Ryan Newman says he’d add Wednesday night races to Sprint Cup calendar

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Earlier this week, NASCAR CEO Brian France indicated that any changes made to the 2015 Sprint Cup Series schedule would be small ones.

“There’s not going to be a dramatic change, but there may be some things that are a little different,” France said to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (to whom he also shared his thoughts regarding the Race Team Alliance).

But if Ryan Newman had his way, there would indeed be a dramatic change – Wednesday night Sprint Cup races.

“I think just realigning it and giving us the opportunity to be on TV and be our own special event on a Wednesday night, especially during football season, would be good for our sport,” said Newman, who also declared that he’d put in more off-weekends and shift the other Cup races to Saturday night and sometimes Sunday afternoons.

Newman later elaborated on the subject further, noting that his Wednesday events would have practice, qualifying and the race itself on that same day.

“Obviously, if you go to a place like Pocono and it rains, like, three-quarters of that day, it changes everything – then you have Thursday to work with,” he said.

“But for situations like that, I think you’d have the crew guys come in on a Tuesday afternoon, let them tech the cars in whatever [time] window it is. Let the guys go back and have a decent dinner with their team, then start practice the next morning – practice, qualify and race.

“You’ve got the people in the grandstands for an entire day of activities and they can sell hot dogs and all the other things that way.”

The Wednesday format appears to be working very well for the Camping World Truck Series’ event at Eldora Speedway, which met with more rave reviews after its second running (won by Darrell Wallace Jr.).

Leading up to the 150-lap Mudsummer Classic feature, the Trucks were pretty much on track throughout the day at Eldora with practice, pole qualifying, five 10-lap qualifying heat races, and a 15-lap Last Chance Qualifier.

But while Newman’s idea on Wednesday night Sprint Cup races is intriguing, one wonders if those would be better off at this part of the year, when the competition from other sports would be light.

A Wednesday night Cup race in the fall would dodge a head-to-head battle on the weekend with football, but depending on the date, it’d have to fight the MLB post-season and the start of the NBA and NHL regular seasons for attention.

However, a mid-week race would definitely provide a new wrinkle to a Sprint Cup schedule that has largely remained the same for some time now outside of intermittent date swaps.

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.