Years from now when you ask me what I remember from this race I will tell you it was a hot day. It was probably the hottest race that I have personally attended. We had paddock passes and usually enjoy just walking up and down the paddock but this year we sought shade in the hottest part of the day and eventually a cooling station. Qualifying was at 4:00 so during the time we had between qualifying and green flag we were able to enjoy the paddock without the immense heat from the mid afternoon. Due to the heat and the condensed day, with practice, qualifying and race all on Saturday we did not have as many opportunities to see drivers and teams, however the drivers were out and talking with fans so much more than I expected given the heat and busy day. They really are the best.
We left Friday afternoon and our drive seemed to take forever. Somewhere south of Springfield, IL our GPS rerouted us saying our previous route would have added 90 minutes to our drive. Not sure if it was construction or an accident but thankful we didn’t get stuck in that mess. We arrived in St. Louis around 8:00 p.m. and went directly to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner. We walked over the the Gateway Arch after, seeing the Arch lit up at night is a sight we never grow tired of. We stayed in a cabin about 30 minutes out of town so we headed there.
Saturday morning we went to Scott Air Force Base for a quick tour with my son, Matthew. Matthew enlisting with the Air National Guard in November and is waiting for his Basic Training dates. We then made our way to World Wide Technology Raceway, formerly Gateway Motorsports Park. Upon entrance the first tent we saw was the Air National Guard so of course we had to stop.
We saw several drivers and friends in the paddock and stands. It is always so fun to catch up with everyone. I had purchased a shirt for race day in hopes of seeing Arie Luyendyk. Arie always comments on which driver I have on my shirt. I purchased a Luyendyk shirt to see if he noticed. Well it was a black shirt and I switched it out to a tank top because of the heat. When I did run into Arie I pulled it out and told him my story. He laughed and then pointed out that he wasn’t on the shirt. The shirt has his Domino’s car and his autograph but not a picture of him. Haha, he is vain. Anyone know where I can get an Arie Luyendyk shirt with his picture?
Qualifying ran smooth with no one hitting the wall. Will Power won the pole and after his win at Indy last week he seemed to be on a roll so I chose him for my fantasy league. Let’s just say I’m no longer leading my league. Power was still able to make the podium but Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden won that top spot, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Pre race show
WWT Raceway president, Curtis Francois along with the Bommarito Automotive Group but on a great event and that includes the pre race ceremonies. Curtis announced that he and Jay Frye signed a five year deal with IndyCar. He then announced that the Bommarito group would also continue to sponsor the race for the next five years. Then there was a tribute to First Responders, which included more police cars than you could count. They did a lap around the track, followed by a second lap with lights and sirens on. Of course there was the invocation, the singing of the National Anthem and a flyover. The flyover consisted of the Lima Lima Flight Team and a KC-135 refueling tanker. Matthew loved that part as he will be working on the KC-135 with the Air National Guard. He had the biggest smile on his face as it flew over. After the command to start engines the cars pay tribute to the Indianapolis 500 but lining up three wide for a lap. They then go to the traditional two wide for the green flag. I love all the extras in the pre race show.
The race went green but quickly went to yellow. Cars made it fine around the first lap so it appeared we would have a good, clean start but by lap two Ed Jones was racing Graham Rahal and ended up taking them both out of the race. So frustrating for Graham who finally qualified well and looked to maybe have a good race.
Before the green flag flew again Dalton Kellett and Ed Carpenter touched and the yellow remained. Takuma Sato was the reason the green flag was waved off a bit later and then when the race finally returned to green, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden made contact. Debris was on the track so once again the yellow came out. It appeared it would be a quick yellow but a problem with the track lights not turning off caused confusion as the flag man waved green but the track stayed yellow. Finally around lap 25, after 21 laps under yellow we got the race going. Later, Ed Carpenter made contact with the wall and they most frustrating incident of the night was when Rinus VeeKay made contact with Scott Dixon and Alex Palou. Palou had been the points leader but this sadly dropped him down to second. Dixon was able to return later, I heard he was 80 laps down but turning the fastest laps. VeeKay was also done for the night. Alexander Rossi hit the wall, ending a promising race for him. Colton Herta also had a heartbreaking night when he pitted but broke the half-shaft. He went out on track but it was obvious something was wrong, he immediately pitted and we learned the problem soon after, his night was done. Josef Newgarden had a strong race all night and it the end he took the checkered flag.
WWT Raceway opens up the track to spectators shortly after the checkered flag. It would be nice if they had more ways to enter and could wait for the fans before announcing the winners on the podium but it is still a fun opportunity to walk on the track after the race. We usually go out and walk a little bit but this year we walked the entire track. This helps with leaving the parking lot as the crowds are long gone.
The race in St. Louis is always a favorite. A race on an oval is also always a favorite. Having so many things to do in and around St. Louis also makes this a fun race weekend. We look forward to returning.
A couple things to note
Romain Grosjean made his oval debut and it was something to see. While watching a race in person I’m not always aware of what is going on farther back in the field but every time Grosjean would make a pass the crowd went nuts. Grosjean kept passing cars and made the race very entertaining. I’m not sure what happened that eventually put him a lap down but he spent a portion of the race running in the top ten. I think it’s safe to say we will see in on more ovals. After the race Romain walked across the track to the fence to great fans, many of whom were wearing purple Grosjean shirts. I love having him in IndyCar.
I can’t let this day pass without a word about Justin Wilson. Six years ago today we lost him after a tragic accident at Pocono Raceway. Justin was our families favorite driver and we still miss him terribly. We had the pleasure of meeting him several times and every time was special. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.