Photo from sports.usatoday.com
2018’s final oval track race will be held Saturday night outside St. Louis. With only three races remaining in the season and the title chase intensifying, the fast cars under the lights will be fascinating to watch, particularly coming less than a week after Robbie Wickens’ horrific, injury sustaining crash at Pocono.
IndyCar’s return to East St. Louis last season saw Tony “time to call it quits” Kanaan crash on the parade lap before the race had even begun. Then, on lap one, Will Power spun and crashed collecting Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato. It was yet another of those kind of starts. On his championship run, an alert Josef Newgarden bravely bump-passed his teammate Simon Pagenaud for the win with thirty laps remaining. Newkid’s victory in Illinois was his third out of the last four races, and Pags wasn’t pleased.
Photo from indycar.com
Prior to last year, IndyCar hadn’t raced at Gateway Motorsports Park in fourteen years – a race IRR staff attended, but weren’t thrilled about. The mile and a quarter track’s layout is lacking, it’s located in a swamp and a little too near the inner-city for most folks. Located just north of I-70, GMS ain’t exactly a tourist destination – our 2017 preview was entitled “Escape From East St. Louis.”
Happily, last year’s show was better than that ’03 dud, despite the rough beginning. After Pocono and the series’ ragged start in its return to Gateway last year, it may be time for mandatory green flag start practice for all drivers. Speaking of Pocono, the championship contest tightened with Scott Dixon leading a wide awake Alex Rossi by only 29 points. Newkid’s further back in third, but still has an outside shot at repeating as champ.
Photo from twitter.com
Track resurfacing last summer and racing under the lights both helped the show, though obviously it wasn’t without its flaws. We’re hoping the series has the new cars dialed in decently for Saturday night and for a thoroughly entertaining evening. It’d also be nice if the drivers were awake and alert before they roll off pit lane for a change.