RACING

IndyCar comes after NASCAR race success | Sports

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The sonic blast of racing engines returned to World Wide Technology Raceway for the first time in two months on Thursday, as usual as IndyCar teams tested the track in preparation for the next race in the series.

But the status quo has changed somewhat since 57,000 fans attended the first NASCAR Cup race at the facility.

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Owner Curtis Francois saw WWTR propelled into a new dimension as the entire world became an accurate descriptor of the visibility that was gained in the space of an early June race weekend.

“NASCAR has taken track name recognition to a whole new level,” said Francois. “There we were, little old St. Louis punching above our weight class.”

With the momentum created, the track is in final preparation to host the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on August 20. The race was the second-busiest IndyCar oval behind only the Indianapolis 500.

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Several teams sent drivers to test on the track just over a week before the cars arrived for practice and qualifying on August 19. Among them were Kyle Kirkwood and Dalton Kellett of AJ Foyt Racing, Devlin DeFrancesco of Andretti Autosport, Callum Ilott of Juncos Racing. and Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan.

The NASCAR Cup race set a new bar for WWTR, one that Francois worked to keep high by visiting as many NASCAR events as possible. IndyCar will be the next challenge as it attempts to improve an event that has topped around 45,000 fans.

The Cup race produced 35 billion media impressions on social media and was the highest rated NASCAR race on FS1 this year. The absence of any COVID restrictions made the record crowds possible.

“It’s always a challenge to bring all the fans back,” Francois said. “When they all showed up on June 5, it was a huge step. Now we have to make sure with IndyCar racing that the standard is in place to be the best it can be.

With all the major racing series under contract to run at WWTR for several years, it looks like Francois has gone out of his way to fill the dates. But he is not yet satisfied with the schedule.

He continues to explore possibilities and said he is considering “major road racing events”. He said the track revealed that crossover fans from one series to another attend the races, creating more possibilities.

Fans from 49 states and more than 20 countries bought tickets for the NASCAR race. They’ve benefited from millions of dollars of upgrades on the track – upgrades that will be on display for all other events.

“With any freshman event, it’s hard to say there will be financial success,” Francois said. “What we were looking for was artistic success. On a measure of success, this run was an A-plus. The financial part takes care of itself in the long run.

Francois has invested approximately $50 million in WWTR since its purchase and plans to invest an additional $50 million in upgrades by 2025.

This year’s IndyCar race will be the series’ first race under “normal” circumstances since 2019 due to COVID. In 2020, IndyCar made the unusual decision to hold back-to-back races at WWTR with significantly limited attendance.

François does not think that two major races in a short time will hurt sales. He said the WWTR sequels were sold out and the weather would play a key role.

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