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COTA Could Play Role in Formula One's U.S. Expansion

Jimmy Maas
Lewis Hamilton leads the pack at the 2016 U.S. Grand Prix in October. He went on to win the race for the fourth time in five years.

Circuit of the Americas may not be the only stop on the Formula One circuit in the U.S. for long. New F1 CEO Chase Carey said Tuesday that he'd like to see expansion of the sport stateside. That could include a street race in New York, Los Angeles, Miami or Las Vegas.

Bobby Epstein, chairman of Circuit of the Americas, said another U.S. race will make F1 stronger.

"If you can have a street race and you can have a permanent circuit event, the long-term effect should be more fans," he said. "And more fans are great for everybody."

Credit Jimmy Maas / KUT
Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein announces the entertainment lineup for the U.S. Grand Prix last March.

Epstein said COTA could even be involved in some capacity in the other race.

"We've got resources to share -- whether that's direct involvement or just working together and collaborating," he said. "Either way, I think it'd be a positive to have more focus here."

For now, F1 is keeping things status quo on the schedule.

“At this point, we’re focused on making those 21 races great, but we are looking at some new places that we think there are real opportunities to expand and grow the sport,” Carey told BBC Sport in an interview Monday.

That's when Liberty Media closed its acquisition of the racing series. For the first time in 47 years, the sport has a new boss. Longtime F1 head Bernie Ecclestone has been offered a role as chairman emeritus. Ecclestone sold his controlling interest in F1 to the private equity firm CVC Capital a decade ago. Even though he cashed out, the 86-year-old stayed on to run the sport until this week

Epstein said it's going to be different.

"I think that it'll get better in that one person was stretched very thin to deal with the different segments," he said. "It looks like they focused on everything from sponsorship and marketing, to the technical side of racing, and then, hopefully, as the promoter, the promoting side of selling tickets. It's a pretty complex business to have just one person at the top of and focusing on. But, Bernie did an amazing job."

Before becoming F1 CEO, Carey was a longtime executive at NewsCorp and its spinoff, 21st Century Fox.

He said he's looking to grow the sport, though he has said any U.S. expansion would be in addition to the Grand Prix in Austin. 

Credit Jimmy Maas / KUT
Drivers practice at the Circuit of the Americas ahead of the Grand Prix in October.

"I think with an American owner and a focus on the United States, I can only see things getting stronger for COTA and for the sport in the U.S.," Epstein said. "The Liberty team came to the U.S. Grand Prix when it was at COTA. I think they liked what they saw and hopefully they'll help us expand upon that model."

As far as the future of F1 in Austin and elsewhere, COTA officials are optimistic.

"With the growth strategy to grow in the U.S., you've got a cornerstone race that's already successful, I think that just further ensures its longevity," Epstein said.

Liberty Media owns a diverse group of companies, mostly centered in media and entertainment. Among its interests are baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the travel website Expedia (parent of HomeAway). It also produces the PBS Newshour. It's the largest shareholder in Charter Communications, the parent of Spectrum cable. It also owns a significant stake in Live Nation – the company that books concerts at COTA.

Jimmy is the assistant program director, but still reports on business and sports every now and then. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @maasdinero.
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