The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 is normally a hectic NTT IndyCar Series event, but it was doubly so when the series split it into a doubleheader this past weekend (Aug. 29 and 30). Turning one race into two 200-lap missions on consecutive days brought out the best in some IndyCar contenders and the worst in others.
In the end, the IndyCar championship picture continued to crystallize after nine races, with three—or maybe that’s five—events left on the 2020 IndyCar schedule. As fans ponder that question, here are some of the other thoughts that came out of the back-to-back action at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
1) Experience still counts for a lot
Much was made over the young drivers in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, with the NBCSN broadcast team doling out handfuls of praise and talking about IndyCar’s “youth movement.” That certainly exists, but the two races were won by Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden, who have seven IndyCar championships between them.
The ways in which they captured those victories also spoke to their experience. Both Dixon and Newgarden got their advantages thanks to veteran crews on pit lane, and then held onto their leads by effectively managing the gaps between themselves and the second-place driver behind them. It wasn’t just for a few laps, either; they had to keep that balance for extended periods of time.
The young crew of drivers like Patricio O’Ward will have their day, but let’s not get so excited about them that we start looking past the series mainstays who are still as sharp as they’ve ever been.
2) Pit stops will continue to be a disaster
Since the 2020 IndyCar season began fans and commentators alike have talked about the flaws in pit stops for almost every team. The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 consisted of races eight and nine on the schedule, well past the season’s halfway point, and pit stop fumbles continued to trip up contenders. At this point, viewers should just assume that things in the pits aren’t going to get much better; if they were, it should’ve happened by now.
Ask Takuma Sato, who according to NBCSN’s commentary team was visibly emotional on Saturday because a bad pit stop let Dixon get ahead of him. Or talk to Santino Ferrucci, who could’ve won at Gateway last year and at least had a podium this year if not for his pit crew.
It’s not all mistakes that have made the difference; O’Ward was beaten out fair and square on pit lane by both of the eventual race winners. But the mistakes that were made definitely crushed the hopes of other drivers, and by now it’s hard to just say they’re rusty because of the extra time off. The season is heading into its final act and the pit stops are still nail-biters every time.
3) Is Jack Harvey IndyCar’s most underrated driver?
Jack Harvey delivered an impressive performance in the 2020 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 even if the final box score didn’t show it. The Meyer Shank Racing driver fought hard on both days, and could have been a player for the podium on Saturday if not for that awkward yellow for almost imperceptible rain that punted him near the back of the field.
Harvey has shown throughout the season that he can get a lot out of the No. 60 car and hang in there with teams that have more resources. Considering that this is MSR’s first full season, and that the weekend was also Harvey’s first time at World Wide Technology Raceway, he’s got a lot to be proud of. He has three top-10 finishes in nine races and if he keeps hustling like this, better results should come.
Conversely, can someone please help Alexander Rossi before he snaps? Rossi once again fell victim to something completely not his fault during the Saturday race, and his 14th place finish Sunday wasn’t much better. It feels like all he hasn’t seen is a piano falling on his car.
The next confirmed race on the 2020 IndyCar schedule is the 2020 IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix Race 1 on Oct. 02 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. TV information is TBA.