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.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.