A sold-out crowd welcomed the NTT IndyCar series to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway this past weekend for the third annual Bommarito 500.
As with last year, I embedded with an IndyCar team to capture behind the scenes of the race. This year, I teamed up with rookie sensation Colton Herta and the Harding Steinbrenner Racing team. With one win under his belt already this season at Circuit of the Americas, Colton looked to end the season on a high note with a solid finish in the final oval of the year.
As the weekend kicked off, I had the opportunity to sit down with Harding Steinbrenner co-owner George Steinbrenner. Our primary topic was the progression from Indy Lights to IndyCar, as 2019 is both his and Herta’s first full season in the “big show.”
“Overall the step up from Indy Lights to IndyCar wasn’t anything dramatic,” states Steinbrenner. “Everything is just bigger in scale. You just take everything from Indy Lights and multiply it by eight.
“The people, the amount of work and the money just increases overall, which is why it’s a prefect system to assist with drivers making the leap in addition to teams. We aren’t the only ones to have made the jump in recent years. Teams like SMP, Juncos and Carlin have all made their way up the ladder from Indy Lights to IndyCar.”
Qualifying began relatively early for Herta, who went out eighth. Prior to the session the historic cars had run on track, and fluid was laid down during an incident. As a result, oil dry in the racing line limited Colton’s overall speed. As more competitors took to the track, the oil dry began to decrease, and speeds increased as the session went on, with the last few competitors setting the fastest laps. In the end, Herta qualified in 12th position, starting on Row 6.
Saturday’s race day began around 2PM for teams and drivers. As the gates opened, fans began to pour into the paddock, searching for their favorite drivers to grab selfies and autographs. Herta quietly made his way through the paddock, signing autographs and meeting fans on his way to provide a tour to team partners of the hauler and paddock area before making his way back to his trailer to prepare for the race.
As the sun began to set over World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, the fans began to take their seats. Rolling out P12, the race only made it a few green laps before the first caution of the night. In total, the race would see 50 of its 248 laps run under caution. Herta was strong, throughout the race, making up ground on restarts and pit strategy. In the end, Colton was able to cross the finish line for the first time at an oval in 2019 with a solid ninth place finish, in front of the largest crowd at Gateway since the series’ return in 2017.
Teams now look to finish out the season with two road course events. The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series continues this coming weekend at Portland International Raceway for the Grand Prix of Portland, followed by the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
Check out my full gallery from the weekend below!