ST. LOUIS Curtis Francois owns one circuit – World Extensive Expertise Raceway – branded for the corporate that David L. Steward based and now serves as president. As a former skilled race automobile driver, Francois would attraction to Steward, who’s one thing of an avid novice racer, alongside together with his son, David Steward II.
Much more, Francois saving the observe from the wrecking ball in 2011 would impress these entrepreneurs and racing fans. Leisure thrives in a Metro East area that will have been devastated and reinvested in the local people, now with the help of World Extensive Expertise and the Steward Household Basis.
“Dave II and I proceed to be impressed by the vitality and dedication Curtis brings to the path and his dedication to enhancing the standard of life for all of us within the St. Louis area and southwestern Illinois,” mentioned David L. Steward of his enterprise accomplice.
“My household and I are honored to accomplice with Curtis, who made it attainable to carry a NASCAR Cup race to World Extensive Expertise Raceway together with his imaginative and prescient and robust execution. The Get pleasure from Illinois 300, together with the Confluence Music competition, places the Gateway area on the world stage for a whole weekend. Our neighborhood is enriched by every thing Curtis, his household and staff are doing, and we’re having plenty of enjoyable collectively alongside the way in which.”
Considering a enterprise affiliate of Dave Steward is somebody of curiosity to our readers, The St. Louis American requested Francois in regards to the observe, working with the Stewards and what they’re doing to diversify their viewers and reinvest in the neighborhood.
The St. Louis American: What’s new and what’s subsequent for the World Extensive Expertise Raceway?
Curtis Francois: WWTR is constant to work on an aggressive funding plan that may finally signify a $100 million funding by 2025, together with land acquisitions and fan enhancements.
After I bought the path in 2011, it consisted of 150 acres. Immediately, after many purchases, together with the Gateway Nationwide Golf Course, the property spans over 700 acres. This ensures that the observe continues to supply many kinds of racing and accommodates the crowds and tenting fans who flock to those main occasions. Actually, it’s the solely venue within the nation to host NASCAR, INDYCAR and NHRA occasions.
The fan expertise continues to evolve with a brand new multi-million greenback funding for the indoor fan zone with shut storage entry in time for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Sequence race on June 4, 2023.
Globally touring artists will headline the soon-to-be-announced Confluence Music Competition. It can characteristic extra levels and extra genres over the weekend.
Driver look is a vital a part of our neighborhood outreach. In 2022, we hosted Daniel Suarez in Fairmont Metropolis with younger Hispanics who beloved their time with him; and racer Bubba Wallace introduced a Raceway Offers racing scholarship to a deserving scholar from Metro East.
Jackie Joyner Kersee would be the 2023 Grand Marshal Have enjoyable with Illinois 300 NASCAR Cup Sequence and can host the primary 5k race named in his honor. The JJK 5K might be held on Saturday, June 3 on the similar 1.25-mile oval observe that NASCAR drivers race on.
The St. Louis American: Do you see proof of rising curiosity/participation in NASCAR and different racing actions by African Individuals? What are you doing to succeed in that viewers?
Curtis Francois: Completely. Drivers like Bubba Wallace and Rajah Caruth are making strides in partaking followers of the colour. Internet hosting these riders in the neighborhood after they’re on the town is a vital step in elevating consciousness and alluring new followers to get pleasure from racing.
Moreover, Raceway Offers is the philanthropic arm of World Extensive Expertise Raceway to foster transformative change within the Metro-East communities surrounding the raceway. By means of grassroots partnerships, Raceway Offers leverages the sources of the observe and know-how related to motorsports to excite space youth about STEM training.
Raceway Gives touches on important neighborhood points by knowingly partnering with colleges and youth organizations that serve underprivileged Black and Brown college students from economically deprived communities.
Raceway Offers has a long-standing partnership with East St. Louis’ Jackie Joyner Kersee Heart to ship STEM experiences by means of motorsports to youth served by means of the Jackies group. The Jackies observe and middle are simply minutes away, and each organizations share a dedication to enhancing the lives of Metro East’s youngsters. The partnership garnered nationwide consideration, incomes the 2021 Comcast Neighborhood Champion award, which acknowledges neighborhood contributions associated to essentially the most compelling motorsports throughout the nation.
Raceway Offers has put in racing simulators within the middle, hosts particular visitors to speak to the children, and offers them loads of alternatives to go to and work together on the observe. The JJK Heart is considered one of 16 regional youth organizations to participate within the Raceway Offers STEM consciousness initiative, coined Junior 500, which teaches teamwork and know-how by means of the exhilarating expertise of aggressive kart racing.
In 2022, Raceway Offers, in partnership with Dave Steward II and the Steward Household Basis, awarded Metro-East scholar Josiah Unaeze a scholarship to superior karting from Raceway Offers in 2022. The award was introduced to him personally by NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace. This was an inspiring second for an excellent younger man.
Lastly, WWTR and Raceway Offers used the 2022 NASCAR Cup Sequence race as a pitch for Raceway Offers Neighborhood Champions. This new initiative creates and helps hyperlocal applications that enhance neighborhood satisfaction by means of bodily enhancements to public areas and particular occasion alternatives. In June 2022, a big part of the freeway’s retaining wall and two buildings have been chosen by regional leaders for mural art work created by native artists Cbabi Bayoc, Mykael Ash and Korbin King. Collaborating organizations embrace: Illinois Division of Transportation; Bi-State Improvement; Lorenzo Savage, CEO and co-founder of I Am EStL the Basis; and constructing proprietor Keith Mocabee.
The St. Louis American: What was it like working with David Steward? What did it carry to the corporate?
Curtis Francois: From the second I met Dave, I knew I might met a brand new pal. We share a standard view of working to make the world a greater place. Dave is an inspirational individual and has proven me the depth of the phrase “generosity”. I discovered a lot working with him, not solely from a enterprise perspective but additionally what it means to be somebody who lives their life for instance for others.
One of many first issues he mentioned to me once we mentioned our naming rights partnership was: assume massive. Take into consideration the issues that may make transformative modifications. Since then we have redoubled our efforts collectively to make a distinction within the St. Louis area.
I’ll always remember standing with Dave on the beginning line in entrance of packed grandstands in the course of the NASCAR Cup Sequence opener final yr. Two B-1 bombers have been flying overhead as Kennedy Holmes sang the nationwide anthem with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. After working so exhausting to make that occur, simply standing there with him and watching all of it come collectively was an unbelievable feeling of pleasure and a second I’ll always remember.
He has harnessed the ability of World Extensive Expertise and his private dedication to assist us strengthen our relationship with NASCAR and assist drive vital change inside motorsports. His work instantly helped create a path for black and brown riders to race on the highest stage.
It is exhausting to explain the quantity of respect I’ve for Dave Steward. Suffice it to say: he has been an inspiration and mentor to me, and I might be eternally grateful to him.
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