TRACK: World Wide Technology Raceway (1.25 Mile Oval), DISTANCE: 260 Laps (325 Miles)
This will be the fifth year that the NTT IndyCar Series has been coming back to the World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis and in the shadows of the Gateway Arch. See, the series started coming to the 1.25-mile race track in 2001 and stayed until 2003. Unfortunately, they stopped coming after. All it took was a great management team, a wonderful promoter, a big sponsor and a phenomenal marketing plan and boom, this race has taken off.
- Pit Stops Were Crucial Last Year — With passing being difficult in 2020, that left the name of the game being pit cycles and perfection on pit road. Pato O’Ward leap frogged the Penske’s for the top spot on the Saturday race. Scott Dixon beat O’Ward narrowly on the final stop of the race to win. Same thing on Sunday. Josef Newgarden, barely got O’Ward on the final stop as they leapfrogged Will Power on the cycle. Finding the right length to go on a stint and finding clean in and out laps were the difference in gaining or losing spots on track this weekend. Newgarden said on Sunday that his pit crew won him the race. “I didn’t win the race today,” he said after picking up his 16th career victory. “My pit crew won it. I’m not shy to say that. I’ll take it however I can get it.”
- Starting spots still key – With track position and pit sequences mattering, starting spots were key here last year. Dixon won on Saturday from third. Newgarden won on Sunday from second. That’s seven straight Gateway winners coming from a top five starting spot and five of the last seven from the top three. Furthermore, 36 of the last 45 races have been won by a driver from the top 4 Rows at the start.
- Pole winners bad luck – You would think with track and starting position mattering in Indy Car these days, the top starting spot would be the ones in victory lane more times than not. Instead, they’re not. In the last 26 races run, the pole winner has won just five times. In fact, if you go back to last year and take the last 35 races, the pole winner has won only seven times. The second place starter has won just four times in that span too.
- 3 of the last 4 Gateway races saw 2 total cautions for the race.
- Gateway 1 last year produced the closest finish all season with a margin of victory being .1404-seconds.
- Other than Josef Newgarden, we’ve had a new winner of this race each time. Only the best win at Gateway too. Names like Paul Tracy (1997), Alex Zanardi (1998), Michael Andretti (1999), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Al Unser Jr. (2001), Gil de Ferran (2002), Helio Castroneves (2003), Josef Newgarden (2017,2020), Will Power (2018), Takuma Sato (2019) and Scott Dixon (2020) all won on the 1.25-mile oval heading into this weekend.
- The last 4 races in Gateway has seen the driver to lead the most laps fail to win. In 2018, Scott Dixon led 145 laps but finished third. In 2019, Santino Ferrucci led 97 laps but finished fourth. Last year, Pato O’Ward (94 laps in Race 1) and Takuma Sato (66 laps led in Race 2) finished third and ninth respectively.
TRACK COMPARISONS/WHO’S BEEN GOOD ON THEM
This is a standalone type of race track now. With Iowa not being on the schedule, this is the only short oval that we go to on the season, meaning there’s nothing in the past to compare this too in terms of 2021.
In terms of teams, Andretti Autosport has struggled here. Last year, Colton Herta was their top dog, but the other four drivers in this stable were nonexistent. Zach Veach finished 21st and 22nd respectively. Marco Andretti was 23rd and 15th himself. His best finish is 10th in five Gateway tries. Alexander Rossi limped home 22nd and 14th as he’s had one top five and just two top 10 finishes in five Gateway starts. Ryan Hunter-Reay was seventh and 11th respectively and still has no top five finishes ever there. Three of his five finishes are 11th or worse.
Ganassi has been feast or famine too. Scott Dixon won Race 1 last year and has four top fives in his last six starts including three podiums. Alex Palou was 15th and 12th a year ago in his only two starts on the track. Marcus Ericsson was 16th, fifth and 23rd in three tries. Tony Kanaan has two top fives in six starts but was third with AJ Foyt Racing in 2019.
The Chevrolet group may be the ones to watch.
Penske started off great in this event with going 4-for-4 until Takuma Sato’s win in 2019. Scott Dixon won Race 1 last year but Josef Newgarden won Race 2 to put Penske 5-for-7.
Newgarden, won this race in 2017 but was only seventh in each of the two years after. He did win Race 2 last year. Heading into last year, Pagenaud had a top five finish in his first three tries at Gateway but just one podium, a third in ’16. He was 19th and 16th last year.
Will Power won this race in 2017 but was only 20th, 22nd and 17th in his next three starts, two of which ending in crashes before a third place run in Race 2 last year.
Pato O’Ward will be good this weekend with a third and second place result last year. So could Rinus VeeKay who was sixth and fourth. His teammate and owner Ed Carpenter was runner-up in 2019.