By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
MADISON, Illinois — After Friday’s practice and qualifying in preparation for Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park, several Verizon IndyCar Series drivers praised the newly-paved track surface for its smoothness.
“It’s silky smooth and they should copy and paste this surface onto a lot of the tracks,” said Chip Ganassi Racing driver Max Chilton.
The track recently made the decision to repave after several drivers suffered tire failures during a test in early May. The repave was completed in July.
“It wasn’t overly bumpy here, there was just big cracks and there was a lot of tire cutting issues so we didn’t get much running,” Chilton added.
Other drivers added praise to the track surface.
“I really like the track with the new pavement. It’s smooth and a lot of fun to drive,” said 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones.
“It’s actually such a smooth surface, a new surface,” Will Power said after claiming his 50th IndyCar Series pole.
“It’s already very high grip. It doesn’t seem like it’s taking rubber that much. It doesn’t need to, there’s a lot of grip out there, especially with the package we’re running here.”
Some of the biggest praise came from a driver who spoke before he drove on the pavement. Sebastien Bourdais spoke to the media before the first practice session at the first IndyCar race he is driving in since his crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying in May.
“With the new pavement, it looks like a first-class facility, so it’s awesome,” Bourdais said.
“You know, hats off to the organization. I think a lot of people had doubts about the organization being able to pull it together and repave so fast and be ready for a race like that. You know, just really appreciate all the efforts, and I heard that there’s a really good predictions for the crowd and everything.”
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves recently tested on the new surface and was also a fan of the repave.
“It’s unbelievably smooth,” Castroneves said.
“And the grip, every time you keep going out there, sounds like it’s accepting – the track is accepting very well the Firestone tires, and it keeps adding more grip, meaning as you keep running around, the track gets better. So imagine when we ran here two, three weeks ago, we [are] still improving the time just because the track was adding more grip.”
Saturday’s race will start at 8:45 PM CT, but the TV broadcast will begin at 8:00 on NBCSN.