In this corner, NASCAR and one of its crown-jewel facilities: Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas-Fort Worth.
In that corner, Formula One racing trying to establish a toehold in the United States’ racing market at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
F1 set the fight date with the unveiling its 2014 schedule Wednesday. The third United States Grand Prix will be staged in Austin on Nov. 2. On the same day, about 250 miles to the north, TMS will complete a tripleheader weekend with the eighth stop in NASCAR’s 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.
It will mark the first time since June 19, 2005, that F1 and NASCAR’s Cup racers have competed on the same day in the United States. On that day, at facilities about 200 miles apart, NASCAR drew a crowd of about 140,000 to the Michigan International Speedway, and F1 staged a disastrous event at the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit. Only six racers competed as 14 others withdrew because of safety concerns.
F1 has put on races in the United States since the organization debuted in 1950. It has often had a U.S. race on the same day as a NASCAR event but usually at an opposite end of the country. F1’s move for next year will force the ticket-buying public to choose between its racing and NASCAR.
“It’s a challenge by F1 to NASCAR,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “Unfortunately, it’s the race fans in the region that are going to wind up losing. I’m sure some of them want to go to both races, but now they can’t.
“It’s a foolish move by F1 and a little bit arrogant. They need to be smarter if they want to succeed in the U.S.”
COTA chairman Bobby Epstein said in a statement that overlaps are unavoidable and there “are few similarities between a NASCAR race and the Formula 1 weekend we have developed.”
The first two F1 races at COTA went against the final race of the Cup season, in Homestead, Fla., and had attendances of 117,470 and 113,162.
The preliminary F1 schedule called for the Austin race to be held on the same weekend as a Texas home football game for the second consecutive year. The conflict this year caused logistical headaches.
TMS’ fall race usually draws a smaller crowd than the spring date because it falls on the same weekend as the opening of deer-hunting season. There is also the possibility of the Cowboys playing at home on the same day.
NASCAR has not issued attendance figures since 2011. The fall race at TMS in that season had a turnout of about 151,000.
The F1 race adds to what will be an unusual season for TMS. The spring race moved back one day to April 6, a Sunday afternoon, so as to avoid a conflict with the NCAA Final Four in Arlington.
Gossage said the track’s response to increased competition will be to continue to provide the utmost in the fan experience.
“It’s a very busy market,” Gossage said. “You can only worry about yourself. We’ll continue to push the bar higher and higher.
“The Final Four is one of those very special events that comes along only every so often. F1, that’s a bad decision by people who misjudged the market. I can’t imagine that the people in Austin are happy about it.”
The fight is on.