In the 2014 racing season, a NASCAR Sprint Cup series Chase race will take place on the same day in the same state in the U.S. as the country's only Formula 1 Grand Prix, according to the schedule released by the FIA on Wednesday, December 4. The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix has been moved up from its mid-November spot on the calendar in 2013 to November 2, 2014 in Austin, Texas. On the same day, according to NASCAR, a Sprint Cup series Chase championship race will be run at the Texas Motor Speedway in Forth Worth.
In this virtual race between race series, perhaps quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel's toughest competition does not come from within F1 at all, but instead drives up in the form of Jimmie Johnson, another dominant racer in a racing series as six-time Champion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup. On November 2, fans of both series -- and a few do exist -- may have to choose which racer to watch. Others argue that F1 fans would not go to a NASCAR race anyway, no matter how close by it is, and vice versa.
The 10 races that make up the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Chase Championship begin on September 14 at Chicagoland Speedway. By November 2, the championship will be in its eighth contest with just two races remaining before the champion is crowned at Homestead-Miami on November 16.
"There will occasionally be overlaps" between the international series trying to regain a foothold in the U.S. and the firmly entrenched NASCAR series which has so many races in a year, said Circuit of the Americas Chairman, Bobby Epstein in a statement. In the 2014 schedule, Formula 1 has 19 races planned around the world, while NASCAR Sprint Cup will have 36 points-bearing races in 2014, according to NASCAR.
COTA faced a similar potential conflict in 2012 when its inaugural U.S. Grand Prix was held on the same day as NASCAR's season-closing race in Homestead-Miami. Mr. Epstein pointed out that fears there would be problems resulting from that conflict "proved to be a non-issue." He stated that the F1 weekend in Austin has "few similarities" to a NASCAR race.
With the 2014 NASCAR calendar set and announced before the Formula 1 schedule was confirmed by the FIA, observers note that F1 officials do not seem to set their watches by NASCAR time in the U.S. This may work to the benefit, or peril, of their wishes to increase their series' popularity in a country that many say is essential. Red Bull team Principal, Christian Horner, for example, said in an interview leading up to the 2013 USGP, "Formula 1 without America is not a true world championship."
Austin and Forth Worth are just over 200 miles away from one another in the same state, and the two venues -- Circuit of the Americas and Texas Motor Speedway, respectively -- each have capacities of well over 100,000 fans. Add to that mix the fact that the city of Austin, the "Live Music Capital of the World," reports 100,000-200,000 visitors to its Fan Fest celebration during Grand Prix week and weekend, and it's not tough to imagine a veritable rip up the seam in a pair of Texas bluejeans coming from this confluence of events next November.
The single day, single state conflict will likely be studied by sponsors, media, organizers, and fans alike who are interested in comparisons between a growing F1 presence in the U.S. and NASCAR's many races and fans. Then, there are those who will turn away from both races altogether that Sunday, and instead watch perhaps the most Texan sport of all, a game of football.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Connie Ann Kirk, Ph.D. has been credentialed by the FIA to write about Formula One. She has also been credentialed by NASCAR. Kirk is working with a historic racer from upstate New York on a book about racers and racing.