so it made for a true struggle. Sato ended up hitting the wall with four laps to go, and the race ended under caution. Newgarden becomes the first driver in the contemporary INDYCAR to have two wins at this track.
This year though things are sure to be just as exciting as last year. The track provides great racing. On top of an all ready exciting race craft, rookie Romain Grosjean has declared he’ll be making his oval debut on the track. This will be Romain’s first oval – ever. Formula 1 doesn’t race on ovals, and for the rest of this season he’s only done road and street courses. Despite how he places, I would recommend watching him and his experience the whole weekend. Of course it’s an oval so you always have to see what Ed Carpenter does. Two years ago he gave us a great last-lap shoot out with he and Takuma Sato.
If you’re thinking about going to the race: you should. We had the opportunity to sit down with John Bommarito and Chris Wallis from Bommarito Automotive Group to talk about the upcoming race. They are title sponsors, but you quickly get the feeling that they’re proud of the race that they put on and they’re just as big of fans as we all are (you can listen to that episode HERE). If you have all ready made plans to go – great! Hopefully we see you. It’s an action packed day of INDYCAR racing.