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Debate stirs about ‘St. Louis’ branding over NASCAR events in Madison, Illinois

MADISON, Ill. – Tens of thousands enjoyed NASCAR festivities at World Wide Technology Raceway over the weekend in Madison, Illinois, though the events were often labeled or described as being ones for St. Louis or the St. Louis region.

For instance, the FS1 broadcast for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 broadcast used a watermark that read “St. Louis” during the grand race. WWT Raceway owner Curtis Francois touted the race as a key part of “the best sports city in the country,” alluding to St. Louis, in an interview with FOX 2.

And midway through the race, NASCAR shared a photo on the social media platform X of the Gateway Arch from the distance of the racetrack, with the Arch being in the City of St. Louis and the raceway some three miles away across the Mississippi River.

The “St. Louis” branding, apparently, has caused some uproar on social media.

To clarify, speaking on literal geographic terms, WWT Raceway is located in Madison, Illinois. This is roughly a 10-minute drive from the City of St. Louis along Interstate 55. St. Louis is located in the state of Missouri, and getting from St. Louis to the raceway requires one to cross state lines into Illinois.

What goes into the NASCAR racecar setup? Enjoy Illinois 300 gives fans a closer look

Obviously, Madison, Illinois, is not in the City of St. Louis. It’s also in a different state as St. Louis. This leaves some social media users wondering: why would people recognize the event as being St. Louis’ own?

One user on social media platform X (@M_McDaniel2012) offered this thorough response to NASCAR’s racetrack photo with the Arch in the background:

“One thing that gets me whenever NASCAR is to Gateway is that they label it as “St. Louis” in their marketing.

The Arch is to the West of the track.

General rule: If you see the Arch is west of you, you’re 99.9% of the time NOT in St. Louis (or even Missouri for that matter).

Miss me with the “close enough” or “metro area” noise.

Tell the people the truth.

You are in Madison, Illinois. There’s nothing wrong with Madison, Illinois.”

Similar comments

On various FOX 2 social media posts (X and Facebook) throughout the weekend around Enjoy Illinois 300, viewers left these comments on the “St. Louis” branding of the race.

“Somebody really needs to let FS1 and all of the commentators that they are in MADISON ILLINOIS.”

“Not Missouri, it’s Illinois.”

“It’s just across the river from St. Louis.”

“Why is the hauler parade in St. Louis? The track is in Illinois. What a joke.”

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With these comments also came a few opposing viewpoints, acknowledging why the event may be referred to as one for St. Louis.

“Well…. That’s where the track is. It’s also literally right across the river.”

“Everyone of the announcers say St. Louis. And it even shows up on TV as St. Louis.”

“Because 2,000,000 out of 2,800,000 people in the metro STL region live on the Missouri side.”

What gives?

NASCAR has an average television audience of around 3.85 million viewers per event each year. There are 42 different NASCAR racetracks in the United States and Canada.

Using a regional geographic label, like “St. Louis,” may help audience members understand the region where the race is being played, especially because many NASCAR racetracks aren’t necessarily within the limits of flagship cities.

For comparison, the Chicagoland Speedway is in Joliet, Illinois, not Chicago. There’s a good chance more people outside of that region would better understand the general area of the NASCAR event by using a “Chicago” label instead of “Joliet.” A similar example applies for WWT Raceway by mentioning St. Louis in reference to Madison, Illinois.

Why may there be frustrations with the “St. Louis” label?

It could come down to how people from the City of St. Louis and its suburbs identify with their particular upbringing in the Greater St. Louis area.

The City of St. Louis consists of 79 different neighborhoods. Neighboring St. Louis County consists of 91 municipalities. And the Greater St. Louis Area, according to nonprofit Greater St. Louis Inc., consists of 15 counties within the states of Missouri and Illinois. Many of those counties have at least a dozen municipalities.

Debate stirs about ‘St. Louis’ branding over NASCAR events in Madison, Illinois

Each neighborhood, suburb, or piece of Greater St. Louis offers something a little different than all others within the region, whether historically, socially, economically, or by some other measurement. Because of that, locals may feel strongly about geographical representation and believe that a general “St. Louis” label ignores the character or cultural impact of somewhere outside of the actual St. Louis City boundaries, such as Madison, Illinois.

The history of St. Louis becoming an independent city may also contribute to complexities in how people view the City of St. Louis versus the region. In 1876, the City of St. Louis separated from St. Louis County, a move that many historians attribute to financial motives. Advocacy to merge the City and County has wavered throughout the years, with one proposal in 2019 retracted after months of criticism.

Documentation on the social perceptions of St. Louis City and the region as two separate engines among people who live in one or the other is sparse, but an online forum from City-Data.com tackled this topic in 2009. One participant offered an insightful comment, noting in part, “In order to enjoy the things St. Louis has to offer, it is not necessary to live right ‘in the city.'”

In branding something as “St. Louis” that’s outside the city but within the region, there’s not really one definitive answer that fits for everyone. You may also notice such trends with sites such as “The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum,” and “Six Flags St. Louis,” which are both located within St. Louis County but not the City of St. Louis.

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