The phone is already ringing off the hook at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR) after this week’s announcement that the track will host a NASCAR Cup Series race next season.
“Which is a great thing when you’re a racetrack owner and promoter,” said Francois, the owner of WWTR. “People have great interest, and really just wonderful conversations with new fans that will be coming to the racetrack from all over the country. It really warms our heart that they’re seeing what we’re doing and want to participate in this first race.”
There have already been deposits from fans for tickets to the June 5, 2022 race. The track already hosts the NTT IndyCar and Camping World Truck Series, and Francois expects the same great turnout when the Cup Series comes to town.
“I think just in general, a lot of groundwork has already been laid for (that) day,” Francois said. “It’ll be a day where St. Louis gets to shine again as one of the greatest sports towns in the world.”
The venue’s addition to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the culmination of years of hard work. Francois said there have been hundreds of folks along the way, including mayor John Hamm (Madison, Illinois), local representatives, and others in the community who invested their time in trying to bring the Cup Series to WWTR.
“It’s just a win for our community,” he said.
When Francois first acquired WWTR in 2011, his biggest goal was figuring out how to navigate the driveway coming in, because weeds were growing through the cracks, and the facility had been “left somewhat to disrepair.” Starting from the ground level, Francois and his team went about making the changes needed.
“It went quickly from there to 2012, and we were able to start with our first NHRA event, and from there, it took on a life of its own,” Francois said. “In 2013, I started speaking with NASCAR about a truck race, and that certainly opened my eyes to the possibility of bringing NASCAR back to the racetrack. Then it just continued as we showed great vibrancy in our crowds – our IndyCar race really has a great following.
“It allowed us to dream bigger, and I think that was a very important part of thinking we could ultimately bring a Cup date to the St. Louis region.”
Francois was willing to work through the process and be patient. Now, everyone is basking in the the dream having been realized.
“I think as in any major sporting event, you’ll see the St. Louis region rally around the event,” Francois said. “There have been other events in other sports that have come to town and really received overwhelming support. When the PGA was here a couple of years ago, we were really able to show what a great sports town St. Louis is, and I think when this Cup race is a reality on June 5, you’ll see the Illinois side, the Missouri side, coming together with all the others who come from around the country. It’s going to be a great day to see all of this come together, and all of the groundwork we put in place come to fruition.”
Among the reactions to next year’s event, some voices, like that of St. Louis native Kenny Wallace, have been louder than others. Many drivers who have raced at WWTR in the past share Wallace’s excitement, and Francois believes those who get to race at WWTR will love the track.
“It really is a track built for the drivers,” Francois said. “I think once we get the Cup cars on here and watch them do what they do, it’s going to provide a spectacle that no one has seen.”
And WWTR will be ready for the series. Francois, just as he did with the weeds back in the day, continues to make sure the track is up to snuff.
“Over the last 10 years, there has not been a year that’s gone by where we are not making steady upgrades to the racetrack,” Francois said. “We’ve put additional SAFER barrier in. We’ve put additional paving in. Really just paying attention to what all of our sanctioning bodies need.
“I would anticipate we’ll be making upgrades in that respect, as well. It remains yet to be decided what exactly will be done, but we’re certainly prepared to do whatever is the consensus that needs to be done.”