Schedule stuff: IndyCar at Pocono goes to 500 miles; NASCAR Trucks release ’14 docket

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Open-wheel Triple Crown traditionalists, rejoice.

Today, Pocono Raceway announced that starting next year, their 4th of July weekend IndyCar Series event will stretch an additional 100 miles (40 laps) to become the Pocono INDYCAR 500 Fueled by Sunoco.

That means all three legs of the Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Triple Crown – Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana – will be 500-mile events (this past year’s IndyCar revival at Pocono was a 400-miler).

“I’m very excited about these changes for 2014,” Pocono president/CEO Brandon Igdalsky said in a statement. “After last year’s IndyCar Series race, droves of open-wheel fans immediately took to our social media channels, sent emails, called us to let us know they wanted more.

“The fans spoke, we listened and we made some changes. The one thing not changing next season, however, will be the ticket prices to see these great, competitive events.”

IndyCar’s return to Pocono this past July may not have been the most exciting oval race in series history, but it wasn’t a stinker, either  – and it can be argued that this race had as big an impact on the season as any other.

Scott Dixon took the checkered flag in a 1-2-3 finish for Chip Ganassi Racing, and that set him off on a three-race win streak that signaled his challenge to Helio Castroneves for the championship. Last weekend, you saw the final result.

“I think this is really exciting for Pocono, the drivers and all the Indy car fans out there,” Dixon said in his own statement. “It will certainly change the race strategy at Pocono next year, for sure. This year’s race was highly competitive and the addition of 100 miles is going to make it even better.”

As a former St. Louis area resident that got his first taste of live NASCAR racing at Gateway Motorsports Park, I happily admit that I’m pleased as punch about this next bit of news.

The egg-shaped 1.25-mile oval outside the Gateway City shall return to the NASCAR ranks next season, as the Camping World Truck Series will make a stop there as part of its 2014 schedule.

In its previous life as Dover Motorsports-owned Gateway International Raceway, the track hosted NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) and Truck Series events plus CART and the Indy Racing League on the open-wheel side.

Also coming back to the Trucks schedule is New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which will host both the Trucks and Sprint Cup for its September 2014 NASCAR weekend.

Here’s the full 22-race schedule for the Trucks in 2014:

Feb. 21 – Daytona International Speedway
March 29 – Martinsville Speedway
May 9 – Kansas Speedway
May 16 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
May 30 – Dover International Speedway
June 6 – Texas Motor Speedway
June 14 – Gateway Motorsports Park
June 26 – Kentucky Speedway
July 12 – Iowa Speedway
July 23 – Eldora Speedway
Aug. 2 – Pocono Raceway
Aug. 16 – Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 20 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Aug. 31 – Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Sept. 12 – Chicagoland Speedway
Sept. 20 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Sept. 27 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Oct. 18 – Talladega Superspeedway
Oct. 25 – Martinsville Speedway
Oct. 31 – Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 7 – Phoenix International Raceway
Nov. 14 – Homestead-Miami Speedway

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”