Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Gateway Surface a Big Hit as IndyCar Drivers Run Tests

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Gateway Surface a Big Hit as IndyCar Drivers Run Tests

Article excerpt

The track at Gateway Motorsports Park was showing its age in May when drivers tested in preparation for this month's IndyCar race and encountered poor conditions that led to significant tire damage.

The problem was bad enough that the test was cut short. Gateway owner Curtis Francois subsequently had experts analyze the situation, and he decided to re-pave the 20-year-old track.

With the six-week process completed, drivers returned to test the new surface Thursday and found a smooth ride where once there were jagged edges.

"I was here in May and unfortunately only did a few laps and stopped because it was cutting a lot of tires," veteran driver Helio Castroneves said. "It's a night-and-day change. This is comparable to the surface at Indianapolis, Pocono, Phoenix really great race tracks."

Paving on the track started June 19 and was completed July 29. The original asphalt was torn out and a new three-inch thick track put in place.

Every IndyCar team sent a driver and a crew to get a feel for the 1 -mile track with its 11-degree bank in the south turn and 9-degree bank in the north turn.

"When I was here last time it was a pretty rude awakening into how bumpy it was," driver Ryan Hunter-Reay said. "It's always tough to get acclimated to a bumpy track. This time it felt perfectly smooth. It only took a couple of laps to get up to speed where I felt comfortable with the car."

Two flat tires were reported in the latest round of testing one caused by a device that fell from a car onto the track and the other by an errant bolt.

After Gateway was awarded the race, the first tests at the track were held in October 2016. A few teams participated as Firestone worked to determine the required tire specifications.

There were some issues at that time, but they became more apparent in May, forcing Francois into a major decision. He had inherited an old track that had some major problems in 1997 when the asphalt broke apart during the inaugural Gateway 300. After some patch work, it held up until 2017. …

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