Gateway Motorsports Park

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Gateway Motorsports Park
Gateway Motorsports Park starting line.jpg
Gateway Motorsport Park's starting line tower Official Website: http://www.gatewaymsp.com/
Location 700 Raceway Boulevard
Madison, Illinois 62060
Capacity 78,000
Owner Curtis Francois
Address 700 Raceway Blvd, Madison, IL 62060
Opened 1970
Major events NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, National Hot Rod Association, American Drag Racing League, USAC Traxxas Silver Crown Series, (former: NASCAR Nationwide Series)
Oval
Length 2 km (1.25 mi)
Banking Turns 1 & 2 – 11°
Turns 3 & 4 – 9°
Straights – 3°

Gateway Motorsports Park (formerly Gateway International Raceway) is a race track in Madison, Illinois, USA, just east of St. Louis, Missouri. After being shuttered by former owner Dover Motorsports Inc., on November 3, 2010, it was announced September 8, 2011, that the facility would re-open and host an NHRA Full Throttle Series event September 28–30, 2012. St. Louis real estate developer and former professional racer (INDYCAR Indy Lights) Curtis Francois has signed a one-year lease to run the track. It hosted a NASCAR Nationwide Series event and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on a 1.25-mile (2 kilometer) oval, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) infield Road Course used by SCCA and various car clubs, and also has a quarter-mile drag strip that hosts an annual National Hot Rod Association event. The facilities were owned by Dover Motorsports, a group that also owned what is now Memphis International Raceway, along with Dover International Speedway, and the Nashville Superspeedway.

The first major event held at the facility was a CART series held on Saturday May 24, 1997, the day before the Indy Racing League's Indianapolis 500. Rather than scheduling a race directly opposite the Indy 500 (as they had done in 1996 with the U.S. 500), CART scheduled Gateway the day before to serve as their Memorial Day weekend open-wheel alternative without direct conflict. After a couple years, track management grew increasingly dissatisfied with its apparent use, as seen by some, as a political pawn or statement by CART. This event had poor attendance as fans generally chose to travel to the Indy 500 for the weekend instead. For 2000, the race was moved to the fall. In 2001, its was dropped from the CART series schedule, and switched alliances to the Indy Racing League. After mediocre attendance, the event was dropped altogether after 2003.

The 1.25-mile (2.01 km) oval is a favorite of many of the drivers who race there due to the unique shape and different degrees of banking in each corner. Turns 1 & 2 have characteristics similar to New Hampshire Motor Speedway while Turns 3 & 4 are similar to Phoenix International Raceway and the track's egg shape mimics the legendary Darlington Raceway. Several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams test at GIR in preparation for these events.

There is also a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) infield road course used by sports car clubs and motorcycle organizations through the warmer months. This road course hosted a round of the AMA Superbike Championship in 1995. Canadian Miguel Duhamel won the superbike class in blistering hot conditions.

Motorcycles lined up to race

In early January 2008, it was announced that the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers would move their sponsorship from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race to the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. The July 19 Nationwide Series will now be called the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250. At the 2008 event, Carl Edwards became the fourth driver to win two NASCAR Nationwide Series events at GIR.

It was a big year in 2008 for the NHRA at GIR as legendary 14-time Funny Car champion John Force earned his 1,000th career round win against Ron Capps. Making the event doubly special was the fact it happened on his 59th birthday one week after he lost to his daughter, Ashley Force, in the finals at Atlanta for her first career Funny Car win. Another storyline in the day's event was Rod Fuller beating his arch rival Tony Schumacher in the finals. It would be a big win for Fuller as it represented one of the very few times Schumacher would be beat in an historic season for The Sarge, who won 15 races, with seven of them consecutively with 31 round wins in a row, en route to his fifth consecutive Top Fuel title and his sixth overall.

Looking down the drag strip at dawn

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Gateway was sponsored by Camping World, becoming the Camping World 200. Coincidentally, the race was won by defending Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday, whose #33 Truck fielded by Kevin Harvick Inc. is sponsored by Camping World.

Also at the 2008 Camping World 200, GIR introduced its brand-new victory lane, a throwback to the one used at Rockingham. The project, spearheaded by Batycki, was an immediate hit as Hornaday and the rest of the Truck Series competitors were very complimentary of the new addition.

In 2009, two new events were added to the season schedule: The American Drag Racing League, a sanctioning body headquartered in nearby O'Fallon, Missouri, and the USAC .25 Midget Series, the racing league's new quartermidget tour. The USAC event is in conjunction with the Gold Crown Nationals, a midget race co-sanctioned by USAC and POWRi scheduled to run at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Illinois.

In 2010 Gateway received a second NASCAR Nationwide Series race due to the closure of Memphis Motorsports Park. The date was the former late fall event at Memphis. This was the last NASCAR event held at Gateway until 2014, as Dover Motorsports announced it will not seek sanctioning for the three events held at the track in 2010. The track did not make an announcement concerning any of the other events the track holds.[1] The now closed down Nashville Superspeedway would get Gateway's place on the schedule in July, while the October race date will remain vacant. The NHRA did not schedule an event for 2011 at Gateway either.

