IndyCar setup sheet: World Wide Technology Raceway

What: Bommarito Automotive Group 500 / Race 15 of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series

Where: World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill. – 1.25-mile oval

When: Sunday, Aug. 27, 3:30pm ET (green flag 3:36pm ET)

With three rounds to go, Alex Palou’s second NTT IndyCar Series championship in three years looks nailed on. He’s 101 points clear of the chasing pack, now led by Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, who won last time out on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. But that doesn’t detract from the allure of the last three races, starting with the final oval race of the season at World Wide Technology Raceway on Sunday. 


Formerly known as Gateway, the 1.25-mile oval is officially located in Madison, Ill., but is often referred to as “St. Louis” since it’s just over the Mississippi River from the Missouri city. Indeed, St. Louis’ iconic 630-ft Gateway Arch almost casts a shadow over the track.

This weekend, Dixon and last year’s WWTR winner, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (below), have no choice but to go all out if they are to maintain any slender hope of catching Palou, but must also watch their rear-view mirrors for attacks from behind. P2 through P7 in the IndyCar standings are covered by just 73 points.

That seventh place in points is currently occupied by the outgoing champion, Will Power, who’s still seeking his first win of the 2023 season. He took both pole positions at Iowa Speedway in July, but watched teammate Newgarden claim both wins, despite he and the No. 12 entry having the speed to contend. 

Power’s race engineer for all but two of his seasons at this level, and all but one of his 41 race wins, is David Faustino. He spoke to us about the challenges of World Wide Technology Raceway, where Power took pole last season (lead image, above) and led a race-high 128 laps before finishing sixth.

“I think we had a good chance to win both of the Iowa races this year — maybe we took a little too long to pit in the second race — but the Penske cars had the speed, and I’m hoping that rolls well into this weekend,” says Faustino. “But there are big differences between the two short ovals on the schedule, as well as similarities.

“Both of them require max downforce; they both force the driver to lift at both ends of the track, and for the most part, they’re grip limited all the time. So, in qualifying, you don’t really see people trimming out; our aero work is much more about getting the balance where you want it to be to complement the mechanical setup. At both tracks, you want to get to the point where you try to run as much front wing as you can for grip, but without the car becoming too loose on entry and exit.

“But it’s interesting because IndyCar has added available parts to the cars last year and again this year, such as underwing bargeboards, yet you see teams struggling with them. It’s not because they’re not useful options, but because it’s a real struggle to find accurate data that proves or disproves their benefit. For parts like that, it’s hard to get agreement between wind tunnels and the real world, and we don’t have enough days to test them in the real world. Their effect is so ride-height sensitive that you’re working off a little bit of track data and a little bit of driver feedback.”

One of the key differences between Iowa and WWTR is their shape. There’s far less disparity between the minimum speeds at each end of Iowa’s 0.894-mile bullring, because the arcs required for Turns 1-2 and 3-4 are roughly the same, and the progressive banking for each ranges from 12 to 14 degrees. WWTR, however, is shaped like a piece of candy corn, with the Turn 3-4 parabola allowing greater speed despite the surface being banked at only nine degrees, compared with the 11 degrees of the tighter Turns 1-2 (below, Power in 2022).

“Because Iowa is slightly D-shaped, you typically have greater speed into Turn 1 than into Turn 3, but it’s not a big difference,” says Faustino, “and the minimum speeds there are typically lower than in Gateway. And Gateway is also a one-and-a-quarter-mile track, so its straights are longer. Where you might hit 191mph at Iowa, this weekend you’ll probably see 198. But at Gateway, those straights mean you have to slow down more for Turn 1-2, so you have more downshifting, which means more upshifting on the back straight.

“Then you get to Turns 3-4 and that’s much faster…but the way the track surface has degraded, the driver lifts a little there, even in qualifying, and it puts him on a very fine line as to whether he does or doesn’t downshift. That makes deciding on gearing difficult, because you have to try and figure out what your cornering speed is going to be with sticker [new] tires and clean air.”

The knock-on effect of WWTR’s interesting profile is that it forces compromise.

