When Nascar announced the World Wide Technology Raceway at the Gateway would be on the Nascar Cup Series 2022 schedule, it meant that St. Louis would be in the spotlight.
Immediately, track owner Curtis Francois celebrated, knowing that the new event would lead to a $ 60 million financial boost for the area.
“We see it as a great opportunity for our community, to strengthen the metro-east area here, to open up opportunities for jobs and trade and to make a difference in our community,” Francois said a week after the announcement.
“We will hire, expand and build. There are all kinds of exciting projects on the go for the next eight to nine months. ”
The race at the World Wide Technology Raceway, located less than 10 km from the center of St. Louis, Madison, Ill., Takes place Sunday, June 5th. It is the first time that this 1.25km oval will have a Nascar Cup series race, a sign that this track is taking over as one of the most popular in the country after many years of ignoring.
The addition of the Gateway to the Nascar Cup Series schedule is one that may not have happened without Francois, who revived the course after losing his Nascar Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series dates in 2010. The facility was vacant with few national events until 2014, when the Truck Series returned to the track, followed by the NTT IndyCar Series in 2018.
“The dedication Curtis has shown to racing is one of many factors that led to bringing an event to Gateway City,” said Ben Kennedy, Nascar’s senior vice president of strategy and innovation. “The company’s and citizens’ leadership from St. Louis and southern Illinois has been really welcome at NASCAR, and we can’t wait to see the NASCAR Cup Series in action at the World Wide Technology Raceway.”
But adding Gateway to the schedule means that Pocono Raceway, which is also independently owned by the Mattioli / Igdalsky family, loses one of its two Cup events. Tricky Triangle can be dated back to 1982 and has had two dates on the Cup schedule.
Now the World Wide Technology Raceway, an independently owned facility, is one of the busiest courses in the country. Known as a steep, fast and narrow track, the Gateway consists of two long straight with tight, flat corners. Turn 1 and 2 are knocked to just 11 degrees, while turns 3 and 4 are at 9 degrees, providing a unique challenge for Next Gen race cars next year.
World Wide Technology Raceway is the only new point-paying track on the 2022 Cup Series schedule. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was also added to the schedule, but that’s for The Clash, which is an exhibition run two weeks before the Daytona 500.
“It has been an ongoing process for years,” Francois said. “The family in France takes this seriously. They have a legacy to protect, fans to serve and drivers to satisfy. They are very careful where their brand goes. It has taken years to get to know each other and make everyone feel comfortable making sure it is a good thing for their brand. We are certainly very close to them in our way of watching races. ”
From 1998 to 2010, Gateway hosted an independent Xfinity Series race as well as a separate Truck Series race weekend. But Nascar did not renew its contract with the track over ten years ago.
But in 2014, Gateway returned as a must-see race for the Truck Series. Shortly after, the NTT IndyCar series, which ran in St. Louis from 2001 to 2003, also back on the field. Since 2017, it has been one of the few stable ovals on the open-wheel series calendar. Josef Newgarden won this year’s Gateway race in a dominant way.
Even with its early success in hosting Nascar’s development departments, Gateway has never earned a Cup date.
“There were a lot of circumstances at play 20 years ago that made it hard to pull it off,” Francois said. “The course itself, when I took over 10 years ago, was a modern course only 13 years old. It was about the environment and all the change that was going on at that time in Nascar.
“It simply did not work out. Since then, we have more than tripled the size of the plant. It was a big thing to make sure we could handle the infrastructure needs that a Cup date would bring. ”
However, the track’s major breakthrough came when World Wide Technology became the title sponsor in 2019 and renamed the track from Gateway Motorsports Park.
“This is not just a naming rights scheme,” Francois said. “This is the whole weight of World Wide Technology and Dave Steward [co-founder] is behind what we do in St. Louis. ”
But just because the World Wide Technology Raceway has a Cup Series date for 2022, does not mean it remains on the Cup Series calendar for an annual visit. There will be a number of factors that will determine the future of this facility after next year, including TV ratings, how full the stands are, reception of the race itself, as well as how it handles hosting a Cup event.
“The yardstick for success from a racing standpoint is whether we have fans in the stands,” Francois said. “We have a great track record of bringing energy and fans to the racetrack. We will certainly lean directly into that challenge.
“If the first reaction is an indication of the future, we have full stands. The second part of this is to ensure that we are a steward of society and society supports what we do. We must show our support for society as a whole. ”
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