You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Epstein steers talk to idea of a NASCAR race at COTA


Highlights

NASCAR has expressed interest in having more races that aren’t on oval tracks.

The change in management of Formula One could open a door to Austin for NASCAR.

While NASCAR gears up for Sunday’s Daytona 500, its kickoff and signature event, Circuit of the Americas officials are casting their eyes toward the most popular racing series in the United States.

COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein told the American-Statesman recently that he’s interested in pursuing a race for Austin in NASCAR’s top-tier series.

“I’ve had contact with NASCAR officials, and we’ve heard from their fans and drivers,” Epstein said. “Everyone seems to want to be here, so I see no reason why it couldn’t come together.”

The mere thought of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick negotiating the twists, turns, esses and elevation changes along the 3.4-mile circuit stirs the imagination.

“It’s something fans are asking for in droves,” Epstein said. “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 did not put a timetable on a possible race at COTA. NASCAR currently has two road-course events — at Sonoma, Calif., and Watkins Glen, N.Y. — jammed into a crowded 36-race schedule that stretches from late February to mid-November.

Steve O’Donnell, a NASCAR executive vice president, acknowledged last year that fans have been asking for different types of races and venues.

Significant obstacles could stand in the way of Austin landing a race. Most of the tracks where NASCAR races are owned by Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports — including Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth — or the France family’s International Speedway Corp. It’s highly unlikely either would give up a race.

Texas Motor Speedway could see a COTA event as competition, too. TMS President Eddie Gossage is in Daytona Beach, Fla., this week and was unavailable for comment. Efforts to reach NASCAR officials about the possibility of a road race at COTA also were unsuccessful.

Formula One management hasn’t viewed NASCAR favorably in the past, but Epstein said the takeover of F1 by U.S.-based Liberty Media could ease the way to a purpose-built F1 track co-existing with NASCAR.

“I think the objections might be a little lighter than they used to be,” he said. “I don’t think they would fight it strongly. That might be one of the healthy changes that could happen with Liberty’s ownership.”

Some NASCAR drivers and teams have toured COTA in the past, giving it rave reviews.

“The drivers and teams love this track and the city,” said Katja Heim, chief operating officer for Circuit of the Americas. “I think they’d enjoy a race here. We have a lot to offer.”

Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, now a Fox analyst, said at November’s U.S. Grand Prix that COTA could be an intriguing site for NASCAR.

Kurt Busch, the 2004 Cup champion who will start eighth in the Daytona 500, told the American-Statesman a few years back while testing at COTA: “This could work. With the tight corners, you could just dive-bomb people. It’d be fun and frustrating all at once. It’s an amazing track that brings a lot of worlds to one place.”

Epstein doesn’t know what the odds are, but he’s bullish on the idea.

“NASCAR should be here — I will tell you that,” he said. “I think their fans want them here, and I think it’s good for the sport.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

SCCA Southwest Shootout saw some races go down to wire
SCCA Southwest Shootout saw some races go down to wire

The Hoosier Tour Southwest Shootout filled up Circuit of the Americas first 2017 racing weekend with three days of action among top regional amateurs. Jim Drago of Memphis, Tenn., provided one of the highlights, winning a tight duel with Texan Chris Haldeman of McKinney in a SCCA Lone Star group 1 event Saturday that included nearly 40 Spec Miata drivers...
Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm battle for Dell Match title
Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm battle for Dell Match title

The favorites won the early semifinal matches today at Austin Country Club. So it’ll be world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm, one of the hottest golfers on the planet, vying this afternoon for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play championship. Johnson was pushed mightily by Japan’s Hideto Tanihara. Johnson’s par on the 18th clinched...
Hoyas made tough, right decision on Thompson
Hoyas made tough, right decision on Thompson

The decision Georgetown had to make, the one it didn't want to make, the one it wished for patience and tradition and a family's coaching magic to absolve, came rumbling down Thursday afternoon. In a humble and almost apologetic statement, Georgetown University President Jack DeGioiaparted ways with men's basketball coach John Thompson III, separating...
Will Licon shines at NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships
Will Licon shines at NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships

INDIANAPOLIS — Texas’ swimming team has its fair share of stars. Joseph Schooling beat Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly at the Rio Olympics to win an individual gold medal, and Townley Haas, Jack Conger and Clark Smith all won gold medals on the U.S. 800-meter freestyle relay. But at the NCAA swimming and diving championships in...
Austin Spurs take a narrow win over Texas Legends

Jeff Ledbetter nailed a 3-pointer with 20.7 seconds left in regulation to help lift the Austin Spurs to a 117-114 win over the Texas Legends in Frisco on Saturday night. Charles Garcia and Orlando Johnson each scored 21 points to lead six Spurs that scored in double digits. Garcia was 8 for 10, including a layup with 1:26 left to play that gave Austin...
More Stories