Texas Motor Speedway has what in-state rival Circuit of the Americas wants: NASCAR.
Separated by a few hours – TMS in Fort Worth and COTA in Austin – and different racing platforms (1.5-mile oval vs. 3.4-mile road course), the two tracks have peacefully coexisted since COTA opened in 2012.
But that could be changing. COTA Chairman Bobby Epstein is interested in bringing NASCAR racing to his track.
“I’ve had contact with NASCAR officials, and we’ve heard from their fans and drivers,” Epstein said in a recent story in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. “Everyone seems to want to be here, so I see no reason why it couldn’t come together.
“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’s interest in NASCAR is not exactly sitting well with his counterpart at TMS, track president Eddie Gossage, particularly since this is the first that Gossage has heard of COTA reportedly having some form of discussions with NASCAR.
“Anyone can talk to a NASCAR official,” Gossage told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper. “What NASCAR official? What’d they say? That doesn’t mean a thing. We’re all bound by contracts.”
Texas Motor Speedway has a 20-year legacy of hosting NASCAR events on its 1.5-mile track, which is being repaved before the first of its two annual NASCAR race weekends in early April.
Texas Motor Speedway also hosts a Verizon IndyCar Series race each season.
COTA, which opened in 2012, is entering its fifth full season of racing on its 3.4-mile Gran Prix-style road course. It holds a variety of events, particularly sports car racing.
But its biggest events are the Formula One Grand Prix on Oct. 20-22 and MotoGP on April 21-23.
The F1 race is two weeks before Texas Motor Speedway’s second NASCAR race weekend of the season (also part of the playoffs), and the MotoGP race is two weeks after TMS’s first NASCAR race weekend of 2017.
“But we’re old pros,” Gossage told the Star-Telegram. “This is my 38th season in major-league racing. Both TMS and (parent company 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.”
With new series sponsor Monster Energy, NASCAR is looking at ways to create new interest and attract new fans. One area that has been looked at is adding more road course races to the schedule (NASCAR has two road course races each year, at Sonoma, California, and Watkins Glen, New York).
That prospect interests Epstein, but also irritates Gossage, who told the Star-Telegram that TMS is in the second year of a five-year contract with NASCAR and has added geographic protection from the sanctioning body that other races will not be held in close proximity to TMS.
“I don’t blame (COTA) for wanting NASCAR races, it’s just that they’re 20 years too late,” Gossage told the Star-Telegram.
Neither COTA nor NASCAR officials responded to request for comment from the Star-Telegram.