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Bommarito Auto 500 at Gateway weekend notes

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MADISON, Ill. – Notes from the paddock at Gateway Motorsports Park are below, across the Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, heading into tonight’s trio of races, with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline occurring at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN:


After Team Penske led all 250 laps at Phoenix International Raceway, the team’s quartet never headed, the team looks even more incredible than normal at Gateway this weekend.

The team is in search of its fifth consecutive win, which would be the first time the team has done that since 1994 (won seven races in a row), and is the odds-on favorite to do so with Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud all starting in the top four positions on the grid.

The Penske Chevrolets look and are visually faster; having watched most of the final practice from pit in, at Turn 4, it’s scary how much faster this quartet catches and passes other cars.


The big question heading into tonight is whether there will be a ton of passing, and who will be the ones doing so. From watching in final practice, Chevrolets appear to pass Hondas rather easily and some Hondas have showcased the ability to pass others.

After Phoenix, which was panned as the weakest race of the year owing to the stall-out effect in traffic, the series can ill-afford a repeat – especially at a track which hasn’t hosted an IndyCar race since 2003.

Passing should happen, but the question is how much of it will occur.


Usually when race officials talk about attendance, expectations are inflated and reality doesn’t match the hype.

But from the week of buildup this week coming after months of promotion by the Gateway officials and title sponsor Bommarito Automotive Group, the hype about a big short oval might actually be justified.

Race officials are estimating north of 30,000 fans for tonight’s race. In today’s IndyCar economic climate, that’s a sufficiently strong number – it’s rare to see open-wheel oval races outside Indianapolis with more than 10,000 in the seats – and it would be awesome to see the primary grandstands full, or close.

Additionally, with corporate support strong in suite sales – pit row suites were added – that speaks volumes about the potential health of this race long-term.

“For me, this is the longest I’ve ever worked on preparing one event,” Chris Blair, Gateway Motorsports Park executive vice president and general manager, told NBC Sports.

“We made the announcement 52 weeks ago. We had the repave come back at us which added a whole new element. It’s very exciting, ticket sales are great, and we’ll see a great crowd. To see the hard work pay off will be tremendous.

“(Bommarito Auto Group) attended six races with us throughout this year to make sure things are done right here. We want to make sure we work together to execute. If you have John Bommarito on your side for an event in St. Louis, you’re already making progress in this market.”

Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network broadcaster Nick Yeoman posted this quick video on Twitter of the autograph session, several hours before the green flag, which showcases a very long line.

The buildup comes after a number of fan events throughout the week, as the city and track have united to make this return to St. Louis for the first time since 2003 feel like a “festival” rather than just an oval event.


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Silly season hasn’t officially started with confirmations because most of the paddock is awaiting news of what Andretti Autosport decides to do for its engine situation.

While most have assumed a Chevrolet switch is imminent, the potential still exists the team could remain with Honda after all – and that potential has been whispered a bit this weekend.

Andretti Autosport COO Rob Edwards told the Indianapolis Star (Via USA Today Sports) this weekend a decision must come sooner rather than later, Edwards saying “it’s holding things up now.”

With several driver and team moves that would have to follow once the Andretti decision is announced, however it goes, it’s the single break point that will dictate how the next several weeks and months play out as teams prepare for 2018.


Rather than pit stop practice, a pit stop competition has been added in advance of tonight’s race, coming after both Mazda Road to Indy races. Here’s the details on that:

Verizon IndyCar Series teams will add a new element of competition to the race weekend at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline on Saturday, with the introduction of a pit stop competition on race day at Gateway Motorsports Park.

To allow crews time to perform simulated pit stops under race-like conditions, INDYCAR added pit stop practice sessions into the weekend schedule this season. For the first time, though, a prize will be awarded to the crew that performs the fastest pit stop during the session set for 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday at Gateway – just ahead of the 248-lap race on the 1.25-mile oval. The pit stop competition will stream live on

“This will showcase the extraordinary work INDYCAR teams do on pit road,” said Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations. “It also should be an exciting competition for the fans at Gateway Motorsports Park to watch during the 90 minutes leading up to Bommarito Automotive Group 500.”

As with previous pit stop practice sessions, the field will be split into two groups based on pit location. Each car is permitted to complete three “out and in” laps – leaving the pits, going around the track and then re-entering the pit lane without crossing the start/finish line on track. Crews can make a four-tire change each time the car reaches its pit box.

The winning crew, determined by the fastest car time clocked from pit in to pit out and including the four-tire change, will receive a trophy and be recognized in pre-race ceremonies.


Class move from a class guy as Sebastien Bourdais, who returns to Verizon IndyCar Series competition this weekend, made sure to thank the Holmatro Safety Team before getting back in for Friday’s first practice at Gateway. You can see a video of that here, via Honda Racing/HPD’s Trackside, and NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt posted a picture on Twitter below.


Fun read here from Trackside Online’s Steve Wittich on a fun, competitive outing for the Dale Coyne Racing crew Thursday night, prior to track activity, for the winner of the inaugural “Ed Jones Cup.”


NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell coined the nickname of “Wild Thing” for Takuma Sato at Pocono, following Sato’s pole lap set on the Saturday.

Then this weekend, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 champion then donned a pair of the Ricky Vaughn glasses, and corresponding Cleveland Indians hat and posed with Bell this weekend.

Meanwhile, the big sports topic of conversation in the general sports world this weekend is tonight’s Floyd Mayweather bout vs. MMA fighter Conor McGregor, McGregor known as much for his promotional antics as his fighting ability.

Poking a bit of fun at that, Bell and fellow IndyCar on NBCSN analyst Paul Tracy have been set up for their own “fight.”


Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko from the St. Louis Blues are here today, guests of Honda and are here with Graham Rahal, who drives the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (pictured above; photos courtesy Honda Racing/HPD). The two also enjoyed a two-seater ride with Gabby Chaves driving.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”

Public clashes over future of Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT (AP) State officials are deciding whether to continue hosting the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a state park and island that opponents say is negatively impacted by the annual event.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the race to continue after its current five-year contract expires after the 2018 race.

The department held a public meeting Wednesday at the Belle Isle Nature Center to gather feedback. Dozens of residents attended.

Opponents voiced concerns about the race’s environmental impact. Several conservation groups have requested a third-party environmental impact study on how the race affects island habitat.

But supporters say the race shines a spotlight on Detroit and stimulates the economy.

The Grand Prix has occurred on Belle Isle periodically since 1992 and annually since 2012.

FIA confirms Halo crash test details, International F3 plans and more

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Following the latest meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris, France, a number of updates concerning the championships under the governing body’s umbrella for 2018 had been confirmed.

The stand-out news was the confirmation of a Formula E race in Zurich for June 2018, marking motorsport’s return to Switzerland after being outlawed back in 1955.

A number of tweaks have also been made to the FIA Super Licence points allocation from next year, placing a greater onus on drivers to race in Formula 2 before stepping up to Formula 1.

Here’s a run-down of all the other news from the WMSC’s meeting in Paris.


Following the F1 Strategy Group’s approval of ‘Halo’ cockpit protection being introduced to F1 from 2018, the WMSC gave its approval to the required updates in the technical regulations to allow its implementation.

The various technical details can be found in the regulations by clicking here (under Article 17), but the key point is that teams will now be able to finalize their chassis designs for 2018 now they know the crash test details.

The WMSC also confirmed that Sentronics will be the exclusive supplier of fuel flow meters in F1 for 2018 and 2019.

There is also a clampdown on oil burn in F1 for 2018 following the controversy with Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017, as well as continued plans to ban the ‘shark fin’ from next year’s regulations.

One point we already knew but is nevertheless of interest is the reduction in power unit elements permitted to each driver per season. As of 2018, each driver will be limited to just three internal combustion engines, three MGU-Hs, three turbochargers, two control electronics and two MGU-Ks per season, down from four for each element in 2017.

No updates were made to the F1 calendar for 2018, but Bahrain and China are tipped to switch places, the latter becoming the third round of the season.


The WMSC confirmed plans to form an International Formula 3 series in 2019 in a bid to complete the pyramid from Formula 4 to F1.

Both the FIA European F3 and GP3 Series co-exist as the third rung on the single-seater ladder at the moment, with the international championship tipped to replace the latter.

The WMSC called for expressions of interest for chassis and engine suppliers for an international series, as well as a promoter.

Loose regulations have also been formed that are similar to GP3’s current rules, with a 24-car grid desired over a nine-to-10 round season featuring single-make chassis, engines and tires.

The FIA is also pushing to create more regional F3 series in the future to bridge the gap between F4 and International F3.


Following confirmation of Silverstone’s return to the 2018/19 ‘super season’ calendar last week, the WMSC ratified the schedule for the next WEC campaign that will last 13 months.

The technical regulation amendments for 2018 were also approved as part of the WEC’s bid to attract more manufacturers to the LMP1 class following Porsche’s shock exit.

“The FIA Endurance Commission was also encouraged to pursue a number of exciting and innovative proposals that it is currently working on, with the aim of enticing new manufacturers to the Championship,” part of the WMSC’s release reads.


The FIA confirmed its calendar for the 2018 WRC season, with the addition of a rally in Turkey being announced in place of Poland.

1. Rally Monte Carlo – January 28
2. Rally Sweden – February 18
3. Rally Mexico – March 11
4. Tour de Corse – April 8
5. Rally Argentina – April 29
6. Rally de Portugal – May 20
7. Rally Italia – June 10
8. Rally Finland – July 29
9. Rally Germany – August 19
10. Rally Turkey – September 16
11. Rally Great Britain – October 7
12. Rally Spain – October 28
13. Rally Australia – November 18

To see the full release from the WMSC, click here.

FIA tweaks Super Licence points allocation for 2018

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The FIA has tweaked its points allocation for the Super Licence required to race in Formula 1 for 2018, placing a greater onus on Formula 2 as being the final step on the single-seater ladder.

In a bid to tighten up on the route drivers took to reach F1, the FIA introduced a new points system for the Super Licence from 2016.

Drivers require a score of 40 points in a three-year period to be granted an FIA Super Licence, with different scores being awarded for success across a variety of categories.

Previously, drivers scored the full 40 points required for a top-two finish in GP2 (now F2) or winning the title in IndyCar, FIA Formula 3, Formula E or the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class.

As of 2018, 40 points will only be awarded for a top-three finish in F2 or winning the IndyCar drivers’ title, with the other series facing points reductions.

One of the most devalued championships is Formula V8 3.5, formerly seen as being equivalent to GP2, with a title win previously worth 35 points now worth just 20.

Here are the points breakdowns for the most valuable championships, running from P1 in the final standings to P10.

FIA Super Licence Points Allocations

Formula 2: 40-40-40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3
IndyCar: 40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
FIA F3: 30-25-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
Formula E: 30-25-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
WEC LMP1: 30-24-20-16-12-10-8-6-4-2
GP3: 25-20-15-10-7-5-3-2-1-0
Formula V8 3.5: 20-15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1-0
Super Formula: 20-15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1-0

You can see the full breakdown by clicking here.