When the checkered flag flew at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the Nascar Xfinity Series race in October of 2010, no one knew what would happen next.
Nascar racing in St. Louis went desolate, sitting idle until 2014. Curtis Francois, who purchased the track from Dover Motorsports in 2011, worked diligently to add an annual Camping World Truck Series race to Gateway.
The facility’s journey, which began last year, includes a $100 million upgrade, which will be completed by 2025, Now, this small, flat track has its first-ever date on the Nascar Cup Series schedule.
And it’s quickly approaching.
“The relationship with Nascar is deep, and it’s been developing over many years now,” Francois, one of a handful of independent Nascar track owners, said. “There’s a sense of trust that is mutual. I respect the Nascar brand, and we certainly do everything we can to be additive to that brand.
“We want to be associated with that brand, and we want to bring our own brand of hospitality to Nascar. Midwest hospitality is legendary. The St. Louis fan base is highly regarded as one of the best fan bases in the United States. It’s home to some of the most loyal fans. They’ve been waiting for decades to experience a Nascar Cup race in our town.”
The revival of this track is important for Nascar. It is an attempt to revitalize racing in St. Louis, a region that hasn’t seen a race from the sport’s premier series. In doing so, it continues Nascar’s trend of diversifying the Cup Series schedule after Nascar inked a 10-year agreement with all tracks until 2020.
“There’s a great sense of pride in our community,” Francois said. “It’s been such a team effort to bring Nascar Cup racing to St. Louis. There’s great satisfaction with so many leaders in our community pulling the rope together for the benefit of the community. It’s such a win for St. Louis and a demonstration on what a great city St. Louis is.”
Among the changes to World Wide Technology Raceway in its $100 million renovation is its expansive growth from 170 acres to 620 acres. The facility now features an 18-hole golf course, as well as new parking areas, a lake and 1,200 new campsites.
Each year, Gateway has found ways to expand.
“We’ve been busy, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Francois said. “It’s hard to believe a 10-year turnaround is coming down to a matter of four weeks. We’re just thrilled to be bringing St. Louis a Nascar Cup Series race. We know our fans will love it.”
Francois’ team also created a revamped fan zone with 5G Wi-Fi, thanks to track sponsor World Wide Technology.
Now, World Wide Technology Raceway is the only venue to host events for NHRA, Nascar and the NTT IndyCar Series in the same year. But in order to remain relevant after the track’s debut on the Nascar Cup Series stage, it will need to continue to grow.
“Nascar chose World Wide Technology Raceway because of our proximity to and our relationship to racing’s grassroots,” Francois said. “There’s dozens of tracks within hundreds of miles of our track. The team at World Wide Technology Raceway has been deeply engaged in the core of the sport, whether it be sponsoring the Chili Bowl or attending Friday night races at facilities in the region.
“We’re certainly capable of producing racing at the highest level. This is going to be the icing on the cake, where we show off what the St. Louis region can do when a Cup race comes here.”
The Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter will take place on Sunday, June 5 at 3:30 pm ET on Fox Sports 1, with the Camping World Truck Series race preceding it on Saturday, June 4.