NASCAR track owner Bruton Smith not a fan of Race Team Alliance

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As the leader of Speedway Motorsports Inc. – the entity that owns eight tracks with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series dates – Bruton Smith hasn’t always gotten along with the sanctioning body about the sport’s direction.

But when it comes to the new Race Team Alliance, Smith is happy to stand in NASCAR’s corner.

In an interview with USA Today and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan, Smith severely criticized the formation of the RTA, which features nine of the Sprint Cup Series’ biggest teams.

The RTA has insisted that they’re not looking to pick a fight with NASCAR over matters such as revenue from the sport’s new TV package (which goes in effect next year with NBC Sports joining Fox as a broadcaster), and is focusing on cutting costs in areas like parts, travel, and insurance for team members.

But apparently, that hasn’t convinced Smith, who believes the RTA is bad news.

“What I know about it, of course I don’t like it,” he said to Ryan after today’s Sprint Cup practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (which is owned by SMI).

“I don’t know anything about it that’s good for what we do. I don’t see anything that’s going to be good for the sport. Nothing.

“What little bit I know about it right now, it seems it will damage the sport. If NASCAR needs us, we’re there with NASCAR on the deal. We’re there every day, every hour, if they need us.”

According to Ryan, Smith even pretended not to know the RTA’s chairman, Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman, in his interview.

Smith’s comments are a stark contrast to those from defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who drives for Hendrick Motorsports, one of the biggest teams in the RTA.

Johnson said this morning at New Hampshire that he understood the worry from some over the RTA’s formation.

But he also expressed the belief that the RTA can help NASCAR better recognize the collective needs of the teams by having those needs voiced by a single group.

“We will see what the future holds and I feel like there is a positive outcome,” Johnson said. “This is a good thing. I don’t feel like this is going to drive separation or a split, and I don’t even know where that separation or split would take place.”

NASCAR president Mike Helton also said this morning that the sanctioning body’s relationship with the owners has not degenerated into animosity.

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.