Staying in stride with an IndyCar season that has been filled with plenty of parity, predicting a favorite for Saturday’s fifth running of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is extremely difficult.
The green flag for the 260-lap feature at the 1.25 mile Madison, Illinois oval flies at 7:45 pm. This marks the thirteenth stop of NTT IndyCar Series’ 16-race docket and this open-wheeled shootout is anyone’s for the taking.
In the first dozen races of the 2021 campaign, nine different drivers have claimed checkered flags. Last Saturday’s stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course saw veteran Will Power (Team Penske) notch his first win of the season. Power won the 2018 race and currently possesses the momentum to snare his second straight duke Saturday.
In the points standings, Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing) holds a 21-point lead over Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) with four races left on the schedule. Both have won a pair of races earlier this season.
In his rookie campaign last year under the Dale Coyne Racing banner, Palou finished twelfth and fifteenth in the pair of races held Gateway last August. Now under the watchful Chip Ganassi wing, the 24-year old Spaniard in projected for his best finish yet.
“Can’t wait to go back to Gateway and go back to oval racing,” said Palou earlier this week. “The races last year were definitely good.”
Unique for Saturday is that practice laps, qualifications and race proper will all take place within a ten-hour span. Current series defending champ Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), who currently sits third in the standings with one win in pocket, anticipates a challenging non-stop pace.
“It will be a hectic day, trying to fit in practice, qualifying and racing all in one day,” said Dixon, who won the first race of the 2020 Gateway dual event. “It was a big milestone for me there last year, winning my fiftieth career IndyCar win. Hopefully, we’ll be fighting for win number 52.”
Other hopefuls for podium placement include two-time IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) and Marcus Ericsson (Chip Ganassi Racing), who has also notched a pair of wins on the season, alongside Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport), Rinus Veekay (Ed Carpenter Racing) and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (Meyer Shank Racing) who have each recorded one victory in 2021.
Qualifications take place at 4 p.m. Saturday and the green flag drops at 7:45 p.m. Race coverage starts on NBCSN at 7 p.m.
Prior to Saturday’s main event, the IndyCar Lights Series Presented by Cooper Tires showcases a 75-lap (or 60-minute) race with a 13-car field.
Rookie Kyle Kirkwood (Andretti Autosport), who claimed back-to-back wins at Mid-Ohio Fourth of July weekend, currently possesses the top spot in the standings followed by David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) and Linus Lundqvist (Global Racing Group).
The developmental branch of IndyCar also holds a similar 75-lap event tonight prior to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota 200.
At season’s end, whomever claims the Indy Lights championship not only nets a racing scholarship valued at $1.3 million but also earns automatic entry into three NTT Indycar races in 2022, including the Indianapolis 500 next May.
Coverage of this event can be seen on the Peacock streaming service.
Arch City Media will have a full recap of this event posted on Sunday.