INDYCAR, July 20 — Verizon IndyCar Series driver Charlie Kimball turned the first ceremonial laps today on the new track surface at Gateway Motorsports Park, repaved recently in anticipation of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline race weekend Aug. 25-26.

Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Tresiba Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, gave rides to local media in an official Honda pace car on the 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Illinois, minutes from St. Louis.

“I think it’s awesome,” Kimball said of the new surface. “The investment made to repave and update the surface is significant. The fact that we’re coming back in August to a much smoother racetrack than we tested on (in early May) is going to create a lot better racing for Verizon IndyCar Series cars under the lights.”

Indy cars raced at Gateway for seven consecutive years beginning when the facility opened in 1997. The list of winners reads like a who’s who of the sport’s greats: Paul Tracy, Alex Zanardi, Michael Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Al Unser Jr., Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves.

The complete surface of the egg-shaped oval was repaved for the first time this summer, ahead of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return for the first time in 14 years. It is the third phase of a multimillion-dollar capital improvement plan undertaken by track owner and CEO Curtis Francois, who purchased the facility in 2012.

“To be able to compete under the lights in August on a Saturday night on a short track like Gateway is going to be fantastic,” Kimball said. “I think the way Turn 1 and Turn 3 are so very different is going to lead to an incredible event and the new asphalt will only add to that.”

Kimball (right) and Bommarito Automotive Group’s Chuck Wallis presented tickets to lucky fan Caleb Drake of Madison, Illinois. Kimball also took Drake for a high-speed spin on the new pavement. (John Bisci)

Verizon IndyCar Series teams are scheduled to test on the new surface on Aug. 3, three weeks ahead of the race weekend. The Aug. 25-26 schedule includes competition in two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires: Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.

Tickets start at just $35. Children 15 and under receive free general admission with a paid adult.