The sanctioning body released the 2022 Cup Series schedule on Wednesday, Sept. 15, revealing that World Wide Technology Raceway, formerly known as Gateway Motorsports Park, will host a race on June 5. The 1.25-mile track has served as the site of IndyCar and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races in the past, but now the biggest stars in Cup will compete in one of the nation’s best sports towns.
Curtis Francois, the owner of WWTR, spoke with Heavy after the release of the 2022 Cup Series schedule. He explained the massive role that the fans played in helping the track land a three-year deal to host Cup Series races. Specifically, Francois explained how those in the St. Louis/Madison area always showed up in force to support the previous events at the track.
“Well, I think we’re seeing just the result of all the foundation that we built, a great racing energy here at World Wide Technology Raceway,” Francois told Heavy. “I mean, the fans here have been just wonderful. You can see what they do as far as supporting our IndyCar event and our NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. It’s just phenomenal to see this kind of excitement for racing in the Midwest.
“It’s really neat to recognize too that St. Louis is such a great sports town. I think arguably it’s the best in the country with just that deep roots of people that support their own. It doesn’t matter whether it’s baseball or soccer or hockey, and now we’re right there with them in the ring, the top series of NASCAR. No doubt that there’s going to be just great energy that starts now and goes until June.”
Plans Are Taking Shape for a Massive NASCAR Event
NASCAR has not fully revealed the schedules for the Truck and Xfinity Series, so there is no information available about whether either will join the Cup Series for the June 5 weekend. However, that lack of concrete information is not slowing down Francois and his team. They are making plans for a massive NASCAR weekend that will likely feature a “support series,” as well as some live music.
“I think that if you look at our history of showmanship, our IndyCar event is a good example,” Francois continued. “We are always looking to make a great show. And to me, a great show usually has music acts and it usually has pyrotechnics. We don’t want to give up too much of what we’re thinking, but I would think that if the past is any indication of the future, it’s just going to be a wonderful show for that Sunday afternoon.”
The St. Louis area is a hotbed for music, covering a wide variety of genres. Nelly is one of the biggest artists from the area, but there are also countless blues and jazz musicians. Platinum-selling rock band Story of the Year and Greek Fire are both options that could appeal to their hometown crowds and set the stage for an action-packed evening of racing with backflips and high-energy performances.
Preparing To Host a Cup Race Took Several Years
The former racer in Francois did not simply take over World Wide Technology Raceway and immediately host a Cup Series race. The process took a considerable amount of time, as well as a dedication to making drivers comfortable.
Francois made a promise in 2011 to “reignite” motorsports in the St. Louis area, both on a national and grassroots level. He started by bringing the fans back and ensuring that they would enjoy the product on the track. Francois and his team made several fan-centric racing improvements over the years, including adding 20,000 parking spots. Though they also took steps to support the drivers in both NASCAR and IndyCar, such as repaving the track in 2017.
The efforts led to standout races over the years, but WWTR still pushed to become a bigger part of the industry. According to “Autoweek,” the track offered in 2018 to host mid-week Cup Series races in 2020 and beyond. Francois explained at the time that the track was “turn-key” after all of the improvements and was ready to host the top series.
WWTR did not land any mid-week Cup races during the severely altered 2020 season, but the efforts ultimately paid off. The track now has a three-year deal to host the top series, starting in 2022, and Francois has plans to keep this relationship going well into the future.
“It’s great to know what their intent is for the series, and I would look forward to a long-term relationship with NASCAR,” Francois told Heavy. “Certainly, we have to get started at some point, but I really believe that we will put on vibrant races that are compelling to the fans and to the sanctioning bodies. I think that the rest really kind of takes care of itself.”
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