The NTT IndyCar Series racing at Circuit of The Americas may be the start of something truly big.
The March 24 IndyCar Classic at COTA is one of the most anticipated events on the schedule in recent memory with the chance to become one of IndyCar’s biggest races during its first year.
“I’m excited,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “From what I understand, they are ahead of the sales they get for their motorcycle race and that usually draws close to 100,000. I think it’s huge. I think it’s good for IndyCar and I think it’s good for COTA. They needed another race. It’s one of those win-win deals.
“What we love as part of our series is, we race on tons of different tracks and that adds to the mix, which is really good. It’s going to race similar to Elkhart Lake (Road America) with a few exceptions of turns three, four, five and six. The rest of it will be close to Road America.
“I think we are going to put on a good show there. It has a few really good passing zones and I think the fans are going to really enjoy IndyCar being there.”
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Three-time Indianapolis 500 winning driver and four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti honed his racing skills on the road courses of Europe before he came to the United States in the 1990s. He has effusive praise for the 20-turn, 3.427-mile road course in Austin, Texas.
“It’s a proper road course,” Franchitti said. “It’s an incredibly challenging series of different types of corners. Just a whole lap, every corner there is something interesting whether it’s the uphill braking for turn one with the track dropping away at the apex, the beautiful series of corners, the bumpy braking zone at the end of the back straight. It’s going to be a lot of fun to drive in an Indy car.”
The goal of Circuit of The Americas founder and Chairman Bobby Epstein when he landed a spot on the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule was to make it a truly big event. It is the only track on the schedule that hosts Formula One and IndyCar.
Epstein wants the COTA race to have the second-richest purse on the schedule, just below the famed Indianapolis 500.
“We want to do something to make this race a little bit unique and special,” Epstein said. “We think the experience of driving it, will be. We’re going to make this race interesting and fun. We want to make this race the second-largest purse in the series next to the Indianapolis 500. The response from the fans will allow us to do something interesting for this event.”
When COTA was added to the schedule last September, it was met with overwhelming approval from competitors and fans.
“COTA is bad-ass. It’s a great place,” said Graham Rahal. “I’m excited that it is all coming together and it looks good. It’s a good addition to the IndyCar schedule. There are huge straightaways with plenty of passing zones, long straights, great tows, I think it will be really good.
“Other than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s probably the best racing facility in the country. This is a big step for IndyCar because it’s a great opening that Formula One had the lock on for a long time, but clearly this sport is growing in this country. Hopefully, it will keep growing and improving.”
IndyCar Series team owner Michael Shank has run IMSA cars at COTA and is excited at the prospect of taking his Indy car team to the Texas road course.
“COTA is super technical and super flowing, a high-speed course and it’s really technical,” Shank said. “It will be really interesting to see what an Indy car can do around there. It will be a lot of fun and it will be real daunting seeing what an Indy car can do there.”
Shank plans to run 10 IndyCar races with Jack Harvey at the wheel.