IndyCar Recap: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

IndyCar Recap: Bommarito Automotive Group 500

by August 22, 2021 0 comments

World Wide Technology Raceway hosted the final IndyCar race of the year under the lights. With the Gateway Arch as a backdrop piece, the track originally named after the structure is one of America’s hidden gem circuits for years now. On Saturday, it played host to the fourth-to-last round of the season.

One of the big headlines entering this weekend was the oval debut of Romain Grosjean. The IndyCar rookie did well for himself in qualifying during the day, earning the 15th starting spot. Meanwhile, Alex Palou entered needing a good night on the outskirts of St. Louis. After his engine failure at Indianapolis, his points lead got absolutely butchered. On top of that, he received a multi-spot grid penalty for an engine change. With just a handful of rounds left, his margin for error is zero to none.

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Race Recap

Early Carnage

The opening stint would not last long. Seconds after Colton Herta snagged the lead, Graham Rahal and Ed Jones got tangled going into turns one-and-two and both cars got destroyed. Rahal’s team got to repairing his car and he got back on track after about five minutes. Jones’ damage ended up being terminal and his day was done. In his interview, he claimed that Rahal came down on him causing the incident. Rahal would not agree with that sentiment, as you can see below.

The big winner in this was Palou, who gained seven spots in the opening three laps after his grid penalty. Now he had a chance to get another monster start, and pick guys apart ahead of him. The carnage, however, was only just beginning here. Simon Pagenaud suffered major wing damage after contact with Josef Newgarden. The ensuing debris would bring out yet another caution. As would an Ed Carpenter spin shortly after as well. Despite all of this, the worst was yet to come.

Championship Implications

In what was the single biggest incident in motorsports in 2021, Palou and Scott Dixon got tangled with Rinus VeeKay. Going into turn one off a restart, VeeKay went in too hot and cleaned out both Gannasi drivers. Palou, who had a 50-plus point lead entering Indianapolis a week ago, lost every single bit of that. His night was done, and so was his points lead. Dixon’s damage was not terminal, but it did cost him multiple laps for repairs. However, he did end up retiring from the race later down the road.

The winners from this incident are first, Pato O’Ward, who entered Saturday just 20 points back of Palou. The second beneficiary party was Newgarden. A driver who was stuck in quicksand for a bit to start 2021, is now right in the mix for what would be his third championship. But what a catastrophic seven-day stretch for Palou. Absolutely everything that could have gone wrong did, and his points lead is gone through no fault of his own.

Romain Grosjean goes Super Saiyan

In his first-ever oval race, Grosjean started out seemingly getting his feet wet. After the Palou wreck, he turned things up in a big way. Starting with this gutsy pass on Dalton Kellett. Grosjean then went with the bold strategy to just simply keep passing cars. In the ensuing laps, he made his way from 15th all the way up to 9th. On the eye test, he looked like a 15-year veteran. If you made every car look the same you would have never known it was Grosjean’s first time on an oval. A wildly impressive mini-run for the longtime F1 vet.

The Hits Keep Coming

You could use every negative adjective in the book, and all of them combined could not describe this two-year stretch for Alexander Rossi. He added to that misery with a crash running in third on Saturday. Coming out of turn two, the car seemed to not turn and he nailed the outside wall, destroying the right front suspension.

Right before this as well, Herta, who also ran up front for most of the night to this point, bowed out after a driveshaft failure as well. Herta is also on a down stretch, after his crash out at Nashville.

For the Win

The restart with 50 laps to go would be the final of the race. The battle for the checkered flag felt destined to be Newgarden and O’Ward, and it ended up being so. Despite gaining significant time on Newgarden with just laps remaining, O’Ward’s efforts would be in vain. Newgarden, who is the only multi-time winner at Gateway, took him his third win at the mile-long oval.

In the opening 10 races of the year, Newgarden was a bridesmaid thrice. While also losing a shot at a win at Road America due to a gearbox issue on a late restart. He has now won twice in the last four races, scoring top 10s in all four. Different discipline, but this feels like shades of Tony Stewart in the 2011 NASCAR playoffs. Where he turned up the heat and won five out of ten races en route to a title. Again, two different worlds, but keep that in mind if he can pull this off.

Championship Outlook

There are now just three races remaining for IndyCar in 2021. Portland, Laguna-Seca, Long Beach Grand Prix, three distinctly different circuits that present their own challenges. A big test for the young guns O’Ward and Palou, who at just 22 and 24 years old respectively, are in the driver’s seat for the title. Speaking of which the standings are as follows after Saturday.

Focus on the top four drivers, baring absolute shenanigans and chaos, that is your title fight. The dark horse, Dixon, is looking for history. If he can come back from his 40-plus point deficit, he would tie a racing Mount Rushmore member, A.J. Foyt, with seven IndyCar titles. Newgarden is looking to cap off a run of three championships in five years.

Then you have the front runners, Palou and O’Ward. Both looking to become the first-ever IndyCar champion for their respective countries, Spain and Mexico. O’Ward would also likely be the youngest IndyCar champion, dating back to at least World War II. A lot of interesting storylines to follow, and even better racing with three rounds to go.

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