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Old 23 Aug 2017, 17:25 (Ref:3761230)   #1
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Round 15 Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Gateway Motorsports Park, Illinois 25-26 Aug

Round 15 Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Gateway Motorsports Park. Madison, Illinois. August 25-26.

This weekend's race will be the first AOWR event, since the Indy Racing League held the Emerson 250 in 2003, which was won by Hélio Castroneves, driving for Team Penske in a Dallara IR03-Toyota Indy V8.

Gateway Motorsports Park was originally called St. Louis Raceway and in 1967 was developed by Wayne Meinert as a 1/8 mile drag strip. Four years later and with the purchsase of more land, St. Louis Raceway over the next four years, expanded into a full quarter-mile drag strip and renamed St. Louis International Raceway.

Drag racing remained the main form of motorsport throughout the '70s and '80s but with increasing demand from road racers, a new 2.6-mile course was built and opened in 1985, incorporating the drag strip. The venue was renamed Gateway International Raceway and hosted Can-Am, Sports Car Club of American (SCCA) and Trans Am events.

In 1995, the venue was purchased by former Long Beach Grand Prix promoter Chris Pook, who had plans to create a new oval course, to host Indycar and NASCAR races. The original track was demolished and a new oval and infield road course were built and opened in 1997.

The venue's inaugural race was the Motorola 300, the sixth round of the 1997 CART season, held on Saturday May 24 and won by Paul Tracy, driving for Marlboro Team Penske, in a Penske PC-26-Mercedes-Benz IC108C. Rather than holding a race that conflicted with the Indy Racing League's Indy 500, as had been the case in 1996 with the U.S. 500, CART scheduled the race the day before the Indy 500 to serve as their Memorial Day weekend race. After a couple of years, track management grew increasingly dissatisfied with its use, which was seen by some, as a political pawn or statement by CART. The event had poor attendance, as fans generally chose to travel to the Indy 500 for the weekend instead. In 2000, the race was moved to the Fall, Autumn but with spectator attendance of only 25,000, it was dropped from the CART series calendar in 2001 and switched to the Indy Racing League. Spectator attendance continued to be an issue and the event was dropped after 2003.

In 2010 Dover Motorsports, Inc., who had purchased the venue from Pook, hosted two Nationwide Series races at Gateway However, following their closure of Memphis Motorsports Park. Attendance figures were disappointing and the Dover group, citing their inability to run the operations with acceptable returns, officially announced Gateway was officially closing and ceasing operations as of November 3, 2010.

Less than a year later, Curtis Francois a retired racing driver who raced in Indy Lights at Gateway in 2002 and now a real estate developer, purchased the 160-acre venue, investing $20 million and reopened it in 2012. Key to reopening Gateway was the commitment to drag racing and the partnership with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Francois signed a long-term deal with the NHRA starting with a signature event in September 2012 and subsequently adding NASCAR truck events.

Some Trivia:
Of the current crop of drivers, Hélio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan have raced at Gateway before.
The team with the most wins is Team Penske, 1997, 2002 and 2003.

Track Layout:
The 1.25-mile (2.01 km) oval has a unique egg shape, with different degrees of banking. Turns 1 and 2 have characteristics similar to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, while Turns 3 and 4 are similar to Phoenix International Raceway, while the track's egg shape mimics the legendary Darlington Raceway. There is also a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) infield road course. Alongside would be a separate NHRA-sanctioned drag strip. Today, Gateway has undergone an $11.5 million revitalization project.

1985-95 full course layout:

1997 to date:

Track length:
1.25-mile (2.01 km)
Turns: 4

Lap record:
May 23, 1997, Raul Boesel, 24.324, 187.963 mph (302.497 km/h). Patrick Racing, Reynard 97i-Ford Cosworth XD.

Last race winner:
August 10, 2003.
Hélio Castroneves,
Team Penske, Dallara IR03-Toyota Indy V8

Laps: 200
Distance: 250 Miles (402.336 km)
Race Time: 1:50:53
Average Speed: 135.286 mph (217.721 km/h)

4, 35 laps.

TV Broadcast:
NBCSN, 9:00pm ET.
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