Under Armour enters NASCAR, signs deals with Hendrick, MWR

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After a one-year trial sponsorship with Hendrick Motorsports, sporting goods giant Under Armour has inked multi-year sponsorship deals with both Hendrick and Michael Waltrip Racing as it officially moves deeper into the NASCAR world.

According to Tripp Mickle of SportsBusiness Journal, the deals will not include the teams’ drivers but in the case of Hendrick, UA can use the likenesses, cars, and numbers for that team’s quartet of racers: Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, current Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, and Kasey Kahne.

In addition to sponsoring the teams, UA will also outfit them as well – from those working in the pits to those within their respective front offices.

The Hendrick deal is actually a three-year extension, while the MWR deal is a two-year pact. UA will also sponsor MWR’s new athletic facility and gym at its North Carolina headquarters.

UA already has a sizable portfolio of clients across many sports, from college football programs to U.S. Olympic Team members. But the Baltimore-based company is now making its way into NASCAR in a bid to not only raise awareness and sales of its athletic line of apparel but its outdoor/hunting line as well.

Mickle reports that in addition to tapping into NASCAR’s passionate fan base as a whole, UA officials were spurred on by “a general sense” that NASCAR fans tended to enjoy the Great Outdoors through hunting and fishing more than other sports fans – which could give them a prime marketing opportunity with their outdoor products.

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.