“Because Turns 3 and 4 are much faster than 1 and 2, it’s 3-4 that defines your ride height,” Faustino explains. “People will try to get low there for the best aero efficiency, obviously, but you’re desperate for the car to not get too low and bottom out because it costs you so much speed. You’d like to get lower in Turns 1-2 if you could, but it’s what the car requires through 3-4 that sets your minimum ride height, so you just put up with wherever you may be in 1-2.”

A typical World Wide Technology Raceway issue that’s far less of a problem at Iowa is traffic. Yes, the cars run maximum downforce at both, but getting your substantial wings into clean air is far more difficult on the 1.25-mile oval.

“Iowa offers multiple lines that you can take as you catch a competitor or a backmarker,” explains Faustino (below), “so you can run in a groove where you have clean air — downforce — over at least one side of your car, so you can set up a pass. Gateway is more of a one-line track, except at the start, or on restarts after they’ve swept the track. So suddenly you’re having your speed dictated by the car in front because you’re directly behind, literally running in their wheel tracks and losing all the downforce that you should have with these large wings. That’s when the pace slows, and it sucks people into the decision of going for a fuel-save stint rather than risking everything on a pass. That can end up making everyone run the same strategy, rather than have the fastest guys using their natural speed to go really fast and make an extra stop.”

Adding further unknowns in the WWTR setup conundrum this weekend is the decision by IndyCar and Firestone to try out an alternate compound tire on an oval. Will they just be substantially different in terms of durability, or will they also be significantly faster than a fresh set of “standard” tires? Right now, Faustino is as much in the dark as any other IndyCar engineers.

“That’s a really good question, because we’ve never raced anything like this before, nor have we even tested it,” he says. “What we can say is that we believe we’ve run compounds here before that are similar to what we’re going to get as the alternate tire this weekend. It was back in 2019, and what we found was that we got vibrations as it wore — like the effect of a tire going out of balance — so we’re wary of that. To partly answer your question, we’re expecting the difference in lap times to be substantial, but the question is, for how long?

“We’ll get a set of these alternate tires to try in practice and all we can hope is that we get enough time on them to try and sort those answers out. It’s about finding the crossover point, where they shift from being faster than the ‘regular’ tires to being slower, and whether there will be tire vibrations, too.

“The track has slowed a little bit since 2019, because that was soon after it was repaved, and typically what happens is that as the tracks get more slippery and get more abrasive wear, you don’t get so much of the tire vibration problems. If that’s the case this weekend, then I think you’re just going to use the softer tire strategically when you have a chance to jump somebody by running grippier tires and in clean air. That’s when you’d play that card. But to be honest, right now it’s a substantial unknown.”

You can follow all the practice and qualifying action from WWTR on Peacock on Saturday, Aug. 26, with NBC your go-to location for 260 laps and 325 miles of race action on Sunday, Aug. 27. And to get even closer to it all, grab the best seat in the house with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA and its 14 race day live onboard cameras.   


Saturday, Aug. 26 / 11:00am – Noon ET – Practice 1 – Peacock

Saturday, Aug. 26 / 2:00pm – 3:00pm ET – Qualifying – Peacock

Saturday, Aug. 26 / 5:00pm – 5:30pm ET – High-line practice (two groups, 15 minutes each) – Peacock

Saturday, Aug. 26 / 5:45pm – 6:45pm ET – Final practice – Peacock

Sunday, Aug. 27 / 3:30pm – RACE – NBC, Peacock

• All sessions and the race are also available as audio commentary on SiriusXM and INDYCAR Radio. Tune in, too, to the pre-race show on SiriusXM and INDYCAR Radio, 3:00pm-3:30pm ET on Sunday, Aug. 27.

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Bringing you the onboard action from the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 are…

Josef Newgarden / No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet
Regardless of his faltering 2023 title quest, the two-time champion has the chance to make history this weekend by becoming the first driver to win all of the NTT IndyCar Series’ oval races in one season. It would also mean he scored his sixth straight oval win, going back to last year’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500. As a four-time WWTR race winner already, Newgarden has to be regarded as favorite on Sunday — but this is IndyCar and anything can happen.

Will Power / No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet
“Oh yeah, the pressure’s on to keep that chain going,” says David Faustino, Will Power’s race engineer, as the pair seek to get into victory lane at least once in the last three events of 2023 and thereby extend the Aussie’s tally of consecutive race-winning seasons from 16 to 17. Gateway has been Power’s friend in the past — four poles, one victory — but he’s well aware that Newgarden has the opposite tally of successes at WWTR and right now appears pretty much impossible to beat on short ovals.

