- By Kevin Lyttle American-Statesman Staff
An IndyCar race in Austin appears to be edging closer to reality.
The U.S.-based open-wheel circuit, whose cars scream down straightaways at up to 230 mph, is considering Circuit of the Americas for a future race, possibly as early as next year, according to published reports.
COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein’s take? Bring it on.
“It would become one of our crown-jewel events,” he told the American-Statesman. “I think it would be special for the series, too, with this city and this track.”
Epstein said he had two discussions with IndyCar officials in a recent 10-day stretch.
“We’re super interested,” he said. “We’ve had productive conversations. We’re talking to them. It would be exciting to see IndyCar come to Austin.
“They have choices. They have three or four places to fill a hole for next year.”
The Phoenix race was scratched from next year’s 17-event calendar for financial reasons.
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles told the Indianapolis Star the series is in talks with three tracks, declining to name them. COTA is widely speculated to be in that mix. There also has been some talk about a street-course race in San Antonio or Oklahoma City.
“We’ll move in earnest to get one of those tracks to fill out the 17th spot,” Miles said. “We don’t think it will take too long to complete,” indicating a decision could be made as early as Labor Day weekend.
The race would likely be in spring. COTA already is committed to the Pirelli World Challenge sports car series March 1-3 and the MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas in a yet-to-be-determined April date.
“It would be tough for this to all come together in time for next season, but don’t rule it out,” Epstein said.
What opened the door for the possibility were provisions in a new four-year deal between Texas Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar series. The Fort Worth track will hold a 2019 race for the 23rd consecutive season.
TMS surrendered its territorial exclusivity clause in exchange for a lower sanctioning body fee for the race, according to Gavin Faretra, track media relations manager.
That cleared the way for possible negotiations between COTA and IndyCar.
“The oval race in Fort Worth is a staple for them. But the two tracks are very different, with ours being a road course,” Epstein said. “We want to help build the sport and widen our exposure. I see it as a good match.”
TMS’ 2019 IndyCar race will be June 8 and again will be paired with the NASCAR truck series.
“This is and always will be ‘America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race,’” TMS President Eddie Gossage said. “Photo finishes and victory lane drama have been the standard over the years. No other track has seen as many IndyCar races over the last two-plus decades.”
Next year’s TMS schedule is now finalized. The fall truck race moves to the spring NASCAR Cup weekend to create a tripleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The Tony Stewart dirt track event moves from the spring to the fall to complement the Cup and Xfinity playoff races.