MADISON — IndyCar officials announced this week their 2016 event schedule, including plans to add Gateway Motorsports Park as an approved testing facility.
Mark Miles, the IndyCar CEO, said Gateway Motorsports Park owner Curtis Francois and his team have done a very nice job reinvigorating the facility and its place in the St. Louis community, which includes successful NASCAR, NHRA and local events.
“The conversations between Gateway Motorsports Park and officials at IndyCar have been very encouraging,” Francois said. “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.
“Our revitalization efforts and fan-centered business strategy have positioned the track as an excellent venue for a future IndyCar race. Like the other sanctioning bodies, IndyCar has recognized the tremendous regional fan support we have here, and they want to be a part of the excitement.”
IndyCars last raced at Gateway Motorsports Park in August 2003.
This offseason, Carpenter Fisher Harper Racing driver Ed Carpenter participated in a compatibility test at Gateway Motorsports Park and the reaction to the track was extremely positive. Francois says this is an important step in the process of securing an IndyCar event in the future.
“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.”
Next year, IndyCar celebrates the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, and interest in the IndyCar series is on the rise, evidenced by a 38 percent increase in both TV ratings and viewership over the past two seasons.
“It’s really been a key focus of ours to work with our broadcast partners to make ourselves as available as possible to the largest number of fans,” Miles said. “The IndyCar Series is all about history, and there certainly is no better example in my mind in epic motorsports than the Indianapolis 500-mile race.”
During a press briefing Tuesday, Miles discussed some of the broadcast scheduling challenges IndyCar officials faced as they were putting together the 2016 schedule. With NASCAR, NFL Sunday, Sunday Night Football and the Olympics taking up a big chunk of the television schedule in August, he described the scheduling process.
Miles added, “That’s kind of threading a needle, but we think it’s important to have done that for sports fans and Olympic fans.”