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Austin's Formula One Race Gets Green Light

Construction on the Circuit of the Americas in southeastern Travis County is set to resume now that race organizers have reached an agreement with F1.
Photo by Lucia Duncan for KUT News
Construction on the Circuit of the Americas in southeastern Travis County is set to resume now that race organizers have reached an agreement with F1.

The promoters and track owners trying to put on a Formula One race in Austin apparently overcame their differences just in time — the F1 race for November 2012 is officially on the calendar.

The owners of the track — who stopped construction when the negotiations broke down last month — said this morning they will resume building immediately. That outfit, Circuit of the Americas, is run by Texas businessmen Red McCombs of San Antonio and Bobby Epstein of Austin.

This puts the State of Texas on the hook for $25 million per year for ten years — a $250 million commitment of taxpayer money that has brought some political heat on Comptroller Susan Combs. She pushed the state's involvement, saying that money would help make the races possible and contending that the races will bring in more money in tax revenue for the state than the state is spending.

Combs originally told F1 that the state would write its first check last July. That didn't happen, and the comptroller has more recently said the state won't give any money to F1 until after the first race has been run. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

This morning, Formula One's World Motor Sport Council, meeting in India, decided to leave the U.S. Grand Prix on the calendar for next year after the Texas track owners reached agreement with F1's Bernie Eccelstone and handed him a check to seal the deal.

The contract is for a race each year for ten years. There are no F1 races in the U.S. now, but there will soon be two. A New Jersey race will begin in 2013.

Ross Ramsey is managing editor of The Texas Tribune and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. Texas Weekly was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly 2 million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas. Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was associate deputy comptroller for policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's director of communications. Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin bureau chief. Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.