Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas stated on Wednesday December 4 that the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend bears "few similarities" to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race that will be held on the same date, also in central Texas. The statement released by the circuit, came on the heels of a date change for the USGP on the FIA's recently confirmed 2014 Formula 1 calendar. The USGP has moved from mid-November in 2013 to November 2 on the new schedule, the same date as a NASCAR Sprint Cup race 200 miles away from Austin.
According to COTA, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race to be held at the Texas Motor Speedway in Forth Worth on November 2 has "few similarities" to the Grand Prix weekend held in Austin. COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein stated: "Due to the large number of NASCAR events scheduled annually, there will occasionally be overlaps with events at Circuit of The Americas, and that will happen next year. However there are few similarities between a NASCAR race and the Formula 1 weekend we have developed. The F1 USGP is a massive, fun and entertaining experience that has performed well against all kinds of competition."
Mr. Epstein referenced prior perceived conflicts in his statement, "Many members of the public were concerned that our first F1 race fell on the same date as the season-ending NASCAR race in Florida, and it proved to be a non-issue. Ultimately, we see this as a great opportunity to draw sports fans from around the world to Texas and to proving again that Austin is the place to enjoy premium racing and entertainment.”
As for the moved-up date as it relates to the immediate Austin area, Mr. Epstein had this to say: "We are pleased that our date falls on a weekend that doesn't conflict with any major conventions scheduled for Austin, due to the impact that kind of overlap could have on hotel availability. In early November, Central Texas hotels are wide open, and it’s beautiful time of year to visit Austin and experience our immersive Formula 1 weekend."
In addition to the action on the racetrack, Austin hosts several support entertainment events leading up to and including the race weekend. The Austin Fan Fest, for example, brings hundreds of thousands of people to the area, according to KVUE.
According to Google directions, Forth Worth's Texas Motor Speedway is approximately 230 miles, or about a 3-1/2 hour drive, from Circuit of the Americas. Seating capacity, listed by the Texas Motor Speedway, is over 190,000. Attendance at the 2013 United States Grand Prix reported by COTA was over 113,000 on Sunday.
While COTA may downplay the conflict, the international Formula 1 racing series overall remains in an ongoing battle to increase its fan base in the United States against the popular American NASCAR stock car series. The fact is that a NASCAR Sprint Cup series Chase race planned for the same day in the same state as the only Formula One race in the country does not make that challenge any easier.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Ann Kirk, Ph.D. has been credentialed by the FIA to write about Formula One. With an experienced historic racer living in upstate New York, she is working on a book about racers and racing. Her blog about the sport is Motor Sport Muse.