A schedule shakeup for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series could come as early as the 2020 season and Gateway Motorsports Park is positioning itself for the shortlist for when league officials are ready to talk.
No other oval facility is immediately capable of hosing the premier series of NASCAR quite like the 1.25-mile circuit located just outside of St. Louis.
"I think you could say our crowds tell the story," track owner and former open-wheel racer Curtis Francois told Autoweek on Friday. "We consistently deliver great crowds in very challenging times because we have built this dedicated following from the grounds up... I think we are ready right now."
The greater St. Louis area boasts more than 2 million residents, and Gateway drew more than 40,000 of them for the return of the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017. The follow-up event this summer drew somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000.
But Gateway has another trump card it is willing to play once NASCAR is ready: midweek racing.
Francois without hesitation has indicated that he is willing to let Gateway be the guinea pig when it comes to finding a facility gutsy enough to host the elusive but often-discussed prime-time middle-of-the-week Cup race.
"I think Gateway is uniquely positioned to host a midweek race," Francois said. "One of the things you have to consider for a midweek race is that people may have to take work off on a Tuesday or Thursday for a Wednesday race if they are going to travel.
As it stands, Francois hasn't officially entered into any negotiations with the sanctioning body. Any conversations between the two parties to this point have been casual. It's worth noting that Gateway previously hosted NASCAR Xfinity Series races from 1997 to 2009 when the track was owned by Dover Motorsports.
The Truck Series previously raced at Gateway from 1998 to 2010. It returned in 2014 and has been on the schedule every year since.
--- AutoWeek ---