June 19, 2018, St. Louis Region – The last time the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series raced at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, the pavement on the 1.25-mile oval was 20 years old and admittedly a little bumpy. The drivers and teams knew what was in store for them when they arrived at the challenging Metro East track and made the necessary adjustments. Things are very different this year.
Gateway’s oval was torn up and completely repaved immediately following the NASCAR Truck race in June 2017. With the exception of a driver or two testing tires for Goodyear here, the new track is an unknown to just about everyone. The track surface is smoother and allows for better traction (“grip” in driverspeak). All of the notes from past races compiled by the crew chiefs now are headed for the recycling bin.
GMS Racing is headquartered in Statesville, N.C. and campaigns entries in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series. They are sending four teams to the St. Louis region for Saturday’s Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power.
If anyone in this quartet has an advantage, it is Justin Haley, who tested tires for Goodyear here earlier this year. He’s raced twice at Gateway and earned one top-10 finish.
“We were the only GMS truck that was able to be a part of the tire test at Gateway after the repave earlier this year,” Haley explained. “It was really fast; we were barely lifting in Turns 3 and 4, and Turns 1 and 2 we were shifting. There was also really no tire fall off. We did a 50-lap run and didn’t even fall off a tenth, in fact we ran our fastest lap on lap 46 of the run. That was pretty crazy, just having to figure all of that out during the test. I think it’ll be a good race though. I think Turns 1 and 2 will widen out some and Turns 3 and 4 will be pretty narrow. That’s just the nature of the beast.”
But GMS Racing driver Dalton Sergeant is a complete stranger to GMP.
“From what I’ve heard, Gateway is a pretty unique layout with turns one and two being different than turns three and four,” said Sergeant. “They repaved it last year and Justin (Haley) was able to take part in the tire test and bring some feedback to all of us at GMS, so we’ll be as prepared as we can be. We just have to go in with the perspective that maybe this will even the playing field a little; this is another track I’ve never been to, but what’s different is it’s also new for everyone else.”
Cody Coughlin (pictured above) has raced only once at Gateway, in 2017, when he finished 12th.
“It’ll be interesting to see what Gateway (Motorsports Park) is like now since they repaved it,” said Coughlin. “I’ll have to ask my teammate Justin (Haley) who tested there and see what he says it’s like. It’ll probably be a totally different approach than last year though because of the repave. We’ll just have to see when we go out for practice. I am confident that Jerry (Baxter, crew chief) and my entire GMS team will work hard to help me navigate around the track. We have a lot of great momentum going into this race. I am really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of my JEGS.com truck this weekend.”
Veteran Johnny Sauter is the senior man on the GMS team with six starts – and six top-five finishes – at Gateway. With four wins under his belt this year, he also is the series’ points leader.
“Justin Haley did the tire test there and all the feedback I heard was the racetrack was pretty fast,” said Sauter. “Obviously when you get out of the groove it’s sketchy like all the repaves are, but that place was repaved last fall so I think it’s got a little more age on the asphalt than some of the other places we’ve been to. I always love going to St. Louis. That part of the country I really, really like. It’s always fun to race in the Midwest and get back to the area where I started my career, but as far as what to expect with the track, we won’t know until we get there because they tested so long ago.”
The Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race is scheduled for Saturday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. CDT. To purchase tickets or obtain additional information, please call Gateway Motorsports Park at (618) 215-8888 or visit www.gatewaymsp.com. Follow GMP on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
Friday, June 22
10 a.m. — Spectator gates open.
Noon-1 p.m. — ARCA Papa Nicholas 150 practice.
1:30-2:30 p.m. — Final ARCA Papa Nicholas 150 practice.
2:35-3:25 p.m. — NASCAR Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power practice.
4:35-5:25 p.m. — Second NASCAR Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power practice.
5:30-6:30 p.m. — ARCA Papa Nicholas 150 qualifying.
6:35-7:25 p.m. — Final NASCAR Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power practice.
7:30 p.m. — ARCA Papa Nicholas 150 driver introductions.
8 p.m. — ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Papa Nicholas 150 (120 laps, 150 miles).
Saturday, June 23
11:30 a.m. — Parking lots open.
Noon — Spectator gates open, Gateway Kartplex open.
3 p.m. — Rumble Before the Roar opens: $20 pre-race party.
3-3:45 p.m. — NASCAR Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power autograph session.
3:30-3:45 p.m. — Vintage Indy car hot laps.
4:45-5:30 p.m. — NASCAR Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power qualifying.
6 p.m. — Vintage Indy car exhibition.
7 p.m. — Last call at Rumble Before the Roar.
7 p.m. — NASCAR Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power driver introductions.
7:30 p.m. – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200 presented by CK Power (160 laps, 200 miles). Hashtag: #VillaEaton200
About Gateway Motorsports Park
Gateway Motorsports Park is the home of INDYCAR, NASCAR and NHRA racing in the St. Louis region. Located just five minutes from downtown St. Louis and covering more than 340 acres, Gateway Motorsports Park is the largest outdoor entertainment facility in the area. Gateway Motorsports Park’s facilities include a 1/4-mile drag strip, 1.25-mile superspeedway, 1.6-mile road course, a state-of-the-art karting facility and a 14-acre, multi-purpose dirt off-road venue. Gateway Motorsports Park was the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Facility of the Year Award from the Race Track Business Conference and the 2017 Spirit of St. Louis Award from St. Louis Attractions Association.