This weekend’s IndyCar Doubleheader at Gateway preview

TRACK: World Wide Technology Raceway (1.25-mile, oval) DISTANCE: 200 Laps (250 Miles)
WEATHER: RAIN 40%, 87 degrees

Gateway Preview

The busy month of August wraps up with no one, but two races at the World Wide Technology Raceway this weekend near St. Louis. With two races at Mid-Ohio next month and coming off of a double points event in Indy last weekend mixed with two races now on the 1.25-mile Illinois race track this weekend, the championship will be on everyone’s minds in the paddock.

See, normally when we leave Indy, it goes into championship mode. Typically, the ‘500 is run in the Month of May and early in the schedule. So, the first few races are just learning the season with the action in May all about winning the Indy 500. It’s too early then to be thinking championship. That’s why when the victory banquet checks are given the next day after the ‘500, is when championship mode usually starts.

Well, with a weird year we’ve had, championship mode is already underway. Plus, there’s only three race weekend’s left, including this one, so championship conversations are already taking place. Now, factor in two races in as many days and you can get some tense action this weekend at the World Wide Technology Raceway.

Penske has two drivers right in the thick of things in Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden. They’re all chasing Scott Dixon. Well, Dixon did finish on the podium here in 2017 and 2018 but had a parts failure last year and finished 20th. Plus, Penske was a perfect 4-for-4 in this race until Takuma Sato stole the win for Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing last year. They swept another short oval at Iowa last month, so they have to be the favorites to land in victory lane in both races this weekend.

Newgarden, won this race in 2017 but was only seventh in each of the last two years. Pagenaud, has a top five finish in all three tries at Gateway but just one podium, a third in ’16.

Could this open the door for someone else?

Will Power won this race in 2017 but was only 20th and 22nd in his other two starts, both ending in crashes.

Alexander Rossi was sixth in 2017 and second in 2018 but just 13th last year as they lacked pace. Andretti even lacked pace at Iowa in July too with none of them finishing on the podium there.

Tony Kanaan may be the sleeper as he will be making what might be his final two IndyCar starts of his career. He was second in his first Gateway start and third last year. He had a top 10 car at Iowa last month.

Key Stat

The last five winners of this race have come from a top five starting position.

They Said It

Penske the ones to beat in Gateway?

Team Penske is coming off of a bad Month of August at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They’ve got some work to do in going for their fourth IndyCar championship in the last five years. If they’re going to win though, they have to beat Scott Dixon and his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. With two chances on the World Wide Technology Raceway oval this weekend, this could be the spot where they can close the gap.

See, Penske started 4-for-4 at Gateway. Then,Takuma Sato stole the win for Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing last year. Penske has swept another short oval at Iowa last month, so they have to be the favorites to land in victory lane in both races this weekend.

That’s good news for their trio of drivers. But, can they capitalize?

Scott Dixon is 0-for-4 at Gateway with two top 10’s, both being podiums and both being in the last three years. He was only 20th last year though. Dixon, also lacked the race winning pace at Iowa last month as well.

Josef Newgarden won this race in 2017 but was only seventh in each of the last two years. Simon Pagenaud has a top five finish in all three tries at Gateway but just one podium, a third in ’16.

Could this open the door for someone else?

Will Power won this race in 2017 but was only 20th and 22nd in his other two starts, both ending in crashes.

So, can Penske claim a stake at the championship table this weekend? Do they get to be at the head of the table by time the checkered flag falls on Sunday?

Watch out for Conor Daly this weekend in Gateway

With the main contenders having up and down results in the NTT IndyCar Series at the World Wide Technology Raceway, it could open the door for someone like Conor Daly to slide into victory lane in at least one of the two races run on the 1.25-mile track this weekend.

Scott Dixon is 0-for-4 at Gateway with two top 10’s, both being podiums and both being in the last three years. He was only 20th last year though. Dixon, also lacked the race winning pace at Iowa last month as well.

Josef Newgarden won this race in 2017 but was only seventh in each of the last two years. Simon Pagenaud has a top five finish in all three tries at Gateway but just one podium, a third in ’16. Will Power won this race in 2017 but was only 20th and 22nd in his other two starts, both ending in crashes. Alexander Rossi has just one top five (2nd in 2017) but sixth and 13th in his other two starts.

Plus, Andretti Autosport overall looked lost and lacked speed in Iowa. What makes us think that changes this weekend on another short oval?

So, someone like Daly can capitalize.

He looked good in Iowa. He won the pole for race 1 and qualified third for race No. 2. He has two top 10 finishes on the season, both being on ovals.

Plus, his two Gateway finishes are fifth and sixth respectively. Why not a win this weekend?

Does Rossi have a chance, Andretti has struggled on short ovals lately

Alexander Rossi just hasn’t had “it” when it comes to short ovals. Out of his seven career Indy Car wins, he’s won on road courses, street courses and superspeedways. He’s just not ever won on a short oval before.

His Iowa finishes are – 6th, 11th, 9th, 6th, 6th and 8th respectively. He was 14th, 15th and 3rd in three Phoenix tries. At World Wide Technology Raceway, the site of this weekend’s race, Rossi has finished sixth, second and 13th respectively.

That’s 12 career short oval starts with just two top fives, both being podiums. He does have eight top 10’s to his credit, but he’s not lacking the outright speed and handling to win on them.

Sounds like a this season problem too.

It’s not just him, it’s all of Andretti Autosport in general. They’ve lacked short oval pace over the last several years. In Gateway, Zach Veach was fifth in 2018 and 14th last year. Ryan Hunter-Reay was 15th, 20th and eighth in three career starts on the 1.25-mile oval. Marco Andretti has finished 14th (2017, 2018) and 10th last year.

It’s not just Gateway, it’s Iowa too.

In the early years of the NTT INDYCAR Series’ trips to Iowa, Andretti Autosport was the team to beat. In seven of the first nine years, they won the race outright.

Andretti also had 13 podiums and 688 laps led in that time frame too. But, over the last five years now (7 races), the team has led just 11 laps and taken one podium. They’re not even close any more.

Both races this year just further adds to their frustrations.

Colton Herta had a frightening crash on Friday night and a ton of oversteer in his car on Saturday. He’d finish 19th in both races.

Andretti and Veach both also had problems on their opening stops on Friday with issues with their clutches. They’d finish 22nd and 23rd in the race. Veach, was only 20th on Saturday with Andretti 10th.

Hunter-Reay was never a factor in 16th (-3 laps) on Friday night and for a second straight night, he crashed exiting pit lane, this time he couldn’t continue on. He’d finish 22nd.

Rossi, was their top finisher in sixth and eighth respectively this weekend.

With Gateway similar to Iowa, what makes us think that they can get out of that hole?

 

 

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