Majeski dominates speed charts, earns second consecutive Gateway pole 

By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer

MADISON, Ill. – Ty Majeski will attempt a clean sweep this weekend in the Toyota 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway, evidently determined at a shot at redemption from last year’s heartbreak in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ annual trip to St. Louis. 

The driver of the Thorsport Racing No. 98 capped a dominant evening in Illinois by winning his second consecutive pole at Gateway at 138.568 miles-per-hour (32.475 seconds) around the 1.25-mile track. This came moments after Majeski topped the speed charts in practice and posted the best 10-lap average with most laps turned in the 20-minute session.

“It’s always a trick here, understanding how much to slow the truck down in qualifying just because we pick up so much speed from practice,” Majeski said. “For whatever reason, it’s … one of our biggest tracks that we pick up [speed] on from race trim to qualifying trim. 

“But yeah, hit it good today. I’ve had pretty good history qualifying here. We sat on the pole here last year as well. Similar setup and hopefully we can close the weekend off this year.”

In 2023, Majeski started from the pole and led 55 laps before wrecking while challenging to reclaim the lead with five to go. After scoring a ninth-place finish in his first Truck Series start at Gateway, he failed to put up a result better than 30th over his last three starts.

While these numbers may be misleading, it doesn’t change where they finished. Regardless, both Majeski and crew chief Joe Shear Jr. have a great handle on WWT Raceway, especially for this running of the Toyota 200.

The pair will be using their personal experiences – good and bad – as motivation to finally get to victory lane in St. Louis. 

“This is one of the race tracks I’ve got quite a bit of experience at,” Majeski said. “I’ve run a couple Midwest Tour races in a super late model here in ‘16 and ‘17. I’ve just kind of always taken to this place. 

“Joe’s a great crew chief, but he’s really good on the short tracks like Gateway – the flat ones. He grew up racing at all those little race tracks in Wisconsin that are flat, and this place has a lot of those characteristics.

“So, between my short track experience and his, we just really normally put really good trucks on the race track here together and that goes a long way. Haven’t been able to close one out yet. I think every time Joe and I have been here, we’ve ended up in a wreck.

“We just have to put the whole race together and I think the results will come.”

Another driver to keep an eye on is points leader Christian Eckes, who might be playing catch-up to Majeski for the 300-miler on Saturday. Last year’s runner-up at WWT Raceway will start on the front row for the sixth time this season after putting up the second-fastest time overall in practice as well.

While Majeski dominated every statistical category during Friday’s activities, Eckes did manage to amass the fastest five-lap average (did not run 10 consecutive laps). In addition to serving as the points leader over 2022 winner at Gateway, Corey Heim, he leads the series with 10 top-10s through 11 starts.

Reigning race winner at Gateway, Grant Enfinger, had himself a fairly competitive evening in practice and qualifying getting his new No. 9 dialed in for Saturday. In moving on from former powerhouse GMS Racing, which ceased operation at the end of 2023, the 39-year-old has struggled a bit to get up to speed with CR7 Motorsports, sitting ninth in the standings with five races until the playoffs.

However, things seem to be trending in the right direction for Enfinger, who’s currently riding back-to-back podium finishes (including a runner-up at North Wilkesboro Speedway) into the site of his second win last year. The driver of the No. 9 rolls off 10th in the Toyota 200.

With much of the talk around the Truck Series being centered around Majeski, Eckes and Enfinger for obvious reasons, last week’s winner is foolishly being overlooked.

Nick Sanchez has a chance to “surprise,” after knocking off his second win of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway and clearly carrying momentum into Illinois. The reigning Sunoco Rookie of the Year will take the green flag from the second row in third, after posting top-five overall speed in practice and combining for the second-best 10-lap average.

With five races remaining until the postseason, the Toyota 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN) couldn’t be more crucial for high-profile drivers on the points bubble such as Ben Rhodes, Stewart Friesen and Matt Crafton. 

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