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.

Austin team driver Fergus wins IMSA Porsche race at COTA

Corey Fergus of Austin race shop Moorespeed, shown in a file photo, scored a victory at Circuit of the Americas on Saturday. CREDIT: Pirelli World Challenge

Whatever home-track advantage exists at Circuit of the Americas, drivers with local connections worked it this weekend during the IMSA Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown.

Corey Fergus, who drives for Austin-based Moorespeed, simply could not be denied in Saturday’s Porsche GT3 Cup, powering his No. 00 US LED/Byers/Moorespeed machine to victory in a 21-car field.

Austin driver Jeff Mosing batted 1.000 — 3 for 3 — this weekend, winning the Masters class of the same race, as he did in Friday night’s first Porsche GT3 event. Mosing also won the ST class of the Continental Tire Challenge earlier Friday.

Fergus’ win came in a tense, back-and-forth battle with 17-year-old San Antonio driver Trenton Estep, who held off Fergus for the victory Friday night. Fergus’ margin Saturday was a scant 0.97 seconds.

“That’s the most exciting, hardest race I’ve had in my 16 years,” said Fergus, a 28-year-old Porsche salesman in Columbus, Ohio, and self-described “Buckeye fan for life.”

Fergus and Estep took turns passing each other four times — just in the first half lap. Fergus regained the edge and held it until Estep made one more pass, but the Moorespeed driver returned the favor with some daring maneuvers with five laps to go.

“He sent me out wide in turn 19, but he was losing grip and got defensive going into the last corner,” Fergus said. “I set him up with a little over/under move out of turn 20, and he took me to the wall. That’s definitely not the preferred place to be, but I made it stick and we got it.”

Fergus credited the win to “the way our team set up the car and, let’s just call it, a unique tire strategy.”

David Moore, owner of the large Moorespeed shop located only 10 minutes from COTA, said, “yeah, let’s keep those details quiet” to not tip off competitors.

“It’s great winning a race on our home track,” said Moore, a Round Rock High and University of Texas alum. “We consider ourselves contenders everywhere, but you especially want to shine at home. That’s Corey’s first win for us, but he’s won championships in other series. He got passed a few times but took it back.

“This was redemption for us after what happened to Will (Hardeman) last night.”

Hardeman, an Austinite who’s won at COTA before, qualified third for Friday’s race and was in contention when he was smashed from behind by a driver who lost the wing of his car. Hardeman was checked out and released from the medical center, but his could not be repaired for Saturday.

“Will spent the race spotting and advising,” Moore said. “He pushes his teammate. They have two different styles. If you could morph these guys into one, they’d be unbeatable. But they do rub off on each other.”

Although Fergus is an Ohioan, he had ample support here with co-workers from his dealership and sponsors from US LED.

He also said the victory was meaningful because he wanted to give an emotional lift to his boss Moore, who recently lost his dog.

“I told David I would win one for Ranger,” Fergus said.

Mosing, driving the No. 01 Mosing Motorcars Porsche, couldn’t have enjoyed his weekend more.

“Sometimes, you take this track for granted because it’s so close,” Mosing said. “But you can’t beat living just 30 minutes away, eating at home, sleeping in your own bed and then winning the races before friends and family.”

C.J. Wilson, the former Texas Rangers pitcher who owns an Austin race shop and was making his COTA driving debut, finished 16th overall after an eighth-place showing Friday.

Austin driver Fred Kaimer took second in the Gold Cup class and 13th overall, equaling his Friday finish. Another Austinite, Alan Metni, went out after two laps after a 14th place in the first race.

Tony Elias rules MotoAmerica weekend at COTA

The MotoAmerica Superbike leaders round a turn at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday. CREDIT: MotoAmerica/Next Level Sports

Marc Marquez isn’t the only Spanish rider who owns Circuit of the Americas.

Toni Elias has the Austin race track locked down, as well. The 34-year-old from Manresa, Spain, won his fourth consecutive race at COTA on Sunday in the MotoAmerica Superbike series. Marquez has won all five MotoGP events at the track.

Tthe Yoshimura Suzuki rider scored two victories here last year and duplicated that this year during Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas weekend, which was the season-opening event for MotoAmerica.

In the first race, Elias, a former MotoGP winner, held off teammate Roger Hayden. In the second, he beat Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier.

