By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Author’s note: This is part of a 10-part series discussing tracks around the world that I feel would be a good fit for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The opinions here are expressed solely of the author and not necessarily of the Motorsports Tribune.
While the Circuit of the Americas has made a name for itself as the home of Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix, a Verizon IndyCar Series race could be a nice addition.
The 3.427-mile road course just outside of Austin, Texas has some of the best facilities of any track in the world. The track was designed by veteran F1 course designer Herman Tilke and features a few style cues from many tracks around the world. The layout features a little bit of everything with some long straightaways, a tight esses, triple-apex right hander, and topped off with a wide racing groove.
The track is also home to the Austin360 Amphitheater, which plays host to several concerts and shows year-round.
While the venue has a very short existence, it has been nothing short of eventful. There have been disputes regarding the track’s value and an even bigger issue regarding the funding of the Formula 1 race. The sanctioning fee for the Grand Prix comes from the Texas Major Events Fund, which is comprised of taxpayer money. In 2015, the race nearly didn’t happen due to a proposed reduction in the amount of money given to Formula 1 World Championship Management. Eventually the state of Texas agreed to pay the $25 million agreed amount.
So with all of that in mind, why would it make sense for IndyCar to make a trip to COTA?
An IndyCar race could potentially be more profitable for the track being that the sanctioning fee is significantly lower than F1. The impact of the local economy would potentially be less just due to the difference of fan draw of IndyCar vs F1.
Austin would be a brand new market for IndyCar, and would have the benefit of being a ‘big show’ in a large market with little sports influence. The only sports draw that the city has is the University of Texas’ selection of sports. Whereas Texas Motor Speedway, around 200 miles north of Austin, faces some stiff competition from the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the MLB’s Texas Rangers.
Along with F1, COTA also hosts the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Pirelli World Challenge and MotoGP. Having IndyCar on their lineup would give the track the distinction of being the only track in the world to host most of the world’s international racing series.
The big question is whether or not there is room for two races in Texas. Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage has not shied away from only wanting a race at Texas at his racetrack.
Gossage’s main concern was that two races on the calendar would not only hurt the loyalty that IndyCar has with TMS and would cut into his pie. To counter Gossage’s point, fans in Texas would be willing to travel to both tracks as they do to major sporting events around the state. Also factor in that the crowds at Texas Motor Speedway are not the sellouts that we saw in the late 90s, so his leverage is not nearly as great now.
As long as the races are adequately spaced out on the schedule, both races can be viable.