Chris Blair


Blair with his son, Austin

As a fan or racer you may not know Chris Blair the current Executive Vice President and General Manager at the multi-faceted Gateway Motorsports Park located near St. Louis, but you probably should as he is one of motor racing's next generation of management. Blair worked his way through college as a journalist, announcer and promoter of dirt track racing. After graduating from college auto racing became a career, first as a track operator and then with the National Hot Rod Association and Wally Parks as a division director in the Northwest. He went from the NHRA to work for the Bruton Smith organization as the Vice President of Racing Operations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was primarily responsible for the NHRA drag racing on the track known as "The Strip at LVMS," but also led the track's 3/8-mile asphalt oval, half-mile dirt track, off-road venue, and oversaw the development of new motorsports ventures such as D1 and Formula Drift. The Strip at LVMS, under Blair's supervision, rapidly grew to become one of the most popular venues in the country thanks to unique non-NHRA events such as the Street Car Super Nationals, Rockabilly Rod Reunion and Thanksgiving Bracket Nationals.

After resigning his position at LVMS to pursue event development projects, he took a similar position at GMP for owner Curtis Francois, who had just bought the then defunct track. He tasked Blair with renovating the complex and making it a successful and profitable race facility that hosts multiple race series including a NHRA National Event, NASCAR truck race, and TORC Off-Road. Both Blair and Francois share a goal of turning the St. Louis venue into a year-round operation with the addition of driving experiences, new tracks, a membership karting track and multiple conference facilities. At a time when many people were hitting the pause button on facility capital improvements and expansion, Francois was moving full steam ahead. Blair has said it has been not only the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, time in his long career.  

In 2012, after nearly 11 years as VP of Racing Operations at Bruton Smith's LVMS, you made a change and ended up working for Curtis Francois in St. Louis. How did that come about?

Chris Blair: I really enjoyed working at LVMS and Chris Powell (the LVMS General Manager) was always supportive of our event development and programs.  Leaving Las Vegas had been in the works since 2007, so while it may have seemed sudden for some, it wasn't for me. In the fall of 2007 I had an amazing job offered to me with a racing team based in Brownsburg, Indiana. I had gone as far as making several trips to look at houses and was seriously considering it due to the proximity of living closer to my family in Kentucky. But the whole idea of running a team, juggling travel, and not being on the event side of the sport was something I struggled with. Plus, there was so much going on in the sport at that time that I didn't know if being on the team side made the most sense. In early 2008 another opportunity presented itself when Humpy (Wheeler) asked me to come back to Charlotte for the dragstrip project. I was interested because it would have been my first chance to work directly for him and also work side-by-side with Roger Slack, who has been one of my best friends for nearly 20 years. The main thing affecting my move then was the Las Vegas real estate market and the fact that I had a couple of houses at that time to worry about. A few months later Humpy was out as the President of SMI and Charlotte and Roger soon followed. It all sort of worked out for the best that I stayed right there in Vegas for while. Roger and I stir up enough trouble with some of the folks that we deal with; the two of us in the same building would have been dangerous.

I first met Curtis Francois in 2011 at an NHRA national event track operators meeting in Newport Beach, California. We talked about what he was trying to accomplish and I was pretty straightforward with my opinions and suggestions. When Curtis and I met the following year to discuss working together, I started getting calls from people like Peter Clifford, Tom Compton, Lex Dudas, Robert Hight, Jeff Wolf and even John Force. They were calling to support the idea and some told me that I would be crazy not to work for him. They all met him and loved what he was doing. He had their respect and I always respected their opinions. It also enabled me to get closer to family in both Kentucky and Illinois at a time when it was very important.