F1 in Austin 2017: Bill Clinton is at COTA for USGP

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Former president Bill Clinton is in Austin on Sunday attending Formula One’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.

Clinton is a sports fan, though we didn’t know he was an F1 fan.

President Bill Clinton takes a photo with race fan Rich Cardoza of San Diego, Califronia, at the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday October 22, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Among the celebrity guests at COTA on race day:

Bill Clinton (former president)

Usain Bolt (track)

Woody Harrelson (actor)

Owen Wilson (actor)

Bryan Tyler (musician)

Josef Newgarden (driver)

Juan Pablo Montoya (driver)

Michael Douglas (driver)

Emerson Fittipaldi (F1 World Champion)

Gayle King (American TV Personality)

King Bach (American Actor, Comedian & Internet Personality)

Amanda Cerny (American Model & TV Personality)

Johnny Rutherford (driver)

Ximena Navarrete (Mexican TV Personality & Miss Universe 2010)

Taylor Kinney (actor)

For Statesman photo gallery with pre-race coverage, click on:

http://www.statesman.com/sports/racing/photos-united-states-grand-prix-circuit-the-americas-oct-2017/sTESnfAoERoLNsO3uFKayO/

Formula 1 chief says he’s looking to add 2nd U.S. race

Formula One chief executive Chase Carey said he wants to add at least one more grand prix in the United States to the schedule.

It won’t happen in 2018, though, because the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas is the only race in the U.S. on next year’s calendar.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG Petronas,(44) takes turn 19 during the 2016 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas held in Austin, Tx., on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Austin remains the only place for F1 in the U.S. (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / Rodolfo Gonzalez)

Carey told Auto Motor and Sport there will be 21 events in 2018, up one from 2017. Two grand prixs will be added — in France (Paul Ricard) and Germany (Hockenheimring) — and one will fall off the calendar — Malaysia.

Liberty Media, F1’s new American ownership, aims to grow the sport in the States, where Austin has the only F1-purpose-built track. Mexico City and Montreal also host races.

“We have five or six cities in the United States that are interested,” Carey told the publication. He mentioned he’s interested in “destination cities” like Las Vegas, New York or Miami.

Right now the only other road courses in the States possibly equipped to hold an F1 race are Watkins Glen in upstate New York and Sonoma in northern California.

Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein has told the American-Statesman that Austin could financially co-exist with another U.S. grand prix, even if it takes a short-term hit.

Epstein said there are no other F1 track projects underway in the U.S. and that a city attempting to host a street-course event, as Monaco does this weekend, faces enormous set-up costs and red tape.

2018 FORMULA ONE EVENTS

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina
Australian Grand Prix – Melbourne
Austrian Grand Prix – Red Bull Ring
Azerbaijani Grand Prix – Baku City Circuit
Bahrain Grand Prix – Bahrain
Belgian Grand Prix – Spa-Francorchamps
Brazilian Grand Prix – Interlagos
British Grand Prix – Silverstone
Canadian Grand Prix – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Chinese Grand Prix – Shanghai
French Grand Prix – Paul Ricard
German Grand Prix – Hockenheimring
Hungarian Grand Prix – Hungaroring
Italian Grand Prix – Monza
Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka
Mexican Grand Prix – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
Monaco Grand Prix – Monte-Carlo
Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom
Singapore Grand Prix – Marina Bay Street Circuit
Spanish Grand Prix – Circuit de Catalunya
United States Grand Prix – Circuit of the Americas

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.

Iconic Stevie Wonder joins USGP F1 race at COTA in Austin

Circuit of the Americas officials have repeatedly told the American-Statesman they like to go big on entertainment for Formula One weekend in Austin.

They have delivered again, announcing Tuesday that iconic music star Stevie Wonder will perform on COTA’s super stage Sunday, Oct. 22, following the United States Grand Prix.

Musican Stevie Wonder performs to announce his “Songs in the Key of Life Performance” tour at Central Park SummerStage on August 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Previously announced headliner Justin Timberlake will perform Saturday night, Oct. 21, at the Austin race track after F1 qualifying and support races.

Taylor Swift’s concert last year, attended by 80,000 according to officials, was instrumental in turning around declining F1 attendance at the Austin race track. Damaging storms and flooding were a serious problem for the 2015 event.

Eight-time Grammy winner Usher performed the post-race concert last year, and a USGP record weekend crowd of 269,889 was reported by track officials.

Elton John played at COTA in 2015 during Formula One weekend.

Wonder, 67, is one of the most accomplished musicians/entertainers on the planet. He’s bagged 25 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He has 49 Top 40 singles to his name and 32 No. 1 hits among his worldwide sales of more than 100 million.

In the days ahead Circuit of the Americas will be announcing acts for the American Sound Track with local and Texas-based ties to perform in stages all over the venue.

Three-day tickets are available for purchase starting at $159 if bought prior to July 4 at www.thecircuit.com. Sunday-only bleachers and Sunday-only main grandstand tickets are also now available for purchase as well as Sunday concert upgrades.

COTA also put in a rare rain guarantee last year and is sticking with it. Should more than two inches fall in the 24-hour period before the start of the F1 USGP race Oct. 22, COTA will refund 105 percent of the value of the ticket for any fan who purchased a reserved seat on a three-day weekend pass by July 4 while still letting the buyer attend the race.

COTA officials confirm F1 race at track for 2016; Taylor Swift will be musical guest

NOVEMBER 2, 2014: Mercedes AMG Petronas' Lewis Hamilton goes into Turn 11 with the tower in the background during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix 2014 held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, November 2, 2014. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton goes into Turn 11 with the tower in the background during the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix 2014. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

At a Wednesday morning press conference in downtown Austin, Circuit of the Americans officials confirmed that there will be a Formula One race at the track in 2016 on Oct. 23.

The United States Grand Prix had previously been given a “subject to confirmation” tag when F1 officials released the 2016 race calendar in December 2015.

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Attendance has sagged for the first four USGPs held at COTA, and last year’s race was marred by torrential downpours that caused delays in qualifying.

After, officials at track said they were financially strapped after storms wiped out much of the 2015 race weekend as reports surfaced that the Texas governor’s office was cutting public funding for the event by about 20 percent. The state of Texas has supported the race through the state’s Major Events Trust fund. The first year of the race, Texas gave $25 million to track officials.

In November 2015, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office told track officials they would get about $19.5 million from the state for the 2016 race because officials changed formulas used to award grants to make them more restrictive.

In February, track officials and the Travis County Appraisal District reached a settlement on valuation of the appraised value of the F1 racetrack by more than $180 million for 2015, which will save the track’s owners millions in property tax payments. COTA officials had been appealing a $275.4 million valuation for 2015. TCAD agreed to lower the appraised value to $91.2 million.