MADISON, Illinois – Motorsports fans in the Midwest are crazy about their Verizon IndyCar Series racing. More than 100 of them were able to get quite the race-day experience for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline.
In a fan event coordinated through INDYCAR and Gateway Motorsports Park, 113 fans rode buses on Saturday from the INDYCAR offices in Speedway, Indiana, to Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis to see first-hand the exciting race under the lights. It was double the number who made the trip when it was offered last year.
Purchasing the experience through Gateway’s website included the 200-mile bus ride, a silver level grandstand ticket and paddock pass for the day. The buses were scheduled to transport fans back to Indianapolis after the race conclusion.
The fans jam-packed three buses that made the journey along I-70 through the Midwest’s long and wavy fields of corn and soybeans, spending time exchanging stories about their INDYCAR fandom their favorite drivers.
Richard and Grant Morrison of Noblesville, Indiana, made the trip to visit Gateway Motorsports Park for the first time. They were looking forward to a great afternoon and evening of racing that also included Mazda Road to Indy races for Indy Lights and Pro Mazda, as well as the Verizon IndyCar Series driver autograph session.
“We love Indy car racing so much and night racing just elevates it to another level,” said Richard Morrison, a veteran of more than 20 Indianapolis 500s. “The drivers are so talented and fun to watch. This is definitely something we had to do.”
Mike Fitzpatrick had taken past bus trips to races at Chicagoland Speedway. An INDYCAR fan much of his life, it was a no-brainer for the Westfield, Indiana, resident to hop on the bus to Gateway.
“Ever since I moved to Indianapolis, I’ve been going to races and it’s been such a blast,” said Fitzpatrick. “The quality of racing and fan engagement and value for your money, the INDYCAR series is the best.”
When asked about the Scott Dixon hat he was proudly wearing, Fitzpatrick said he acquired it through the accessible nature of the teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“One of the Team Ganassi team managers gave me this hat and he said, ‘Thanks for being a fan.’ That just shows how great the people in this sport are,” he said.
A quartet of fans – Teresa, Austin, Paul and Paul Bongen of Indianapolis – also attended a past bus trip to the Milwaukee Mile. They’ve followed many of the drivers’ up-and-coming careers, including Josef Newgarden and echoed the sentiments of other bus riders.
“We’ve been going to races for over 20 years and this bus trip just expands the experience. INDYCAR racing is family to me, to be honest,” said Austin Bongen, attending his first INDYCAR race outside of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Teresa Bongen said it was hard to pick a favorite among the drivers.
“There’s not one I don’t like,” she said. “I love Sebastien Bourdais, but I root for other drivers as well because they’re all so personable and lovely to people. You can’t root against them.
“The communication between the drivers, teams, the series with their fan bases is amazing and makes it worth it to come to these races. We’re excited for what’s in store for tonight.”
Live coverage of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 begins at 8p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.