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COTA expecting second-highest US GP attendance in 2016

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Circuit of The Americas chairman Bobby Epstein says that the track is braced for its second-highest attendance for the United States Grand Prix later this month as it celebrates five years of Formula 1.

COTA joined the F1 calendar in 2012 as a new-build circuit in Austin, Texas, bringing the series back to the United States after five years away.

This year’s race is the fifth United States Grand Prix to be held at COTA, but was at risk of not going ahead after torrential rain caused the circuit to take a big financial hit this year.

COTA confirmed ahead of the 2016 season that it had secured the future of the race, with the October 21-23 weekend also being highlighted by performances from world-famous artists Taylor Swift and The Weeknd at the track’s amphitheatre.

“We’ve made a tremendous investment in the future of our weekend and in the sport by signing up some of the music acts that we have and that are included in the price of people’s tickets,” Epstein told NBC Sports.

“When you get the top performers in the world like Taylor Swift and The Weeknd, we have those two along with the price of your weekend ticket, and we lowered ticket prices. We’ve really made a commitment to not just appeal to the traditional F1 fan but to appeal to the fan of just all-around great entertainment.

“We’ve tried to create the greatest sports entertainment weekend certainly of the year, if not one of the greatest ever. So it will bring out not just the traditional racing fans, not just a certain demographic whether that be males of a certain age or a certain type of racing fan, but actually the whole family.

“It appeals to women, it appeals to kids, it appeals to the 20-year-olds and-30 year-olds. We’re really across a broad demographic, trying to build for the future.”

As a result, Epstein believes that the 2016 US GP will be the second-best attended at COTA, only trailing the 2012 event.

“I think we’re going to see our second-best attendance, second to the inaugural event,” Epstein said.

“We may have to limit Saturday tickets because of Taylor. We have a limited capacity of just under or around 80,000 people that can view the concert at one time. We’ve got a giant concert hill that will accommodate 75,000+, but we may get to a point where we have to stop Saturday ticket sales.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”