Ken Roberts is a respected veteran motorsports journalist from the St. Louis area. His blog will be updated frequently during race weekend.
Justin Haley’s dream finally came true Saturday night.
Haley won the first NASCAR race of his career when he captured the Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power Camping World Truck race at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Haley, 19 of Winamac, Ind., led seven laps in the race and beat Todd Gilliland by 0.753 seconds. They were followed by Johnny Sauter, Myatt Snider and Zane Smith.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid,” he said. “I raced my heart out. It’s not going to sink in. We had a phenomenal night.”
Haley had to survive to two re-starts in the last 10 laps with his teammate and veteran Sauter.
“I like being Johnny’s teammate,” said Haley. “But he’s the last person I want to see next to me on a restart. He’s so good.”
On the final restart of the race, which came with three laps remaining, Haley had the option of starting inside or outside. He chose the outside, but was a little skeptical after John Hunter Nemecheck blew his motor heading into Turn 1 on lap 115.
That caused a two-truck wreck that led to a 12 minute 37 second red flag to allow the track to be cleaned with oil dry. And despite the efforts of the cleanup crew, it left a white stripe in the outside groove which left Haley a little skeptical about which lane to choose to re-start.
He picked the outside and it paid off.
“I just let him make the choice,” said crew chief Kevin Bellicourt. “I tried to keep quiet and let him focus. It was the right decision on lane choice.”
“The high line was pretty dusty,” Haley said. “I was kind of afraid to go up there. Picking the right lane there helped.”
Haley won the race in a new truck and at a track he was beginning to hate.
“This was a brand new truck and to have it dialed in was big,” he said. “The re-pave was great. The racing was phenomenal. It provided great racing.
“I was always on the fence about this place. But now it’s one of my favorite tracks.”
As for Gilliland, he was “happy with where we finished. I thought we were going to have a pretty good truck. Any time you can be in the top five….”
Said Sauter: “it was a solid night for us. We came up a little bit short tonight. It was just another solid night.”
Justin Haley won the first race of his career Saturday night when he captured the top spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power race at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Haley, 19 of Winimac, Ind., led seven laps in the race and beat Todd Gilliland by 0.753 seconds.
Johnny Sauter was third followed by Myatt Snider and Zane Smith.
An eighth caution for debris with 12 laps remaining with Noah Gragson leading Justin Haley, who was trying for the first win of his career.
10:02 p.m. CDT — Saturday
A two-car wreck between Brett Moffitt and Ben Rhodes going into Turn 1 on lap 134 brought out the seventh caution flag of the race.
Moffitt and Rhodes were racing side-by-side heading into the turn when both trucks touched causing Moffitt to spin into the outside retaining wall.
Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Todd Gilliland and Johnny Sauter were the top four with 25 laps remaining.
A blown motor by defending race champion John Hunter Nemechek caused a two-car wreck involving Justin Fontaine and Tate Fogleman on lap 115 bringing out the sixth caution.
Nemechek blew his motor heading into Turn 1 and Fontaine ran into the fluid dropped by Nemechek. Fontaine spun high into the outside wall and Fogleman slammed into Fontaine’s driver side door.
Noah Gragson was still the leader with Todd Gilliland, Justin Haley, Ben Rhodes and Johnny Sauter chasing.
Caution No. 5 on lap 98 was caused by Stewart Friesen when Johnny Sauter hit Friesen in the left rear causing Friesen to spin and hit the inside wall on the back straightaway.
Brett Moffitt was the leader with Noah Gragson, defending champion John Hunter Nemechek, polesitter Grant Enfinger and Todd Gilliland chasing Moffitt.
The yellow also led to perhaps a final round of pit stops for everybody on the lead lap and Gragson and Nemechek came out 1-2.
9:08 p.m. CDT — Saturday
Race leader Christian Eckes hit the wall in Turn 2 on lap 77 and caused the fourth caution of the race. He was touched by Stewart Friesen on Eckes’ right rear bumper as Eckes backed into the outside wall.
Noah Gragson assumed the lead followed by Brett Moffitt, defending race champion John Hunter Nemechek, Friesen and Gilliland.
8:48 p.m. CDT– Saturday
Matt Crafton brought out the third yellow flag on lap 32 when an electrical issue stopped Crafton exiting Turn 2. He came into the pits and crew members changed the battery. He re-fired his truck and came back out one lap down.
As happened at the end of the first stage, the second stage ended under yellow giving Christian Eckes the stage victory. Johnny Sauter, Todd Gilliland, Noah Gragson and Brett Moffitt followed Eckes.
The final stage, consisting of 90 laps, will decide the winner of the Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power.
8:22 p.m. CDT — Saturday
The second yellow flag flew on lap 33 when Dalton Sargeant made contact with Todd Gilliland in Turns 1 and 2 causing Sargeant’s left front tire to go flat.