Beaubier, 24, from Roseville, Calif., was the defending two-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion. He rebounded from Saturday’s crash-interrupted eighth-place finish to beat Hayden to the line for second place.

“Roger [Hayden] and I were pushing hard from the very start of the race since the conditions were much warmer today,” Elias said. “Pulling off the double win this weekend is really good for my confidence, however, I have my boots on the ground and am concentrated on continuing my season with strong results and staying consistent at each race. All of the guys are going quick right now and it will be a fight each weekend.”

Beaubier had the fastest lap of the race with a 2:09.173.

“A year ago I left COTA in bad shape, so I’m happy to walk away with decent points and carry the momentum into Atlanta,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bobby Fong of Stockton, Calif., who finished on the podium Saturday, had a fifth-place finish that put him on top of the simultaneous Bazzaz Superstock 1000 race for the second straight day.

“The pace was a lot faster today, and it was nice to walk away with the Superstock win,” said Fong. “I decided to make some changes after yesterday, specifically to the rear shock, and it ended up being for the worse. Today didn’t feel quite as rewarding as yesterday since we were a little bit behind the Superbike guys, but I think it is important to keep my focus on the Superstock class. Trying to keep up with the Superbike guys is awesome for me and has helped me elevate my game.”

Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz had a second straight runner-up finish in the Superstock 1000 class, with TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick third.

Round two of the 2017 MotoAmerica Series is the Suzuki ECSTAR Championship at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., this coming weekend.

RESULTS

Motul Superbike

  1. Toni Elias (Suzuki)
  2. Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha)
  3. Roger Hayden (Suzuki)
  4. Josh Hayes (Yamaha)
  5. Bobby Fong (Kawasaki)
  6. Josh Herrin (Yamaha)
  7. Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
  8. Danny Eslick (Yamaha)
  9. Kyle Wyman (Yamaha)
  10. Jake Lewis (Suzuki)

Bazzaz Superstock 1000

  1. Bobby Fong (Kawasaki)
  2. Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
  3. Danny Eslick (Yamaha)
  4. Jake Lewis (Suzuki)
  5. Cameron Petersen (Kawasaki)
  6. Hayden Gillim (Suzuki)
  7. Bryce Prince (Yamaha)
  8. Tyler O’Hara (Yamaha)
  9. Max Flinders (Yamaha)
  10. Anthony Kosinski (Yamaha)

Italy is 2 for 2 so far on MotoGP day at COTA

Franco Morbidelli. CREDIT: Honda Racing

Franco Morbidelli kept us his perfect season on the Moto2 scene, winning the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas race in Austin on Sunday for his third victory in 2017.

Italian riders won both races before MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas as Romano Fenati took the Moto3 race. Both Morbidelli and Fenati won by wide margins.

“Yes, a great day for Italy,” Morbidelli told the American-Statesman.

Valentino Rossi will attempt to make it an Italian sweep in the MotoGP race later Sunday.

Morbidelli, who rides a Kalex for the EG 0,0 Marc VDS, won by 2.6 seconds over Thomas Luthi, a Swiss rider, and by 6.8 seconds over Takaaki  Nakagami of Japan.

“I love coming to Austin,” Morbidelli said. “Enjoy the city and the track. I want to keep coming back here.”

Asked if he was nearly unbeatable on the Moto2 circuit, Morbidelli shook off the question.

“There are many riders who can gain on me,” he said. “I have to keep beating them as long as I can before they start beating me.”

Italy’s Romano Fenati easily wins Moto3 race at COTA

The Checkered flag during the qualifying for the Grand Prix of the Americas MotoGP motorcycle race, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Austin, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Italy’s Romano Fenati roared away from all his competitors to win the Moto3 race Sunday in Austin at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.

Fenati, who qualified sixth for the Marinelli Rivacold Snipers team, won by 4.5 seconds, a relative landslide, at Circuit of the Americas. His time was 27 minutes, 15.841 seconds for 12 laps over the 3.4-mile road circuit.

Honda owned the podium. Teammates Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannantonio of Del Conca Gresini finished second and third, respectively.

Pole sitter Aron Canet, a 17-year-old from Spain, pushed himself past the limit when pressured by Fenati and crashed out.

Thai rookie Nakarin Atiratphuvapat made the save of the race. He lost control of the bike but somehow managed to slide back into the seat as he was falling. Atiratphuvapat finished 24th in a pack of 32.

