Gateway prepares for NASCAR return in 2014

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With the Camping World Truck Series heading for Gateway Motorsports Park next season, NASCAR racing will be back in the St. Louis region, which spawned the likes of the Wallace brothers (Rusty, Kenny, and Mike) and Ken Schrader.

A successful event could put Gateway on the list to “move up” and eventually re-gain its spot on the Nationwide Series calendar, which it held from 1997 to 2010 (the last year seeing two NNS races at the track) before it was shut down by former owner Dover Motorsports. But first thing’s first.

“We are re-introducing stock car racing to the area,” NASCAR vice president of racing operations Jim Cassidy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this weekend. “The first step in doing that is bringing back the trucks and making it the biggest and best event we can.”

Now under the care of Curtis Francois, Gateway has been growing over the last year thanks to Francois’ renovations to the tune of $11.5 million. He entered a lease for the track in 2011 and then bought it outright this past spring.

Since taking control of Gateway, Francois has lured back the NHRA and now has been able to do the same with NASCAR. He told the Post-Dispatch that he expects the local community to support the CWTS event and “a new Gateway.”

“The fans in our region deserve great racing and the NASCAR truck series brings great racing,” Francois said. “We’re doing everything at the track to make it relevant in updating the facilities and to provide a great fan experience.

“…We’re certainly talking to a lot of [local business] people this year that we weren’t talking to last year. I do believe that the reason is they can see and feel the energy that’s at the track. We’re getting great feedback from the business leaders.”

Tickets for the Gateway 250 on June 14, 2014 go on sale this Friday.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.