Drivers eager to get racing at Gateway
June 12, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
Ryan Blaney looks to maintain momentum in Drivin' for Linemen 200
With elements of a short track and a bigger, flat track all mixed into one, Gateway Motorsports Park has drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series preparing for just about anything, especially the drivers who have never raced there.
Gateway newbies will be relying on old race footage, track comparisons and old-fashioned friendly advice before Friday's practice opens for Saturday night's Drivin' for Linemen 200 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), the first NASCAR national series race at the St. Louis-area track in nearly four years.
Brad Keselowski won the track's most recent NASCAR event, a NASCAR Nationwide Series race in October 2010. With his level of experience and expertise, the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ is a ready-made source of information for second-year driver Ryan Blaney, who ranks fourth in series standings after consecutive top-five finishes for Brad Keselowski Racing.
"I've watched races there and seen a lot of tape from there," said Blaney, 20. "Brad was pretty good there back in the day when they used to run there, so I'll talk to him a little bit this week and watch some more footage."
The old film reels will reveal a unique 1.25-mile track with tight turns and long straightaways -- almost a stretched-out Martinsville -- but with design cues from flat mile-long tracks in Phoenix and New Hampshire. The return reinstates the distinct layout to the schedule, but also adds another track in the Midwest, a hotbed for racing of all genres.
The significance of the move isn't lost on even the series' youngest competitors.
"This is an exciting one to be a part of," said 22-year-old Ben Kennedy, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate. "I know when Gateway was taken off the schedule a few years ago, it disappointed a lot of drivers and teams who really loved competing at the track. You never like to lose a good venue in this sport, and I think it's great that the Truck Series branches out to some of the places that Cup and Nationwide don't go, so it's awesome that we got Gateway back."