This weekend marked two firsts for me as I made my on-site debut for More Front Wing and my first trip to the brand new Circuit of the Americas.
Upon arrival at the facility on Friday, the first thing I noticed was that it is in pristine shape, as is to be expected for this stage in its life cycle. No expense appears to have been spared in its construction, and the track itself is nothing short of jaw-dropping. This is most definitely a place that the IZOD IndyCar Series should pursue for a race. Any race at a facility of this magnitude and level of polish will gain instant cache. The powers-that-be need to make a race happen here before NASCAR gets the same idea, sanction fees be damned.
The COTA “yellow shirts” (yes, they are yellow here, too!) were plentiful and extremely friendly, if some did leave a little bit to be desired as far as actual knowledge of the facility goes. That should change as the facility ages.
My first morning at the track was spent on more than a few wasted walks trying to reach a certain part of the track or return a different way than I had come. Be prepared to walk when you visit the track. Even as road courses go, there are some crazy hikes in store to reach some areas of the 3.40 mile course. Sitting in the turn 1 grandstands gives a jaw-dropping view of the facility grounds, revealing just how massive this place truly is!
My biggest surprise of the morning was that the track charges $20 to go to the top of the “Tower of the Americas.” Given how many photos have been posted on Twitter and Facebook from the top of that thing, I think they may have the track nearly paid off already! For that price, though, I decided to just stare at it from the bottom. Close enough.
The paddock itself was well-organized and made walking the grounds very easy. I am still amazed at the level of access you are granted at a GRAND-AM event. With most of my formative NASCAR-related race experience you can’t get within 30 feet of a driver without a hard card, it’s nice to be able to walk right up to haulers and garage areas. Most of the team owners and crew members are happy to talk with fans for a few minutes, too, as long as they aren’t right in the middle of something. It’s a breath of fresh air, for sure. The Pro Mazda drivers and teams are even more inviting to visitors, although they were given a less enviable location to set up in the paddock area, which left them a bit off the beaten path this weekend.
The racing spoke for itself this weekend, with the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, Rolex Series, and Pro Mazda races all featuring fantastic racing both at the front and throughout the field. The thought of seeing IndyCars at this facility is enough to make me giddy inside. Given how well the track is set up for passing zones, an IndyCar event would be a spectacular show for the fans. It’s a great place to watch a race as well, with turn 1 in particular offering some amazing views. I highly recommend a visit to all true racing fans.