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‘Back to the Future’: Industry leader talks about Francois, WWTR impact

(Credit: Michael Allio)

Founder and President
Cassidy Sports Advisory, LLC

Curtis Francois, inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 14, 2023. (Credit: Michael Thomas, courtesy WWTR/

Curtis Francois, World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR) owner, recently wondered aloud what I saw in WWTR when we first met more than a decade ago while I was working for NASCAR.

Just this week, on September 14, Francois was inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, one of many deserving honors bestowed upon him in recent years, and I thought it a good time to share some thoughts reflecting on his question.

First and foremost, I saw a friend of the community and a friend of the sport who had range and depth well beyond racing.

I saw an appreciation and familiarity of a family business willing to take risks to grow racing in a way that ultimately works for everyone.

Bigger picture, I saw an industry in need of strong next generation partners.

Today, I see a still-early success story rooted in someone doing what he says he’s going to do.

I see a man who has demonstrated what it takes to awaken WWTR from dormancy to a vibrant racing facility.  I see the Francois family in the midst of a $100M investment that will continue to transform the community for many generations ahead.

I see the historic impact of World Wide Technology founder and chairman, Dave Steward, and his family’s unwavering support to recognize and successfully advance the opportunity to open NASCAR doors to fans from historically underrepresented communities.  This accomplished, in part, through the thoughtful and unprecedented coming together of the arts, STEM education and the racing community.

While this is about so much more than hosting successful events, back-to-back sellouts at WWTR in years one and two as new host venue to the NASCAR Cup Series is a remarkable feat not achieved in decades.

I see a WWTR team with the confidence to do things differently and the resources to do things the right way as they deliver fun to the fiercely loyal masses.

I see some of the best racing there is anywhere.

I see the future.  Let me take you there.

(Credit: Michael Allio)

It’s 2054 and the World’s Fair returns to St. Louis, marking the 150th anniversary since it last played host in 1904.

Now, decades and billions of dollars of economic impact later, NASCAR is in town with a massive global audience about to witness the historical convergence of world progress and racing at the highest level.

WWTR is the setting, now a full-blown community and integrated commercial sector that presents large-scale, vibrant year-round activity that transcends racing.

WWTR is also now home to a NASCAR Cup Series team, supplying a built-in and season-long audience.  That same team (and others) recruits locally across all disciplines from a one-of-a-kind motorsports academy developed as an extension of the good work seeded many years before, by community members including Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

The weekend lineup features the iconic NASCAR Cup Series, along with the NASCAR E Series (electric) competing on the first self-charging track designed by local universities and the Ameren Innovation Center.  The NASCAR V Series (virtual) taking place fittingly on the digitally recreated Maxwelton Race Track in St, Louis, scene of the 1904 World’s Fair automobile race.

A technology summit is hosted by World Wide Technology in a global market that has cemented its standing as a technology epicenter.  Welcome remarks come from NASCAR’s leader, Ben Kennedy, who early in his career took time to get to know the people of St. Louis and was instrumental in the vision that has played out.

On race day, fans arrive via fast-rail at the dedicated WWTR stop as air taxis move people efficiently across the region, providing the most dramatic view of the Arch and of a modern-day East St. Louis, absent of long-neglected communities and now a thriving economy.

The grand marshals for the race are the Francois and Steward families who decades before shared the vision now front and center for the world to experience.  Someone undoubtedly will recall Steward’s words 35 years earlier when he and Francois set forth a “goal of making World Wide Technology Raceway the most tech‑forward track, entertainment and education venue in racing.”

The 2054 World’s Fair hints at nostalgic threads of the original fair, but looks nothing like it.  The same holds true with NASCAR, where traditions will remain visible as the product evolves to maintain relevance.

All thanks to thoughtful building blocks put in place long ago.

You have to have courage to look into the future and Francois’ vision is clear.  Sometimes we try hard to maintain “the way it felt” at the sake of optimizing the way forward.  You can do both. Francois understands that, setting the pace for relevance in motorsport entertainment venues.

Back to the original question posed by Francois.  I see a leader and friend whose remarkable WWTR story is only just beginning to be written.

Jim Cassidy is a highly respected executive with 30+ years of motorsports leadership experience.  Formerly SVP and Chief International Officer at NASCAR, his accomplishments over nearly two decades positively affected nearly every aspect of the sport and its management including on-track competition, safety, diversity, financial structure and growth to major global markets.


All photos provided by World Wide Technology Raceway.

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