Austin is no stranger to hosting multiple, high profile events in a single weekend. In 2013, for the second annual Formula One United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas Austin was also host to the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Darrel K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. The Saturday made for lively crowds downtown as F1 fans returning on the shuttles from qualifying mixed with Longhorn tailgaters.
In 2014 the Longhorns play Texas Tech in Lubbock over Grand Prix Weekend, but a top executive at Texas Motor Speedway raised concerns about the F1 race in Texas the same weekend that NASCAR will be at the Fort Worth track.
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone says his series and NASCAR won’t be competing for the same motorsport fans and dismissed any clash between the series, after the top executive at Texas Motor Speedway called F1 “arrogant” for scheduling the United States Grand Prix in Austin on the same weekend that his track hosts NASCAR in Fort Worth.
“I absolutely think it’s foolish,” said Eddie Gossage, the track president and general manager. “It’s a shot fired by Formula One at NASCAR. I can’t say I was surprised because Bernie Ecclestone does a lot of foolish things. The thing he unfortunately doesn’t recognize is there is an 800-pound gorilla when it comes to major American motorsports. The 800-pound gorilla is NASCAR.”
Texas Motor Speedway will host NASCAR’s Texas 500 on Nov. 2, the same day F1 will hold its only race in the U.S. this year. Fort Worth is about a 3-hour drive from Austin.
Gossage thought a stronger stance by the management at Circuit of the Americas would have prevented the scheduling issue. But Bobby Epstein, chairman of Circuit of the Americas, disagreed.
I’m not sure why Eddie is so upset,” Epstein said. “He is in a huge metropolitan area, has a fine product, and our events are incredibly different. Although there is very, very little overlap, I do feel for the fans who have to make a choice. The reality is there are more than 30 NASCAR races in the U.S. and only one Formula One race. It’s impossible not to bump into them.
“Bernie worked hard to try to accommodate a date change, but the complexity and costs of moving between countries, combined with local logistics and conflicts made it an impossible task.”
Ecclestone believed it was a non-issue.
“I’ve also spoken to the people that run the race at COTA and their position is that they believe the NASCAR crowd is a different crowd to Formula One, different people, different customers,” Ecclestone said. “At the end of the day, they run a domestic series in America — we run a world championship.”
F1 requires considerable logistical planning by the teams, he said.
“We’ve a small problem they (NASCAR) don’t have — we have six jumbo jets to move around all our equipment, and we have to find the most sensible way to use them to do that,” Ecclestone said. “We have to be efficient and bear in mind we may also encounter problems at an airport.
“There are issues that can occur, but (Gossage) and other people do not realize these things. The race prior to the one in the U.S. is in Russia, in Sochi. We’ve never been before, and we have to get out of there and into Austin. That is probably a lot easier than trying to get into Brazil, and then we have to get out of there (Sao Paulo) to go to Abu Dhabi.”
Gossage said F1 could have found another weekend to race in the U.S.
“It’s just not smart,” he said. “There’s 52 weeks in the year. But that was the only weekend that Formula One could make it work in Austin, Texas. Give me a break.”