By: Spencer Neff
August 22, 2019 | 8:51 AM
On Saturday night, the oval portion of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule draws to a close. Last among the five ovals on the schedule is the newly renamed WorldWide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 will be the track’s 10th race in its 23-year history. For this week’s IndyCar Flashback, we take it back to 2017. With Gateway back on the schedule following a long time away, the race lived up to the hype, in particular the finish.
Newgarden strengthens points lead after Gateway win
Since purchasing Gateway Motorsports Park in 2011, track president Curtis Francois had lobbied for IndyCar to return to the 1.25-mile oval. On August 26, his vision came true. Following a 12-year absence, IndyCar returned.
Looking to keep pace with teammate and points leader Josef Newgarden, Will Power set the track qualifying record. Less than a week after winning at Pocono Raceway, the 2014 series champion earned his 49th career pole with a two-lap average of 189.642 mph.
Despite the excitement surrounding the race, things got off to a rocky start. After Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan spun in Turn 2 during the pace laps, the 248-lap event began under yellow. After getting back to green on Lap 5, the opening race mayhem continued.
In nearly the same spot, Power got loose and spun into Turn 2. Soon after, Ed Carpenter collided with Power, sending his car airborne over Power. Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato was also involved but continued on.
Following another restart, Newgarden continued to pace the field as he looked to pad his championship lead. By Lap 60, the first round of pit stops began.
On Lap 61, Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais led in his first race back from injury. Three months earlier, he fractured his hip and pelvis in a violent qualifying crash prior to the Indianapolis 500. Although he ran up front for just five laps, it was the first time he led on an oval since Pocono a year earlier.
After Max Chilton led a lap, Newgarden took over once again and continued to dominate. On Lap 102, Ed Carpenter Racing’s chances for the night ended as JR Hildebrand made contact with the Turn 4 wall. During the caution, Newgarden’s teammate Simon Pagenaud collected a bonus point for leading a lap.
During the yellow, their teammate Helio Castroneves took his turn at the front. The 2003 race winner used an excellent pit stop to gain the top spot for the first time on the night. From there, he continued Team Penske’s domination by leading 52 laps.
Upon the third cycle of pit stops, Newgarden and Chilton each led two more laps. Once everything cycled through, Newgarden returned to the lead on Lap 161. Five laps later, Chilton’s night ended prematurely after a rough crash in Turn 4.
The fourth caution of the evening would be a total of eight laps. After returning to green, the points leader stayed at the front of the field until the evening’s fifth and final caution on Lap 203.
In Turn 2, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay brushed the outside wall, ending his night early. With the opportunity presented for a final round of pit stops, Pagenaud took advantage. Looking for his second win of 2017, the defending series champion made his way to the lead.
When the green flag waved with 37 laps remaining, Pagenaud looked to hang on for his second oval win of 2017, but in just six laps, Newgarden had caught his teammate. Thanks to a massive draft, Newgarden made an aggressive pass on the inside lane. After making contact with Pagenaud on the entry to Turn 1, he again took the lead.
While Newgarden led, a frustrated Pagenaud fell behind Scott Dixon for third. Once out front, Newgarden never looked back and won by 0.685 seconds over Dixon. Behind Pagenaud was Castroneves, with Conor Daly turning in a season-best run for A.J. Foyt Racing.
With two races remaining, Newgarden’s points lead grew to 31 over Dixon.
Despite a disappointing effort a week later at Watkins Glen, Newgarden finished second at Sonoma in the season finale. By 13 points over Pagenaud, Newgarden collected his first IndyCar Championship in his sixth season.
Now two years removed from his lone title, Newgarden enters this year’s race with a 35-point lead over Alexander Rossi. In third, Pagenaud is 40 points behind and Dixon remains in fourth, 52 back of the lead.
Since its 2017 return to the schedule, Gateway has become one of the most popular destinations on the calendar. Highlighted by fan- and racer-friendly efforts in and around the race, the Madison, Illinois-oval has seen a renaissance over the last handful of years.
Note: Thank you as always to everyone who participated in our poll on Twitter to select this week’s IndyCar Flashback.
There will continue to be a poll on our Twitter page (@Open_Wheels) to determine the race profiled for IndyCar Flashback prior to each race weekend. Keep an eye out each race week for the poll to cast your vote.
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR