MADISON — When track owner Curtis Francois reopened Gateway Motorsports Park a little over two years ago, he dreamed of the day when NASCAR would return to the 1.25-mile oval track.
On Saturday, that dream will become a reality.
A field 0f 32 drivers will open a new era of NASCAR events at Gateway Motorsports Park, when they compete in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin' for Linemen 200.
The green flag will drop at 7:45 p.m. and is one of two races set for Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday. The USAC Silver Crown AMSoil 100 begins the day of racing at noon. will be followed at 4 p.m. by NASCAR qualifying.
The day will be the culmination of two years of work for Francois and the staff at Gateway. Francois has invested over $11 million into additions and improvements to the facility.
"The last NASCAR race here was in 2010 and when the track closed after that race, people thought the track was gone forever. We're just so glad to have the opportunity to bring it back to life,'' Francois said. "To bring racing back to the greatest fans in the nation here in St. Louis and to be able to bring the track back is just a thrill for us and just a real passion.
"Our goal was to first reopen the track and make sure that it was on a real strong foundation. We started by reopening the drag strip and we produced a great NHRA race and we've had other events. In '13, we started having discussions about bringing NASCAR back and to have it come to fruition, we're just thrilled about it.''
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is one of three national divisions of NASCAR, which also includes the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series.
Since debuting in 1995, the series has grown in popularity and five years ago found a new sponsor and name -- the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Saturday's race is the seventh of 22 truck series races scheduled during the 2014 season.
The field includes defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and 2014 points leader Matt Crafton. Crafton is coming off a win in Texas two weeks ago.
Ben Kennedy, who is the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader and also great grandson of NASCAR Founder Bill France Sr., also is in the field, as is Timothy Peters, who led the points standings until Texas.
Peters is one of seven drivers in the field who have experience driving at Gateway. Erik Jones holds the record for being the youngest winner in series history and drives for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Coupled with a weather forecast of sunshine and temperatures near 80, Francois is hoping for a large crowd and a great day of racing.
"We have a great feeling about this weekend. There is great energy in the market, there is great energy from the fans and there is great energy from the drivers," Francois said. "We have put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure this track shines so that fans see that we really care how we do things here at Gateway.
"Truck racing is a very exciting form of racing and a showcase for the up and coming stars of NASCAR. These young guys don't leave anything in the pits. When they are out here they're going to give fans a show of what they can do.''
The drivers will get their first look at Gateway Motorsports Park Friday, during practice sessions which will be held from 3-5 p.m. and from 6-8 p.m. Fox Sports 1 will provide a live broadcast of the second session.
The gates open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, with qualifying for the Silver Crown AMSoil 100 set for 9:20 a.m. NASCAR will hold its final practice session from 10-11:30 a.m.