Here’s several Sunday morning news and notes from the Circuit of the Americas leading up to today’s United States Grand Prix (LIVE on NBC at 1 p.m. ET, also on NBC Sports Live Extra).
GATE OPENING DELAYED A HALF HOUR
The opening of the gates was delayed slightly due to what track officials deemed a “suspicious incident.” But after a check, it was alleviated and the gates opened a half hour after the intended 7:30 a.m. opening, with fans already filing in in droves.
Here is the official release text from the track:
Circuit of The Americas™ in conjunction with local law enforcement officials today investigated a suspicious incident in the Turn 1 area of the racetrack. During routine security checks prior to the venue’s opening, public safety officials, including representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), responded to the incident and found nothing wrong.
As a precaution, Circuit of The Americas delayed opening the entire facility to patrons until 8 a.m. CT while follow-up security checks were completed. Patrons are now entering the facility and operations are proceeding as normal.
So that marked the “official interruption” of the morning. But there was an unofficial interruption, as well.
The Westboro Baptist Church, who picket against what they consider any “homosexual activity,” are doing likewise here to Formula One in Austin.
On my ride in to the track via shuttle, a fellow media member noticed them on the side of the road with signs that read “Formula 1” and a word very similar to flags. It won’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.
BUT A BIG CROWD EXPECTED NONETHELESS…
Track officials announced 78,886 fans on Saturday after 58,276 on Friday, thus providing a two-day total thus far of 137,162. A number anywhere in the 110,000 to 120,000 range today – and it will be possible with one-day ticket sales available, unlike in 2012 – will give track officials the 250,000-plus weekend total they are anticipated. There’s already a huge crowd on the hillside in Turn 1.
OBLIGATORY GRID GIRL MENTION
Austin-based Rae Cosmetics, with CEO and founder Rochelle Rae, was announced as Official Cosmetic Partner for F1 and the circuit earlier this year. They are playing a major role with the Grid Girls for this weekend’s race.
“We were reflecting on last year’s Grand Prix and realized the culture of the Grid Girl globally was something that we were working toward, but hadn’t reached,” Rae said. “It’s surreal to be a part of a team that is shaping a tradition and concept that represents the United States and Texas to the rest of the world.”
More information is available at VeritasAustin.com. In the meantime, the lead photo to this notebook piece should suffice…
HAT TIP TO KATHY MALECK
A hat tip for one of the stars of the event behind the scenes, race F&C (Flagging & Communication) Chief Kathy Maleck. Her contributions were recognized by the FIA and Charlie Whiting in a surprise ceremony in race control, Saturday morning.
This weekend marks her 80th grand prix weekend, most for anyone from the U.S. in the role. She has also worked U.S. races at Dallas, Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and Phoenix – just not Watkins Glen.
Her CV includes working F1 races in 12 countries on four continents, with the topper a 1985 ‘World Tour’ to Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy, US, Canada, Australia and The Netherlands. Aside of F1, among her roles is Operations Coordinator for the Pirelli World Challenge Championship and Field Staff Manager for SCCA Pro Racing.
It’s an unpaid position and a volunteer assignment, but one where Maleck has earned much respect from her peers. To that, we say thanks.