(ST. LOUIS, MO) After months of speculation, and after a decade-plus absence of open-wheeled racing in the area, Gateway Motorsports Park has been added to the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series docket.
The governing body officially revealed next season’s 17-race schedule, which includes the Madison, Illinois 1.25-mile oval, to the public on Thursday. The Gateway race, the facility’s first IndyCar event since 2003, is scheduled for Saturday, August 26, 2017 and will be the fifteenth event of the Verizon IndyCar 2017 schedule.
At a press conference held Thursday morning at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown St. Louis, GMP Owner and President Curtis Francois announced the multi-year agreement between his track and the open-wheeled kingpins.
“I love racing,” Francois said. “I’m a race fan, I’m a racer, I have a race track and to bring IndyCar to the area, I couldn’t ask for a better day.”
Tickets for the night-time race will go on sale Tuesday, October 11.
“Gateway officials have been enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting a Verizon IndyCar Series event for some time and we’re excited to bring the series to the St. Louis market,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of both IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, whose crown jewel is the annual Indianapolis 500.
Gateway’s addition of IndyCar compliments its racing cache as the National Hot Rod Association, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the USAC Silver Crown Series already holds perennial events there.
The oval, then a part of Gateway International Raceway, hosted open-wheeled events for seven years after its 1997 christening. From 1997 until 2000, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) presented the Motorola 300 and the Indy Racing League (IRL) presented the Gateway 250 in 2001 and 2002 as well as its re-branded Emerson 250 in 2003, which marked the final race of that classification.
The facility’s former owner, Dover Motorsports, ceased all racing operations at the Madison complex in November 2010 and remained closed until St. Louis native Francois, a real estate developer by trade and former driver that competed in both the Indy Lights series and the NASCAR Grand Am Sports Car series in 2002, re-opened the facility, complete with venue name change, for a 2012 season.
The oval became an official IndyCar testing facility during the series’ 2015 off-season and, with positive feedback, became a future possibility for series expansion. Thursday’s inclusion to next year’s IndyCar schedule was the green flag that Francois had patiently craved.
“I am proud of the progress we’ve made at my hometown track,” he said. “I knew someday we would be making an announcement like this because I have such confidence in the people of this region and their commitment to great sporting events.”
According to Francois, a week-long “festival of speed” will lead into the GMP race. Planned activities include a charity golf tournament and car show, a 5K run and a musical concert.
“Creating a festival is a key element to this event,” he said. “We are going to emphasize that this is not just a race. This is a happening that will build date equity and grow each and every year. This isn’t a ‘one and done’ type of sports event.”
Francois is already projecting a sold-out attendance of over 40,000 next August to the Madison oval and, combined with a global television audience, aims to claim world-wide exposure.
“The race puts St. Louis on the international stage and that’s especially good for our national image,” Francois said.
The Verizon IndyCar series is in the final stretches of its 16-race 2016 schedule. Races at Watkins Glen, New York (September 4) and Sonoma, California (September 18) will conclude the governing bodies’ twentieth season.
For more information on Gateway Motorsports Park, go to their official website.
For more information on the Verizon IndyCar series, go to their official website.