They do things big in Texas – but Formula One stands out

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More and more, we’re seeing Texas play host to the biggest events in sports. But out of all of those major gatherings, the Formula One United States Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas may be the most unique.

In a land that celebrates its Wild West past at every opportunity, Formula One’s futuristic style of racing is trying to take root and make a permanent home for itself in the United States, once and for all. Enabling its efforts is the city of Austin, which has long been known for Hook ‘Em Horns and good live music but is now creating a more international identity for itself through F1.

“I know there are people around the world who may not have ever heard of Austin who now know it exists,” Austin Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Mike Rollins tells NBCSports.com national columnist Joe Posnanski in the latest edition of “The Big Read.”

“We never could have paid for that kind of media attention.”

But after a terrific inaugural running in 2012, the hard part – sustaining the event over a long period of time – begins this weekend at COTA. As a NASCAR official tells Posnanski regarding last year’s USGP, “Let’s see how they do next year.” Whether or not that official is speaking the truth or subtly trying to rain on Austin’s parade, I’ll let you decide.

However, if F1 does make a long-term stay in America – something like its 20-year run in the ’60s and ’70s at Watkins Glen in New York State – it would appear that Austin is a good match for the series.

As Posnanski writes, there’s a self-assured cool about Austin. The people accept its eclectic nature, and now with F1 in town, they’re liking the fact that the city’s being connected to the international community.

“What is the most famous Formula One race? Monte Carlo, right?,” an unnamed Austin resident tells Posnanski. “It’s arrogant, but we kind of like to think of ourselves as America’s Monte Carlo.”

Arrogance and confidence rolled into one – truly, the essence of F1 itself. The Austinites already have it down cold, it seems.

For more, be sure to check out Posnanski’s interesting piece in the link above.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.