Photo: Walter G. Arce Sr. /ASP Inc.

Track Conditions Affect IndyCar Qualifications at Gateway

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

MADISON, Ill. — Oil and other leaking fluids from vintage race cars could have seriously affected NTT IndyCar Series qualifying.

Prior to qualifying for Saturday evening’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, a group of vintage race cars turned parade laps around the 1.25 mile oval in an hour exhibition for local spectators.

Following some reports of leaking oil and fluids, the track poured some oil dry compound on the lower line around the track in Turns 1-2 which affected the first cars out to qualify.

INDYCAR determines the qualifying order for oval events other than the Indianapolis 500 by reverse order of Entrant points, per rule 8.2.2. As such, Conor Daly, Charlie Kimball and Matheus Leist were the first three cars to make their two lap runs.

“It’s a lot of oil, like it’s very very slick,” said Daly. “And, I mean, it’ll get better as you run, once a couple of cars run over it but yeah, it really sucks to pay that penalty, for sure.

“Unless they threw the two-seater out there for like 20 minutes to do laps, like you can run the jet dryer, you can run whatever you wanted but still, there’s nothing that produces the grip and the suction that our floors do so as soon as you go in there and you turn, that’s the first time that it’s really being tested and the whole inside line is white,” Daly added.

Daly will start 18th in the 22 car field with a two lap average of 179.399 mph.

Marco Andretti was the sixth car to qualify and had a major moment in Turn 1. After saving the car, Andretti’s first lap was only in the 172 mph range. The third-generation driver qualified last with a two lap average of 175.192. mph.

“It was just a combination of the oil and me getting a bit too greedy,” said Andretti. “I should’ve put two solid ones in. I was just going for it and it caught me out.”

As more and more cars went out on track, the grove got faster and faster but the visual of the oil dry did not change that much from the lower groove. Spencer Pigot was the 10th car to qualify but was only 13th fastest in his No. 21 Autogeek Chevrolet.

“Yeah, for sure it was still slick,” said Pigot. “Obviously not as bad as the guys that went out at the very front but not as good as the track is going to be now and later on so just one of those things. It’s the way it is, kind of frustrating that the whole field didn’t get a nice, clean track.

“I think the more cars running over it, the better, no matter what speed they’re going but with live TV and stuff, you kind of get stuck in the schedule and that’s what it is.”

2018 series champion Scott Dixon was the 19th car out to qualify and the New Zealander knew that the track had grip, but there always are questions heading into a two-lap maximum attack run.

“I think it’s more of a visual thing,” said Dixon. “Granted, for the first couple of cars, it’s probably not fun. I think once you see a car, I think Veach was one of the first ones that actually put a lap down, you can understand that the grip is there.

“I think visually it’s quite disheartening and especially when you’re going in for qualifying, it’s not what you want to see. One day we’ll probably not have the vintage cars run right before qualifying, I think we’ve seen this movie probably six or seven times before.”

Many cars were not able to show their true capability because of some oil dry on the bottom of the track but there will be a decent amount of passing and charging through the field. The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 will start Saturday August 24th at 7:45 p.m. CT.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.