Gateway prepares for NASCAR return in 2014

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With the Camping World Truck Series heading for Gateway Motorsports Park next season, NASCAR racing will be back in the St. Louis region, which spawned the likes of the Wallace brothers (Rusty, Kenny, and Mike) and Ken Schrader.

A successful event could put Gateway on the list to “move up” and eventually re-gain its spot on the Nationwide Series calendar, which it held from 1997 to 2010 (the last year seeing two NNS races at the track) before it was shut down by former owner Dover Motorsports. But first thing’s first.

“We are re-introducing stock car racing to the area,” NASCAR vice president of racing operations Jim Cassidy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this weekend. “The first step in doing that is bringing back the trucks and making it the biggest and best event we can.”

Now under the care of Curtis Francois, Gateway has been growing over the last year thanks to Francois’ renovations to the tune of $11.5 million. He entered a lease for the track in 2011 and then bought it outright this past spring.

Since taking control of Gateway, Francois has lured back the NHRA and now has been able to do the same with NASCAR. He told the Post-Dispatch that he expects the local community to support the CWTS event and “a new Gateway.”

“The fans in our region deserve great racing and the NASCAR truck series brings great racing,” Francois said. “We’re doing everything at the track to make it relevant in updating the facilities and to provide a great fan experience.

“…We’re certainly talking to a lot of [local business] people this year that we weren’t talking to last year. I do believe that the reason is they can see and feel the energy that’s at the track. We’re getting great feedback from the business leaders.”

Tickets for the Gateway 250 on June 14, 2014 go on sale this Friday.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”