Texas Motor Speedway and the Circuit of the Americas are 220 miles apart via Interstate 35, the backbone highway of Texas and the United States. For Bernie Ecclestone, it is of little note, but for larger than life TMS front man Eddie Gossage it is 220 miles too close. He raised a stir when F1 announced this year’s U.S. Grand Prix for the same date as his premier AAA Texas 500. Sine then the scheduling gaffe has led to criticism and the debate of whether or not it would force fans of the two seemingly disparate series to choose which venue would win their presence and hard earned money.
Texas Motor Speedway opened its doors in 1997, I remember it well as I grew up just 15 minutes from the track. It has hosted numerous rounds of NASCAR and IndyCar, serving as one of the few bright lights during the early and dark days of the IRL. I will always love TMS, I’ve been there more times than I can count and it’s quite possible I would not be engaged in this line of work were it not for the house Eddie built.
The Circuit of the Americas, affectionately known as COTA, is much newer, the purpose built home for F1’s triumphant return to the United States. I’ve been there multiple times and rank it among my favorite places on Earth.
Instead of embracing this new neighbor to the South, Eddie has sadly done just the opposite. Continually bashing Ecclestone, the FIA, COTA and threatening to pull his races if NASCAR or IndyCar dare to make the venture down I-35 and race at one of the premier motorsport facilities in the world. Apparently hollow threats like these from Eddie and others prompted IndyCar’s Mike Miles to release a statement on why IndyCar deliberately chose to leave off fan favorites like COTA and Laguna Seca from their much delayed 2015 calendar due to their close proximity to current race venues. After this I naively thought Eddie would stop, but heading into this weekend’s events he felt the need to once more beat the drum.
Anybody that you do business with, you deserve loyalty. I look at races as the sanctioning body is a wholesaler and they sale you a product and you turn around and retail it to the public. If you’ve been the retailer for all this area and all of a sudden they want to bring in another distributor and it’s going to cut into your deal, that’s not OK, that’s not appropriate. If IndyCar wants to run in Austin, my response is God Bless you, it’s been a nice 18 years, have fun. We don’t need another race in the market to cause people to make choices and decisions.
– Eddie Gossage
The real tragedy in this is that Eddie was once known as one of the best promoters in the business. But in the past few years he’s let it slide and rest on the laurels of TMS being an established track. He doesn’t want the fans to have choices?! Just read that over again, it is baffling to me and one of the most hollow threats I’ve seen in some time. Maybe Eddie is jealous, maybe he had grand plans for a true road course and COTA beat him to the punch. Maybe he doesn’t like F1 coming in and upstaging him. Either way I am far more apt to agree with NBC Sports Steve Matchett who grinning ear to ear after today’s grand prix had the following to say.
The biggest winner of today is America and Formula One’s place in America. We’ve seen a lot of very passionate knowledgeable fans out here. We’ve all been made very welcome around the city of Austin, they have embraced the race, it’s a fantastic event, can’t wait to come back again.
– Steve Matchett.
I would argue that the increased exposure each series brought to the other was nothing but a positive this weekend. A positive for both venues, both series and motorsport as a whole. I had friends and colleagues that did have to choose; some went to TMS, some went to COTA. All of them had a good time and talked about the other series while they were there. Both races were good races, with popular winners placing a greater emphasis on two close championships. Both races put Texas in the bright spotlight of the international motorsport community and showcased to the world facilities and drivers they may have not previously been aware of. Next year the U.S. Grand Prix will be held a week earlier, preventing such an awkward situation from recurring, but I am willing to bet that quite a few NASCAR fans will venture down to COTA and then quite a few F1 fans will venture up to TMS the next weekend, and that would be a very good thing.