Pato O’Ward / No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

O’Ward has amassed three podiums and a fourth-place finish at WWTR (below), a superb record that speaks highly of his oval-racing skills. But truth be told, the Arrow McLaren team, while shining at such as Indy and Texas, have looked only “thereabouts,” rather than right there in terms of short-oval pace in the recent past. Still, if he gets out front, he will be extremely hard to pass.

Felix Rosenqvist / No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Approaching his final races with Arrow McLaren, Rosenqvist will be more motivated than ever to translate his form into unencumbered finishes. There’s an edge to his driving this year that’s extremely heartening to see; he’ll be more than happy to get his elbows out if push comes to shove.

Alexander Rossi / No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Although he won the Indy 500 in 2016 and then at Pocono Raceway in ’18, conquering a short oval is something that this eight-time IndyCar race winner has yet to add to his list of achievements. But Rossi’s aggression on ovals is always a joy to watch from the onboards, so think about hitching a ride with car No. 7 on Sunday.

Colton Herta / No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

Remarkably, despite being in his fifth season of IndyCar racing, Herta (below) has yet to finish on a podium on an oval. But his best oval result did come at World Wide Technology Raceway — a fourth place in 2020. Andretti Autosport has blown hot and cold on ovals for quite some time now, but if the team is somewhere in the mix, Herta can lead the attack.

Romain Grosjean / No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

This is the track where the ex-Formula 1 ace made his oval debut for Dale Coyne Racing back in 2021 and impressed everyone with his daring passes and car control. He’s certainly not daunted by left-turn-only tracks, and in Texas he threatened to finish on the podium. A top-three finish right now would be a timely reminder of his potential.

Ed Carpenter / No. 33 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

It’s a long time since Ed Carpenter Racing has truly shone on a short oval, yet WWTR was the stage for owner Ed’s most recent podium, back in 2019, and he did manage to start from fourth for Race 2 at Iowa this year. But turning such sparks of hope into a substantial flame and threatening the series’ big guns for victory this weekend? That seems unlikely.

Christian Lundgaard / No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

As Rahal Letterman Lanigan reboots itself after the embarrassment of the Indy 500, short ovals are probably the weakest part of the team’s game, and Lundgaard is still a relative novice on them. Yet he’s a surprising driver, too, and a top-10 finish could be within reach.

Graham Rahal / No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

This is the most difficult season that Rahal has endured in the past decade, yet he now has pole position and a runner-up finish at the previous round on the IMS road course (below) to encourage him. Front or back of the grid on Saturday, you can always expect Rahal to give it maximum effort on Sunday.

Conor Daly / No. 30 Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

With Jack Harvey gone, Daly gets the opportunity to join his third team of the season — the second time that has occurred in his somewhat nomadic IndyCar career. And since this has traditionally been one of his best tracks, he may prove an extremely useful addition at RLL.

Kyle Kirkwood / No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

Despite being an IndyCar sophomore, Kirkwood knows what to look for from a strong oval car, having won here in Indy Pro 2000 in 2019 and earned a pole and two runner-up finishes in Indy Lights in ’21. His performance this weekend will be dictated by Andretti Autosport’s overall competitiveness, but he could well scoop a top-five finish.

Agustin Canapino / No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

Canapino’s studious approach to his NTT IndyCar Series rookie season will ensure he’s taken everything that he learned at Iowa Speedway and transferred it to this weekend. Given the team’s struggles on the schedule’s only other short oval, he should target staying out of trouble and making it to the finish — one of his admirable specialties — and can then perhaps hope for a result in the top 15.

Linus Lundqvist / No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Making only his third start in the NTT IndyCar Series as Simon Pagenaud’s sub, the impressive Swede (below) currently has an average starting position of 12.5! And despite WWTR being his IndyCar oval race debut, maintaining that kind of form may not be out of the question this weekend. Last year, Meyer Shank Racing’s pair of entries qualified 14th and 18th at WWTR, and Lundqvist has already proven himself on this course, taking pole and second place on his way to the Indy NXT (nee Lights) title in 2022.

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Story originally appeared on Racer