You have to walk before you can run, and Gateway Motorsports Park officially put one foot in front of another with the announcement on Tuesday that it is in the plans as an IndyCar testing facility for the 2016 season.
Being accepted as a testing facility is recognized as a precursor to securing an IndyCar race for the facility.
"The conversations between Gateway Motorsports Park and officials at IndyCar have been very encouraging," said Gateway Motorsports Park owner and president Curtis Francois. "There is mutual interest from both parties to bring an IndyCar race to Gateway Motorsports Park, and we are taking a methodical approach to exploring the possibilities."
IndyCar last raced at Gateway Motorsports Park in August 2003. Since that time, Gateway has staged a series of successful NASCAR, NHRA and local events. At the same time, considerable work has been done to renovate the facility and connect with the regional racing audience.
Last offseason, Carpenter Fisher Harper Racing driver Ed Carpenter participated in compatibility testing at the facility and offered positive feedback about the track.
"From the feedback I've gathered, drivers like racing at Gateway Motorsports Park," Francois said. "They like the track and they appreciate the enthusiasm and energy of the fans. They recognize that fans in the St. Louis region like more than just baseball. St. Louis is a sports town through and through."
IndyCar celebrates the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and interest in the IndyCar Series reportedly is on the rise. Statistics show there has been a 38% increase in both TV ratings and viewership over the past two seasons.
Gateway Motorsports Park is located in Madison, Ill., some five minutes from downtown St. Louis. The track closed under previous ownership in November 2010, but was reopened in 2012 by Francois, a former professional racer. Gateway is the largest outdoor entertainment facility in the region, providing a Â¼ mile NHRA-sectioned drag strip, 1.25 mile NASCAR/IndyCar Speedway, 1.6 mile road course, a state-of-the-art Karting facility and a new 14-acre, multi-purpose dirt off-road venue. St. Louis Dispatch