TRACK: World Wide Technology Raceway (1.25 Mile Oval), DISTANCE: 260 Laps (325 Miles)
Favorites – Watch Out For Penske?
He has four top fives in his last five World Wide Technology Raceway tries including a win last year and two podiums in his three previous starts.
Worth a shot here. He won this race in 2017 as well as 2021 and while seventh the last couple of years prior, he had a quick car in 2019 in leading 50 laps but an ill timed late caution hurt him from winning two of the three years back to World Wide Technology Raceway. He won one of the two races at Iowa as well last year too.
Three top five finishes in as many five at Gateway plus a win from last (23rd) at Iowa last year. Penske swept the two doubleheader races at Iowa in July and was 4-for-4 at Gateway prior to last year too.
O’Ward was fourth in Race 1 at Iowa and had a top five run going for Race 2 before a costly last pit stop last year. In Gateway, he was third and second respectively a year ago too.
The final oval of the year is here as the last one came way back on May 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500. This year though, the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is the only short oval on the schedule, so unlike years past, they don’t have any info from Iowa to translate over.
The track is located near the Gateway Arch, hence the name Gateway with that standing for the Gateway to the west. That’s exactly where the series goes from here with the final three races next month being on the Pacific coast with Portland, Laguna Seca and Long Beach.
That’s why Saturday night’s race is so key. This will truly shape the championship front runners.
Penske swept both races at Iowa last year and 1-for-2 here in August of 2020. They were 4-for-4 prior. On the season, they’ve won two of the last three races from two different drivers. They’re the ones to beat but can they capitalize?
Pato O’Ward landed on the podium in both races last year to go along with a podium in one of the two races at Iowa a year ago too.
Alex Palou was 15th and 12th in Gateway last year while Scott Dixon (4 top fives in his last 5 starts), Josef Newgarden (2 Gateway wins) and Simon Pagenaud (3 top 5’s in 5 tries) are all vying for the championship and all have been great on this track too.
Palou’s engine failure at Indy tightened things up again as he leads by just 21 points over O’Ward. Dixon is 34 out with Newgarden 55 back himself.
With Palou not really being an oval master yet and how O’Ward, Dixon and Newgarden fare here, I have a feeling the points will be even closer going to the west coast swing.
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.