St. Louis track owner excited for Trucks in 2014
October 25, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
Gateway Motorsports Park is returning to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule on June 14, 2014 for the first time in three years with a new track name and track owner, but a renewed commitment to the exciting racing that made the St. Louis stop one of the most popular events of the season.
“The number one question I get from fans is when does NASCAR return, so to be able to answer 2014 is just wonderful,’’ said track owner Curtis Francois, former GRAND-AM and Indy Lights racer who purchased the facility in his hometown this spring.
"The truck series is some of the best racing in NASCAR and we know that our fans are just going to be thrilled to attend the race.
"The re-opening of Gateway has been great for the racing community and now to add a great NASCAR race to our schedule couldn’t be better for the motorsports fan here in the St. Louis region.
"I expect our phone is going to start ringing."
Francois, who operated the track in 2012 before purchasing it earlier this year, has pumped more than $11 million into the facility, which also has a drag strip, road racing course, go-kart track and will soon be opening an off-road truck facility.
"It really reflects our idea to have multiple venues here, a lot of different elements that all come together in the motorsports park atmosphere."
Francois said the majority of his major capital investment has been geared toward improving the fan experience. He can frequently be found working the parking lot at race events. This week, he spent three straight hours giving pace car rides around the speedway to more than 200 local business leaders to further energize the region about the future of the facility.
"I hear the firsthand feedback of the fans to know what they like and what they want," explained Francois. "It's a great opportunity to be on the ground floor to bring them what they want, to meet their needs.
"In St. Louis I think the local part of my bio is really important," Francois said. "St. Louis is a big town but the local relationships matter. Lifelong resident, race car driver and real estate developer in the area, I think all of those attributes really make for the perfect scenario of operating the track."
During the track’s previous 13-year run hosting NASCAR truck races from 1998-2010 there was only one repeat winner and Francois is well aware this will be a popular addition to the schedule.
"The negotiations couldn't have been better," Francois said. "I think both NASCAR and myself recognize the fans in the Midwest deserve top-tier racing and with the interest in the fans ... it was an easy decision on both of our parts to harness that energy."
NASCAR's Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell agreed.
"We're excited to have the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series return to Gateway and to the St. Louis area, which is such a racing hotbed," O’Donnell said.
"Curtis Francois and his staff have worked diligently to bring NASCAR national series racing back to those great fans."
Ron Hornaday Jr. was excited as well about the addition of Gateway to the schedule.
"Lots of fun there," said Hornaday, who won at Gateway in 2008. "I remember one year, I got my appendix out on a Wednesday and I was racing on a Saturday, so I've got good memories there at Gateway. I'm looking forward to it, and the fans just love us there."
"We have a lot going on and the most important thing we can do is do what we were chosen to do, and do it well," Francois said. "My goal is to make sure we have a wonderful truck race and if we do that, whatever other races come our way we'll be ready for them when the opportunity arises."