When you talk about famous road courses in America a select few rise to the top. Sebring, Watkins Glen, Road America and Laguna Seca are among the most famous road courses in the world. However the new boy on the block, Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is quickly climbing up that list. It is the only race in the USA that can say it hosts two FIA World Championship races.
The World Endurance Championship and Formula 1 both make stops in Austin in their globetrotting championships. Not to mention IMSA, The Pirelli World Championship and new for 2017 the 24hour series all host race weekends there. These are all big name heavy hitters on the world’s road racing scene. However domestically there has always been two glaring omissions, IndyCar and NASCAR. This is something COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein is fixin’ to change.
Last week he made it clear he wants his track to host the biggest names in American racing. After all you can’t call yourself the Circuit of the AMERICAS if America’s two biggest series don’t race there.
“It’s something fans are asking for in droves. We hear it, and I’m assuming (NASCAR) hears it, too. They are continuing to tweak their product, looking for new ideas. This would be something different, a change of pace. I’d be pretty optimistic it could happen, because NASCAR said they want more road courses, more non-ovals. Now that they’ve said that, this is the best one in the country. So if enough fans want them here, I think they’ll be here one day.” Epstein told AutoWeek.
I completely agree with Mr. Epstein. We went to the NASCAR race up at Watkins Glen last year and seeing 40 snarling NASCARs on a road course needs to happen more often. NASCAR offers the type of old school road racing you just don’t see anywhere else anymore. These boys aren’t afraid to do a little beatin’ and bangin’ on their way to victory lane. It is a tremendous spectacle. I can’t think of a better place for it than COTA. COTA is a thoroughly modern race track. It has plenty of space on track to accommodate a Cup Car’s girth with plenty of run off areas for when the boys get to rubbin’. Unfortunately for COTA they aren’t the only show in town and that other track doesn’t want them taking a piece of their pie.
The other track in question is Texas Motor Speedway (TMS). TMS is an ultra fast 1.5 mile oval and currently hosts rounds for both NASCAR and IndyCar. TMS Track President Eddie Gossage disagrees, he feels COTA has no business hosting NASCAR races in his backyard.
“I don’t want to slam them at all. I’m sure they’re great folks. When I saw it, I just laughed at it because it’s something I would do. You got all this attention on the Daytona 500, so, ‘Hey, we’re trying to bring NASCAR to town.’ Get some publicity on the Daytona 500 coattails.” Gossage told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
But we’re old pros. This is my 38th season in major-league racing. Both TMS and (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) have a tremendous amount of knowledge and talent and ability. They are trying to find their way in a really complicated and nuanced business. It’s all a new challenge for them.
It’s a nice racetrack, but we’re the place that you’ve got to come to see NASCAR, see IndyCar, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Mr. Gossage is puffing his chest out acting tough because he is protected by a 5 year regional competition clause in its agreement with NASCAR. So he can say whatever he wants and it doesn’t matter. He has his contract and there isn’t anything COTA can do. With that said his entire statement is dripping with BS.
#1, The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest event. It attracts all kinds not just NASCAR media. With that big of a news story floating around its going to direct the conversation. So naturally people are going to talk more about NASCAR during the 500. Plus COTA would be dumb not to show their interest in NASCAR when the most eyeballs are on it. That is just good business sense and it is definitely something Mr. Gossage would do if the roles were reversed.
#2, Yes TMS has been around longer and has more years of experience. COTA has hosted F1 races, if you can handle that circus you can handle anything. Lets not pretend that because they haven’t been around as long they are in any way less capable.
#3, How do you know given the choice fans would make TMS the clear choice to see NASCAR and IndyCar? You’ve been the only game in town. The fans literally have no choice. If they want to se a local NASCAR or IndyCar event their choices are TMS or go kick rocks.
This whole thing stinks to high heaven. There is only one reason for one track to slam another, fear. COTA is a world-class venue and I have no doubt they could put on one hell of a show. There is plenty of room in Texas for 2 tracks hosting NASCAR and IndyCar events. To put this into perspective the distance from Fort-Worth to Austin is 189 miles. Pocono has 2 tracks that are closer than that one of which is as road course (Watkins Glen). Both Pocono and Watkins Glen host NASCAR and IndyCar events. You don’t hear Pocono whining about it.
This whole thing stinks. If the series’ want to race at COTA they should despite what a Texas blowhard says. I would much rather see IndyCars on a road course then just another 1.5 mile oval and the show NASCAR would put on would be mega! Eddie Gossage needs to check his paranoia and open his eyes to what is actually good for the sport.