Texas bill could help lure NASCAR All-Star race to TMS

State lawmakers will give Texas Motor Speedway a major boost if the Fort Worth track decides to pursue the NASCAR All-Star race and season-ending championship event.

Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, pits during the Monster Energy NASCAR All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20, 2017 in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

The Texas Legislature approved a bill Thursday that makes those two races eligible for the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Program. That is the same fund Circuit of the Americas tapped into to bring Formula One’s United States Grand Prix to Austin.

The MERP also has been used to help lure the Super Bowl and NCAA Tournament Final Four to Texas.

NASCAR’s All-Star race traditionally is held on the third Saturday night in May in Charlotte, N.C. It serves as a lead-in to the Cup’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte, the home base for most NASCAR teams.

Some drivers and officials have suggested it makes more sense to move the All-Star race around.

“I think you look at other sports, and their all-star game venues switch all the time,” driver Kyle Larson told reporters. “I don’t know if race tracks could bid on the All-Star race or bid on the final race of the season, but I think that would be really cool.”

Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL each take their all-star events to a different city every year.

The Miami-Homestead track holds the final race of the NASCAR playoffs in November.

“They want to be able to go after those races, just like we try to court a Super Bowl or any other major sporting event,” Rep. Tan Parker, whose district includes Texas Motor Speedway, told the Associated Press. “They will immediately go after them as best they can, and this gives them a tool in their box to be aggressive when competing with other venues.”

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage declined comment to AP.

Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein has told the American-Statesman he is interested in bringing NASCAR to the 3.4-mile Austin road course, but there are numerous roadblocks, with TMS’ strong objection near the top of the list.

Gov. Greg Abbott, whose office oversees the MERP fund, still must sign the bill into law, and he needs to consider that NASCAR has been in steady decline in attendance and TV ratings for years. NASCAR officials point out they still are easily considered the most popular motorsports racing in America.

Texas Motor Speedway already hosts two NASCAR Cup events, one in April and the other in November. This year the second date is Sunday, Nov. 5, the eighth in the 10-race playoff.

NASCAR’s 2018 schedule already is set, so the earliest TMS could go after the All-Star event is 2019. Charlotte retained next year’s All-Star race May 19. Texas Motor Speedway’s two races are April 8 and Nov. 4.

The MERP fund provides a significant financial weapon. According to state records online, the 2017 Super Bowl at NRG Stadium in Houston was eligible for $25 million, and the 2016 F1 U.S. Grand Prix was eligible for $26 million.