Circuit of the Americas founder says NASCAR race not in immediate future

Bobby Epstein, the founder of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, said that his track is unlikely to host a NASCAR race in the near future. Sutton Images

The Circuit of the Americas and Texas Motor Speedway sit three hours apart, and while they both are auto racing venues, not everyone has viewed their coexistence through the lens that a rising tide lifts all boats.

But it appears there is some hope. Starting in 2019, COTA in Austin and TMS in Fort Worth will both host IndyCar Series events.

COTA, a 3.41-mile purpose-built road course that already has Formula One and MotoGP (motorcycle) events, will have its first IndyCar event March 24.

"We don't know how much we will draw from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but we don't need to rely on DFW in order to exist," COTA founder Bobby Epstein said Tuesday afternoon. "It just enhances success."

The deal only took a few weeks to put together after TMS negotiated a four-year deal with IndyCar that eliminated a non-compete radius that previously had kept IndyCar from racing at COTA. IndyCar reduced its sanction fee for TMS for that non-compete concession.

"It's not that we haven't all flirted with the idea for three or four years, but we thought they needed to work out their situation with Texas Motor Speedway and then we'd be willing to talk to them," Epstein said.

"We wanted them to clear that first and make sure they were able to even have a meaningful conversation. When they came back to us a couple of weeks ago and said they worked something out, things started in earnest."

The COTA race will be more than two months before the TMS race, which is scheduled for June 9.

"I'm surprised that they actually had that big of a radius clause because I don't think the two would be anything but complementary," Epstein said. "Especially spread this many months apart, they're just different events and they're complementary and there's really no reason for them not to both exist."

The NASCAR spring weekend at TMS comes the week following IndyCar at COTA.

"We welcome COTA to the IndyCar Series and congratulate them on adding this event," TMS president Eddie Gossage said in a statement. "I expect they will draw a huge crowd to their first race and that will be good for the sport."

Gossage wasn't as thrilled when hearing last week that Formula One's schedule has its race in Austin on Nov. 3, the same day the NASCAR Cup Series will have a playoff race at TMS.

"Shame on Formula One for doing this to the fans," Gossage said. "Fans have recognized this as the NASCAR date on this weekend since its inception long before Circuit of the Americas was built.

"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 1 showing their infamous indifference toward the fans."

Epstein wasn't as concerned, believing the crossover between the two crowds is minimal.

"I don't think it's as big a deal," Epstein said.

Now that he has an IndyCar race, any chance of NASCAR coming to COTA?

"That's a question for NASCAR," Epstein said. "We want to add carefully and slowly. We spent six years of getting the MotoGP and the Formula One race where they really do well and they work. We want to focus on the IndyCar race [as the new addition] for at least a couple of years."