The yellow was long enough to end the first stage on lap 35 allowing polesitter Grant Enfinger to win the stage.
The top 10 running order was Enfinger, Noah Gragson, Matt Crafton, defending race champion John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Haley, Todd Gilliland, Jesse Little, Riley Herbst and Myatt Snyder.
8 p.m. CDT — Saturday
The first caution of the race came out on lap 23 of the first segment when Jordan Anderson’s truck stopped in Turns 1 and 2. He was eventually pushed to the pits.
Polesitter Grant Enfinger was the leader at the time of the yellow.
5:50 p.m. CDT — Saturday
Grant Enfinger earned his first pole of the season Saturday afternoon for Saturday night’s Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power at Gateway Motorsports Park.
His speed of 138.867 miles per hour broke the track mark set last season by John Hunter Nemechek’s speed of 136.828 mph. It is the second pole of Enfinger’s career.
Starting on the outside of row 1 will be Christian Eckes, who toured the 1.25-mile oval with a speed of 138.594 mph. That also beat the old track record.
In fact the final 12 trucks, who made the third-round of qualifying set track records. Nemechek will start seventh (138.126) and Cody Coughlin starts 12th (136.853).
The green flag for the race will fly at 7:30 p.m.
1 p.m. CDT — Saturday
The NASCAR Camping World Truck series final practice is now over and Todd Gilliland turned the fastest lap of 32.304 seconds at 139.302 miles per hour.
The speed is an unofficial track record. The official mark of 136.828 mph was set by defending race champion John Hunter Nemechek last season when he won the pole. It will most certainly be broken during qualifying later this afternoon, which takes place at 4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
In fact, 14 drivers unofficially broke the record during the just-completed Happy Hour. Nemechek was 17th on the final speed chart going 136.508.
Mike Mittler, who lives in Foristell, Mo., has two trucks entered. One driven by Tyler Matthews was 23rd at 134.352 mph and Kevin Donahue, a Lafayette High graduate, was 28th at 132.240 mph. Both trucks are sponsored by First Responder Racing.
10:30 a.m. CDT — Saturday
op of the morning from Gateway Motorsports Park where it’s partly sunny and cool.
Day 2 of the doubleheader weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park features the NASCAR Camping World Truck series Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power race.
The green flag for the 160-lap race will wave at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
In the meantime, the trucks will hold their final practice from 11 a.m. to Noon. The trucks then qualify from 4:45 p.m to 5:30 p.m.
For fans who want to motor around the Gateway Kartplex on the infield can do so beginning at Noon. At 3 p.m. until 3:45 p.m., the NCWT drivers will sign autographs under the main grandstand.
Also taking place at 3 p.m. is the “Rumble Before the Roar” which opens behind the main grandstand. The Roar is $20 for people 21 and over and includes a souvenir mug, complimentary beer, soft drinks and light snacks. A race ticket is required for entry.
Last call for the Roar is 7 p.m. when the NASCAR pre-race activities begin.
Plenty of tickets remain with prices starting at $35.
Thanks for reading and as TV announcer Johnny Olson would say on the Price Is Right…..COME ON DOWN!!!!
9:45 p.m. CDT — Friday
ARCA points leader Sheldon Creed captured the Papa Nicholas 150 Friday night in the series’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park.
It was Creed’s second victory of the season. Chase Purdy was second and Harrison finished third. St. Louisan and former NASCAR star Kenny Schrader wound up 11th.
ARCA was last at Gateway in 2007 when the late Bryan Clauson won the race.
Creed beat Purdy by 1.368 seconds.
The fourth caution flew on lap 75 when Zane Smith smacked the outside wall coming out of Turn 2 doing heavy damage on the right side of Smith’s car.
He was second place in the points standings behind Sheldon Creed, 55 points behind Creed.
St. Louisan and former NASCAR star Kenny Schrader was in 10th place and on the lead lap.
9:10 p.m. CDT — Friday
The third caution of the race came for one of two female drivers in the race when No. 25 Natalie Decker was helped into the outside wall in Turn 2.
Christian Eckes remained in the lead with Sheldon Creed in second. St. Louisan Kenny Schrader is 11th, one lap down.
The second caution of the race came out on lap 45 when No. 78 Max Tullman hit the wall coming out of Turn 2 doing damage to the right side of his car.
Sheldon Creed was the leader coming into the pits, but Christian Eckes jumped to the front after the pit stops with Creed second.
8 p.m. CDT — Friday
The ARCA series Papa Nicholas 150 has started and the yellow flag came out on the first lap as No. 18 Riley Herbst tried to pass points leader and pole sitter Sheldon Creed exiting Turn 2 and spun out.
Herbst, did touch with Creed, but neither car suffered any major damage.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck series practice has ended and Brett Moffitt was the fastest with a time of 32.801 seconds at 137.191 miles per hour.