Crash-filled session mars MotoGP practice 3 at COTA

FAR RIGHT: (93) Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda Team finished in 2nd place with a time of 2’05.500 in 15 laps and topping a speed of 332.4 on the track. (19) Karel Abraham tries to get position during the open practice for the Grand Prix of the Americas MotoGP motorcycle race, Friday, April 21, 2017, in Austin, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Maverick Vinales posted the fastest lap of the weekend, but Saturday morning’s practice session for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas was captivating for all the crashes.

Nine riders tumbled onto the track at Circuit of the Americas on a chilly morning after a cold front passed through Austin and kicked up north winds. The track was not wet but might have been a bit damp from some early-morning drizzle.

Many riders on Friday said COTA was bumpier than they ever remembered it, though it was unclear if or how much that factored into the Saturday mayhem.

Marc Marquez, who has won all four MotoGP races at Circuit of the Americas, crashed twice on his Repsol Honda. Shocking, really, considering the way he has owned this track.

Vinales, who has won the first two races of 2017, didn’t appear to have problems. He hung up a 2:03.979, the best for anyone in the three practices so far.

There is a fourth practice this afternoon immediately preceding qualifying.

Dani Pedrosa, Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate, posted the second-fastest time in practice 3 with a 2:04.296.

Cal Crutchlow of LCR Honda was third at 2:04.677, followed by Marquez and Scott Redding.

Other riders who crashed include Aleix Espargaro, who fell twice off his Red Bull KTM, Jorge Lorenzo of Ducati Team, Andrea Iannone of Suzuki Ecstar, Alex Rins of Suzuki Ecstar and Sam Lowes of Aprilia Gresini.

Rins, a 21-year-old Spaniard, reportedly has a fractured left wrist and has been ruled out for race.

Injuries to other riders did not appear to be serious, although there were several nasty falls.

For more coverage:

Staff photos of Friday’s practices

MotoGP by the numbers: a video

Revised COTA MotoGP Red Bull Grand Prix of Americas schedule

Mathew Orange of Maximum Effort Racing team races during the Motul Superbike and Supersport 1000 practice at the Circuit of the Americas on Thursday, April 20, 2017. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

RED BULL OF THE AMERICAS WEEKEND SCHEDULE

at Circuit of the Americas

Tickets: Three-day general admission, $89. Three-day premium grandstands, $139-$199. Single-day general admission tickets, $39 Friday, $49 Saturday, $59 Sunday. Single-day main grandstand, $59 Friday, $79 Saturday, $99 Sunday.

FRIDAY

9-9:40 a.m. — Moto3, free practice 1

9:55-10:40 a.m. — MotoGP, free practice 1

10:55-11:40 a.m. — Moto2, free practice 1

11:55 a.m.-12:25 p.m. — Superbike, qualifying

12:30 — MotoGP legend ceremony

1:10-1:50 p.m. — Moto2, free practice 2

2:05-2:50 p.m. — MotoGP, free practice 2

3:05-3:50 p.m. — Moto3, free practice 2

4:05-4:45 p.m. — Supersport, qualifying

5-5:15 p.m. — Superbike, pole qualifying

6:50-7:50 — Motorcycle parade laps


SATURDAY

7:30-7:50 a.m. — Supersport, warm up

8-8:20 a.m. — Superbike, warmup

9-9:40 a.m. — Moto3, free practice 3

9:55-10:40 a.m. — MotoGP, free practice 3

10:55-11:40 a.m. — Moto2, free practice 3

12:35-1:15 p.m. — Moto3, qualifying

1:30-2 p.m. — MotoGP, free practice 4

2:10-2:25 p.m. — MotoGP, qualifying 1

2:35-2:50 p.m. — MotoGP, qualifying 2

3:05-3:50 p.m. — Moto2, qualifying

4:15 p.m. — Supersport, race (12 laps)

5 p.m. — Superbike, race (15 laps)

6-6:50 p.m. — BMW M laps


SUNDAY

7:30-7:50 a.m. — Superbike, warmup

8:40-9 a.m. — Moto3, warmup

9:10-9:30 a.m. — Moto2, warmup

9:40-10 a.m. — MotoGP, warmup

10:15-10:35 — MotoGP, riders parade

11 a.m. — Moto3, race (18 laps)

12:20 p.m. — Moto2, race (19 laps)

2 p.m. — MotoGP, race (21 laps)

3:45 p.m. — Superbike, race 2 (15 laps)