Texas traffic jam: F1 2019 schedule collides with NASCAR

Aug 31, 2018
Next year, the U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas provisionally moves to a November date that conflicts with the NASCAR Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. (Nick Wagner / American-Statesman)

The provisional 2019 Formula One schedule released Friday creates a Texas motor sports logjam on the first weekend of November that is far from ideal for the state’s two major racetracks.

The F1 United States Grand Prix weekend, Circuit of the Americas’ premier event, and the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Cup playoff event at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth are both slated for Nov. 1-3, 2019 with the same Sunday race day.

TMS President Eddie Gossage blasted international open-wheel circuit officials for their “infamous indifference” and told the Associated Press, “Shame on Formula One for doing this to the fans.”

COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein told the American-Statesman he hopes his ’19 U.S. Grand Prix is moved up, more in line with this year’s Oct. 19-21 weekend. The 21-race preliminary calendar is subject to approval by the FIA World Motor Sport Council when it meets Oct. 12.

“I’d prefer to be an October rather than November event,” Epstein said. “When I learned of the date, I called Eddie and told him I respect what they are doing and that we don’t set the calendar here. It’s an unfortunate overlap.

“We might both have IndyCar races at some point, and I’d like to find ways for us to work together to grow the sport in Texas. He’s got a big oval and we’ve got a road course, so each is unique in its own right. Eddie has accomplished a lot of things in this business. We had a good discussion. He was an absolute gentleman.”

F1 is proposing flipping the traditional fall pairing of the Austin and Mexico City races in 2019, putting the Mexican GP on Oct. 27. In the past the Austin event always has been first.

Reasons for the change are unclear. In the past, Mexico City organizers wanted to link their event to the national Dia de los Muertos holiday celebrations, Oct. 31-Nov. 2 next year. Under the proposed schedule, the events would be further apart.

“Fans have recognized this as the NASCAR date on this weekend since its inception long before Circuit of the Americas was built,” Gossage told the AP.

“I would think a lot of fans — myself included — would enjoy going to both races. Now Formula One is making fans choose only one. Yet another bad call by Formula One showing their infamous indifference toward the fans.”

Epstein emphasized he has little or no input on F1’s dates.

“They have the right to grab the venue when they want it,” he said. “Their job is not easy. They look at a combination of global logistics, balancing the schedules of many countries while still trying to be sensitive to the local operators.

“We’d be happy to switch back with Mexico City. Either day works fine for us. I’d prefer the one that doesn’t conflict with the guys in Fort Worth, the one that doesn’t conflict with my neighbors.”

The order of F1 races is otherwise similar to most years. The season would start March 17 in Melbourne, Australia, and end Dec. 1 in Abu Dhabi. Germany and Japan re-enter the calendar after recent absences.

IndyCar update: The Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday, without discussion, to authorize the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee to start a process that could ultimately seek to tap into the Texas Event Trust Fund to help lure IndyCar events to COTA.

CELOC will operate on behalf of the city to conduct economic studies and submit applications and any required funding to the governor’s office. The city will have no financial obligation. CELOC is bidding against multiple tracks on a five-year contract with the U.S.-based, open-wheel series.

“The chances are good we land a race,” Epstein said. “I don’t know about next year, but at least down the road.”