Moffitt is coming off his second win of the season last weekend at Iowa Speedway. Defending race champion John Hunter Nemechek was 13th (33.313/135.082).
The trucks will practice one more time Saturday morning from 11 a.m. to Noon. They will qualify at 4:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon and race at 7:30 p.m. in the Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 by CK Power race, a 160-lap race.
Up next, is the ARCA series Papa Nicholas 150. The green flag waves at 8 p.m.
ARCA series points leader Sheldon Creed will be the pole sitter for tonight’s Papa Nicholas 150 after shattering the Gateway Motorsports Park track record in qualifying earlier in the evening.
The green flag waves for the Papa Nicholas 150 at 8 p.m.
Creed, who leads three-time series winner Zane Smith by 55 points and drives the No. 28 United Rentals Toyota, had a one-lap speed of 139.069 miles per hour. It took him only 32.358 seconds to break the old speed mark set in 2001 by Tim Steele (133.745 mph).
Creed was the quickest of seven Toyotas in the top 10.
St. Louisan and former NASCAR star Kenny Schrader will start on 11th in his No. 52 Drydene Ford
The NASCAR Camping World Truck series is now on track for its second practice of the day.
Update: 5:55 p.m. CST — Friday
The 34 drivers entered for Saturday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck series Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power have completed their first practice session.
The fastest truck belonged to Christian Eckes. He stopped the timer in 33.492 seconds at 134.360 miles per hour.
Next up are the ARCA drivers, who will practice/qualify for the Papa Nicholas 150, that race starts at 8 p.m.tonight.
Update: 5:20 p.m. CST
Good news from Gateway Motorsports Park…..The rain has stopped, the track is dry and the NASCAR Camping World Truck series drivers are on the track for a 25-minute practice.
The trucks will practice a second time at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Between those times, the ARCA series will hold a practice session that will determine the lineup for tonight’sPapa Nicholas 150 race. That race is still scheduled for 8 p.m.
Update: 12: 30 p.m.
Rain has interrupted ARCA’s first practice session sending all cars back to the pit area.
The ARCA series cars are now on track for their first practice in preparation for tonight’s Papa Nicholas 150.
Skies are mostly cloudy, but no rain has fallen.
Stay tuned for updates.
It’s Friday and it’s Race Day One of Two for Gateway Motorsports Park.
As of 10 a.m., it’s cloudy with peeks of sunshine. The track is dry despite some overnight rain and, most importantly, it’s COOL, something that Gateway officials very rarely see in late June.
The track is still waking up as personnel are moving around readying the facility for tonight’s first race, the ARCA series Papa Nicholas 150, a 120-lap event. The green flag flies at 8 p.m.
Twenty-five cars are entered for the race, including St. Louisan and former NASCAR star Kenny Schrader. In fact, Schrader tested on the 1.25-mile oval on Thursday and was the 10th fastest on the speed charts in his No. 52 Drydene Ford.
Right now, the ARCA garage area is closed with all the cars covered. Meanwhile, the NASCAR haulers have entered the garage area and crews will start unloading their equipment.
Once things get moving, the track will have two practice sessions for the ARCA cars as well as a qualifying session before tonight’s main event.
On Saturday, the second half of the doubleheader features the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The green flag for the Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power, a 160-lap event, will wave at 7:30 p.m. Thirty-four trucks have entered for the race.
On Saturday, spectator gates open at Noon.
And, for race fans looking for something to do on Saturday, the Gateway Kartplex is open to the public. It is located on the infield. To get to the Kartplex, fans will be able to either cross the track if there are no on-track activities or they will be able to go through the tunnel at the north end of the track.
If fans don’t want to run the go-karts, they can go to the Rumble Before the Roar, which opens at 3 p.m. The “Rumble Before the Roar” is a pre-race party located behind the main grandstand and costs $20.
Thursday, June 21 — 1:30 p.m.
Toyota dominated the test session today at Gateway Motorsports Park taking the top three spots and six of the first seven as the ARCA series drivers used the 1.25-mile oval to gain some important knowledge for Fridaynight’s Papa Nicholas 150.
Chase Purdy, driving the No. 8 Bama Buggies car, was the fastest touring Gateway’s tricky oval in 33.265 seconds at 135.277 miles per hour.
Christian Eckes, driving the No. 15 JBL Audio-Mechanix Wear car, was second in 33.337 seconds at 134.985 mph. Points leader Sheldon Creed was third in the No. 28 United Rentals (33.801/133.132).
Gus Dean, driving his No. 32D Gree Cooling Products-Baker Distributing Chevrolet, ruined the Toyota domination as he moved into the fourth spot with a time of 33.832 seconds at 133.01 mph.
