Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gateway Opens the Gate First Laps Taken in Clouds of Dust

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gateway Opens the Gate First Laps Taken in Clouds of Dust

Article excerpt

Gateway International Raceway came to life Wednesday as the Indy cars of Championship Auto Racing Teams drove on the new track for the first time. Slowly but surely, they got up to speed - in the neighborhood of 180 mph - at the first practice session for Saturday's Motorola 300.

Mark Blundell was given the green flag at 2:25 p.m. As the driver of the Motorola PacWest Mercedes, Blundell had the honor of taking the first laps around the new track because of his sponsor.

With lime spiraling up like a cloud of dust behind him, Blundell cautiously wheeled around the 1.25-mile, egg-shaped oval. He did three relatively slow laps before pulling into the pits and giving way to the rest of the field. As the session continued and the cars began to put some rubber on the asphalt and create a racing groove, the speeds began to increase. There was passing in turn three and on the backstretch, and the only spot on the track where the drivers appeared to ease up was going into the first turn. The lime, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of it, had been placed on the new asphalt track after paving was completed last month. It then was rolled into the track to help close all of the pores in the surface. The lime sat on the track for several weeks. Recently, most of it was cleaned off. Still, when the cars started making their first practice laps Wednesday, the lime swirled about in the air and made the track slippery. "I thought I was (driving on a dirt track) in that first half-hour of practice. There was dust everywhere," said Shell Team Rahal driver Bryan Herta. Mauricio Gugelmin, driver of the Hollywood PacWest Mercedes, said: "It's going to be good once the circuit comes in, but the first few laps I thought I was in a sandstorm. It's pretty dusty at the moment, but then today was the first day it was ever used by racing cars." Track officials pointed out that the speedway was finished two months ahead of schedule and it was the first day of practice. "It's going to be a great circuit," said Al Unser Jr., who drives the Marlboro Team Penske Mercedes. "Some washing would be good, though." Unser said the cars had cut a pretty good racing groove by the end of the two hours of practice, but all of the lime had been pushed up higher on the track. …

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