Meet Me in St. Louis (A Review of the Bommarito 500)
It was one of those weekends where things went topsy-turvy and yet it was still a fantastic weekend of racing. The series can control many things: what tires are used, what drivers can drive, what tracks are raced on, and the numerous safety requirements. They cannot control the weather. In a Midwestern state: no one can control the weather.
We’ve been excited for Gateway weekend since probably I got back from St. Louis last year . We had originally planed to be in St. Louis early early Friday morning – leaving at 5am on Friday morning. That changed Wednesday afternoon when we got the call from INDYCAR to join the FanFest in our capacity as media. So Thursday at 2pm we hopped in the van and hit I-70. I’d love to link to the audio, but unfortunately the DJ was very zealous soooo here are the highlights:
Max Chilton – is still just a perfect person to sit and chat with, and that’s exactly what we did. When we talked to him back during the 500 he mentioned how he had started into gardening, and so we legit sat and chatted about gardening, his honeymoon part II he’ll be going on soon, and Bob Ross. We did ask a few racing questions, and Max indicated that being at Carlin Racing felt like coming back home as he had spent his junior years with Carlin.
Oliver Askew and Parker Thompson – two Pro Mazda drivers who made the unfortunate mistake of telling us they had lived together while racing in Europe. We promised we wouldn’t repeat any of the stories they told, but keep your eyes on them. They’ve had fantastic seasons and fantastic attitude.
Clea Newman – Clea and the Serious Fun Children’s Network have been working with series since approximately May* . Clea is doing amazing things with the Charity and was pleased to tell us about how the charity has held numerous camps during the summer including one where the campers had very extreme medical conditions but got to enjoy the experiences of camp. Clea has such a natural enthusiasm for the charity if you spend more then two minutes with her you’re completely on board. Which is a great thing because it’s honestly one of the most unique but necessary charities I’ve ever heard of.
We finished our day off with some light gambling.
Rain oh rain. Woke up to a deluge on the Mississippi Friday morning. We didn’t move too quickly to get to the racetrack, but once we got there it was simply soaked. We found camping (well we were directed to a campsite that wasn’t where we should have camped but the signage was actually shit for camping that week), sat in the van before doing a quick dash into the media center.
Practice that day was dodgy in the morning. It was but then it wasn’t. The track was still having some weepers so drivers would get ready to go out, turn some laps, and then come back in to wait.
It rained so badly that qualification was then canceled and everyone started by order. There was, at one point, two podcasters, someone who does work with INDYCAR, and some very dedicated fans in a cluster and it took us pulling the rulebook up to realize that in such a situation – the pole bump is not awarded.
What didn’t disappoint was evening practice. As I’ve been saying since last year – INDYCAR under the lights is pure magic. The cars may not have headlights or other lighting effects like those in WEC, but the stadium lights illuminate them and shadows of cars play off the wall as they pass. The focus you already have on the cars during a normal race is amplified as they are the only thing you can see.
We ended the evening the way you’d expect us to – chilling with members of the AMR team and talking Half of them have worked at the same hospital Abby did, and for everyone’s peace of mind – I haven’t had to bring any actions against them (they all seemed like super people).
Race day – and a day that proved to be insanely hot! The saying is true, if you don’t like Midwest weather, wait a few hours and it’ll change. The difference between the weather on Friday and the weather on Saturday was night and day. I know the series had practice on Friday night but really the conditions Saturday were absolutely the opposite.
We had some IndyCar Nation responsibilities that day and started off first with an AMR safety team demonstration. The team took the IndyCar Nation members through their teams, and then outside to see the different tools that they carried on the truck and how they used them. I didn’t know that the Jaws of Life can also pinch and rip. Typically you think that they are they to spread open things, but they can also pinch and bend things.
We also had a member of the Medical team join us for an interview during the autograph session time. Laura was a trooper in all black, on a black stage, with a black background in an easily 100+ degree heat index. She’s a great nurse with INDYCAR Medical who cut her teeth working the infield at the IMS (which on CarbDay I imagine being a civil war battlefield medical tent).
One of the coolest things we did was take a hot lap. I don’t think I can explain in writing what the hot lap was except – HOLY CRAP. You really felt the banking on that ride and omg it was an amazing experience. I appreciate my driver was just chilling like he doing a job for Uber.
This was one of those races that both purists and common fans could enjoy. Cars were, at times, two or three wide and streaming throughout that track.
Zach Veach continued to show that it’s not an accident he signed a 3-year agreement and finished in P6 and led his very first laps at an INDYCAR race. I think Veach has found his chops as a rookie and it’s only going to be a better and better time watching him.
Simon Pagenaud tired fuel saving but I think the team must have made the decision at the wrong time. Simon thought so pretty soon into the strategy, but once the team turned him loose that yellow car was rocketing through the pack passing everyone in his path.
Alexander Rossi also used fuel saving, but unlike Simon, this got him a third-place. Everyone knows not to get into a fuel-saving fight with Rossi and his team.
Will Power clinched the win. He and Scott Dixon went back and forth for a bit, but ultimately once Will got that win he held on tightly and didn’t let go. Interestingly enough the top 3 in points were on the podium (also strangely the locks picked by us and the Firestone Firehawk all podiumed).
The race was amazing. For those of us enjoy looking at things in a calculated way – there was strategery in the fuel savings and how many stops could the team make the race in (thanks to that early caution by Bourdais). For the common fans: the cars were going fast under lights.
The track had done a hell of a job promoting the race. On social media we had seen things about the race for months. During IndyCar radio broadcasts there was the add (with the Monster Truck guy btw). What wasn’t the greatest, and I’m sure the weather had a bit of a part, was there seemed to be some miscommunication and lack of information from the staff on the ground. Admittedly, I’m spoiled by the yellow shirts at the IMS, but we had a devil of a time the first-day finding places that shouldn’t be hard to find (i.e. the media center, infield parking, and camping). I’m willing to chalk that up to growing pains of the track. Hopefully, it should be fixed by next time.
*In our workings with IndyCar Nation we’ve enjoyed the opportunities we’ve had to promote the charity, including the time at MidOhio where we had some campers come join us up on stage.