Riley Herbst was fifth driving his No. 18 NOS-ORCA Coolers-Advance Autoparts car (33.861/132.896), followed by Harrison Burton in the No.12 MDM Motorsports car (33.868/132.869) and Zane Smith in his No. 41 LaPax Margarita Mix-ICON Vehicle Dynamics car (33.954/132.532).
St. Louisan and former NASCAR star Kenny Schrader was the one of two Fords in the top 10 sitting 10th in his No. 52 Drydene car (34.311/131.153). Joseph Graf, driving the No. 51 Big Tine Ford was eighth (34.190/131.617).
There was one minor incident during the four-hour session when Max Tullman in his No. 78 Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet, brushed the outside retaining wall in Turns 1 and 2 during his first testing lap.
And while Mitchell wasn’t hurt, the right rear quarter-panel sustained enough damage that crew members had to replace the panel. Unfortunately, Mitchell never recorded a timed lap.
When the track first opened at 9 a.m., several drivers who went out early had to battle a green (there wasn’t any rubber down) track as they wiggled exiting Turn 2. Because of that condition, the drivers couldn’t dive deep into Turn 1 and had to lift (let off the gas pedal) sooner than necessary.
Later in the session, though, the 18 drivers who tested were able to dive deeper into Turn 1, allowing them to downshift and pick up the throttle midway through the turn.
Thursday, June 21 — Noon
Gateway Motorsports Park is a beehive of activity today as the facility prepares the 1.25-mile oval for its first major event of the 2018 season _ a doubleheader featuring the ARCA Series Papa Nicholas 150 Friday night and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power raceSaturday night.
The green flag is set for 8 p.m. Friday for the ARCA race, while the truck race is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.Saturday.
NASCAR truck haulers began arriving today, while the ARCA cars were testing on what started out as a sunny and breezy morning. But clouds started rolling in about an hour into the session and a few rain drops hit the track, but only briefly before it cleared up,
The ARCA pits were active as crew members were preparing their drivers and cars for today’s session andFriday’s two practice sessions and qualifying.
St. Louisan and former NASCAR star Kenny Schrader was on track practicing with his other ARCA competitors today. While Schrader didn’t have any problems, some drivers had to deal with a green (there was no rubber on the track) race track as their cars wiggled freely exiting Turn 2.
Later in the session, though, Max Tullman brushed the outside wall in Turns 1 and 2. While he wasn’t hurt, his No. 78 Mason Mitchell Racing Chevrolet had some rear quarter-panel damage as crew members repaired the damage.
Twenty-five cars are entered for Friday night’s race.
In the television compound, workers were unfurling and running wires as they set up their TV cameras forFriday’s race on FS2 and Saturday’s race on FS1.
Friday’s broadcast begins at 8 p.m., while Saturday starts at 7 p.m.
On the road course, the drivers’ motorhomes were arriving and workers were busy washing the big buses.
Workers were also preparing the parking lots and fan areas for Friday’s practices by the trucks as well as the ARCA cars. Spectator gates open at 10 a.m. Friday and Noon on Saturday. The parking lots open at 11:30 a.m.Saturday.
On Friday, the ARCA cars hit the track from Noon to 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Qualifying is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Also on Friday, 101ESPN’s Fast Lane program will air from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gateway Kartplex on the infield.
The NASCAR trucks practice three times on Friday _ 2:35 p.m. to 3:25 p.m., 4:35 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. to 7:25 p.m.
On Saturday, NASCAR’s drivers will have an autograph session from 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. before they qualify from4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For Thursday, June 21: Good morning from Gateway Motorsports Park where the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Series presented by Menards is set to make its return to the 1.25-mile oval today with the first of three practice sessions for Friday night’s Papa Nicholas 150. The green flag for the race is set for 8 p.m.
The first practice session lasts until 1 p.m.
The last time ARCA was here was in 2007 when the late Bryan Clauson visited victory lane.
St. Louisan and former NASCAR star 63-year-old Kenny Schrader is ARCA’s defending owner champion and Schrader will drive his famous No. 52 Drydene Ford on Friday.
The ARCA series races serves as the opening race for a weekend doubleheader with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday night when the green flag will fly at 7:30 p.m. for the Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power.
Since Clauson’s victory, things have changed drastically and for the good at GMP.
St. Louisan and former racer Curtis Francois has bought the track, put millions of dollars of his own money into the property and turned Gateway into a fan-friendly facility with more parking. One of the biggest things he did last year was re-paved the oval and speed records will almost certainly be set Friday and Saturday.
ARCA’s second practice will take place from Noon to 1 p.m. Friday and the series’ Happy Hour hits the track from 2:35 p.m. to 3:35 p.m. ARCA qualifies from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the truck series will practice three times Friday _ 2:35 p.m. to 3:35 p.m., 4:35 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. to 7:25 p.m. Qualifying will be 4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Stayed tuned to this space for news and updates on today’s ARCA series practice.