On November 3, 2010, Dover Motorsports announced that Gateway was officially closing and ceasing all racing operations at the track.[2] On September 8, 2011, the official announcement was made that Gateway would re-open in 2012 and host the 15th AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals September 28–30, under the leadership of Curtis Francois.[3]

On December 6, 2012, USAC announced that the track would have a USAC Traxxas Silver Crown Series date in 2013 on June 1.[4]

On October 25, 2013, it was announced that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series would be returning to Gateway on June 14, 2014 for the first time since 2010.[5]

Track history[edit]

Gateway Motorsports Park has a rich and storied history with a future that is built on the foundation of introducing St. Louis area race fans to new and exciting forms of sports entertainment.

Wayne Meinert first developed the original St. Louis Raceway Park in 1967 as a simple, 1/8 –mile drag strip. Four years later, following the acquisition of additional land, he expanded the racing surface to a quarter mile and renamed the facility St. Louis International Raceway.

In 1985, as the demand for racing increased, a road course was constructed and opened the facility to another group of racing enthusiasts. The 2.6 mile circuit was flat, with only a few small elevation changes, and incorporated parts of the drag strip and shutdown area to provide unique challenge for participants. The new circuit played host the Trans Am Series, Can-Am and a variety of Sports Car Club of American (SCCA) regional and national events. That same year, a 1/20 mile dirt oval opened to play host to a variety of karting events.

In 1995 the track was purchased by promoter Chris Pook who immediately began a demolition project of all the existing tracks, which had been renamed Gateway International Raceway in 1988. Pook, who had previously promoted the Formula 1 and Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) races of the Long Beach (CA) Grand Prix, began construction of a new oval, an infield road course and NHRA sanctioned drag strip.

The first major event held at the facility was a Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) Series race on Saturday, May 24, 1997. The event was held amid the controversy of open wheel racing’s well-publicized split with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League. The race was contested the day prior to the Indy Racing League’s Indianapolis 500 and was won by Canadian Paul Tracy.

One month later, in June of 1997, the National Hot Rod Association hosted its first-ever National Event at the venue to a near standing-room only crowd. Joe Amato (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) became the first professional category drag racing champions at Gateway and created an event that has continued to be one of the most popular on the championship tour.

The magical 1997 season saw another historic landmark one month later, on July 26, when the first-ever NASCAR event was held on the 1.25 mile oval. Elliott Sadler wrote his name in the record books as the first of 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series event winners at Gateway between 1997 and 2010. The first event proved exciting to the fans with 14 cautions and 15 lead changes in what remains the longest, 300 miles, NASCAR race ever contested at Gateway.

NASCAR increased its presence in St. Louis with the addition of the Camping World Truck Series on September 19, 1998. The unique shape and banking of the facility proved perfect for the Truck Series with a pole qualifying speed of 131.218 mile per hour and a hotly contested race that saw Rick Carelli become the first of 13 truck series winners between 1998 and 2010.

In 2010 Dover Motorsports, Inc., who had earlier purchased the facility from Pook, hosted two Nationwide Series at Gateway following their closure of Memphis Motorsports Park. Dover, citing their inability to run the operations with acceptable returns, officially announced that Gateway was officially closing and ceasing operations on November 3, 2010.

On Sept. 8, 2011, retired race car driver and real estate developer Curtis Francois announced the re-opening of the 160-acre facility for the 2012 season. With one of the largest racing schedules in the track’s history, Francois renamed and rebranded the park Gateway Motorsports Park (Gateway MSP) to better reflect the diverse motorsports events and activities planned for the future. An important key to reopening Gateway MSP was the commitment to drag racing and the partnership with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Francois inked a long-term deal with the NHRA starting with a signature event in September 2012, which was a tremendous success. In November 2013, Gateway MSP and NASCAR announced the return of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the 2014 season.

Today, Gateway MSP sparkles with the excitement of an $11.5 million revitalization and fan enthusiasm not seen in decades. Now increased to more than 200 acres, Gateway Motorsports Park is the largest outdoor entertainment facility in the region, encompassing a ¼ mile NHRA-sanctioned drag strip, 1.25 mile NASCAR oval track, 1.6 mile road course, a newly built world class karting facility, improved grandstands and a recently completed fan pavilion. To increase its presence in the world of motorsports, Gateway is currently in the design phase for a multi-use dirt facility that will feature off-road, sand drag and tractor pulling events. In an effort to expand to new realms of business development, a two-story conference center has been added to the infield of the oval track. Gateway is also expanding with more opportunities for car enthusiasts to participate in racing activities with the Gateway Challenge Experience. The Gateway Challenge puts individuals and corporate groups behind the wheel of new Chevrolet SS Camaros with driving instruction and competitions. Just two short years after being shuttered, and just months away from being sold for scrap, Gateway Motorsports Park is now considered one of the up-and-coming motorsports facilities in the United States. The 2014 schedule, which is currently under development, is anchored by appearances by appearances by NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.

Race history[edit]

CART and IRL results[edit]

NHRA Mello Yello Series history[edit]

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2012

Nationwide Series race history[edit]

Camping World Truck Series race history[edit]

Records[edit]

* Keselowski and Sorenson tied for the fastest laptime in qualifying, both setting a new identical track record. By virtue of being higher in owner's points, Keselowski was given the tiebreaker and credited with the pole.

Other events[edit]

Metallica's Summer Sanitarium Tour made a stop at Gateway on July 3, 2000. Other artists featured at the concert were Korn, Kid Rock, Powerman 5000 & System of a Down.

The Illinois State Police uses Gateway to train new Troopers in high speed vehicle operations (Emergency Vehicle Operations Course).

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°39′03″N 90°08′07″W / 38.65080°N 90.13537°W / 38.65080; -90.13537