When Helio Castroneves arrives at Gateway Motorsports Park in late August to qualify and then compete in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Presented by Valvoline, he will have history on his side.
It was 14 years ago in late summer 2003 when Castroneves captured the 10th of his 29 career titles, edging fellow Brazilians Tony Kanaan and Gil de Ferran to win what turned out to be the last IndyCar race at Gateway.
IndyCar racing, Castroneves and the rest of the top drivers in the world will return to Gateway for the Aug. 26 race.
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Castroneves was just one of many of the top drivers on hand Tuesday to test their cars on the 1.25-mile oval and get a first-hand look at the site of the newest stop on the IndyCar Series.
“Gateway is a very special, special place for me. It’s a place where we had a chance to win in 1999, and it’s a place which I hold in a corner of my heart,” Castroneves said following his test run. “But it’s a little different now. Back then, the track was newer, obviously, and weather was cold.
“The track is good for racing. There are a lot of difficult ovals that people aren’t used to racing on. It’s tricky. Turn one is difficult, whereas (turns three and four) are a little more wide-open. It will be a real challenge for all of us.”
Several hundred race fans from the St. Louis area were on hand to watch as drivers — including Castroneves, 2017 IndyCar points leader Simon Pagenaud, second-place Scott Dixon and third-place Josef Newgarden — got a first taste of racing at Gateway.
Currently sixth in points, 41 behind Pagenaud, Castroneves has placed in the top 10 in all four races this season and has two top-five finishes. Castroneves was impressed by the turnout at practice Tuesday.
“It’s very impressive to see so many people come out on a weekday to watch practice. I think it shows that this area missed IndyCar racing and is glad to see it return,” Castroneves said. “We have great drivers, excellent competition, great teams and wonderful sponsors who give their everything to this sport.
“People should come out and watch, and I hope they will. (Gateway) is a great place, and people don’t get a chance to see this type of racing very often. It’s going to be on a Saturday night, under the lights; the weather should be just outstanding. And I promise you, it will be exciting.”
Tickets for the race can be purchased at www.gatewaymsp.com/indycar/ or by calling the Gateway Motorsports Park ticket office at (618) 215-8888. Tickets start at $35. Children 15 and younger receive free general admission with a paid adult.
Gateway Motorsports Park owner and CEO Curtis Francois said he is thrilled to have the IndyCar drivers back for the first time in more than a decade.
“We couldn’t be any more pleased that for the first time in years — back to 2003 — that the drivers in open-wheel racing are back here at Gateway,” Francois said. “The drivers I’ve talked to say the course is fast — very fast. And I think people who come out will have the opportunity to see a very exciting race.”