In a bid to keep up with appearances, and to never stop the habit of a lifetime, Bernie Ecclestone has pulled yet another seemingly crude and unwise move in the world of motor sport, this time affecting two major disciplines and putting them head-to-head in a battle for fans in Texas, F1 vs NASCAR.
On the weekend of the Nascar Sprint Cup’s Texas 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Bernie has earmarked that very same timeslot for the United States Grand Prix just 220 miles away at the Circuit of the Americas.
The Speedway president, Eddie Gossage, has taken the opportunity to call up on the move as ‘absolutely foolish’.
He continued: “Nobody wins. It’s a shot fired by Formula One at NASCAR. I can’t say I was surprised because Bernie Ecclestone does a lot of foolish things. The thing he doesn’t recognise is there is an 800-pound gorilla when it comes to major American motor sports. The 800-pound gorilla is NASCAR.”
Bernie has defended the move, citing the need for Formula 1 to shift equipment from one part of the world to the other, with incoming equipment being flown from the new Russian Grand Prix to Austin, as an important factor in the decision, and proclaiming the NASCAR boss is ‘extremely lucky he doesn’t have to do what we have to do.’
He added: “I’ve also spoken to the people that run the race at COTA and they believe the NASCAR crowd is a different crowd to Formula One, different people, different customers.”
Quite a laudable response, except when you consider that there are major petrol heads out there who adore both sports, and forcing them to choose between a NASCAR race and a F1 race is like asking them ‘Okay, which arm do you want me to cut off?’.
I can understand the logistics argument for Formula 1, but looking at the whole calender, there doesn’t seem to be an emphasis on fuel economy when shipping from one place to another. Before Russia we have the Japanese Grand Prix, and after America we have Brazil, but after that we have Abu Dhabi, and this is perhaps the most sensible portion out of the whole calender.
I’m not sure what goes on behind closed doors when deciding these travels, but the accumulated air-miles for the whole year reaches way in excess of 100,000 miles, and that’s just for each team, not for the FIAs gallant displays and private jets.
Not to take the wind out of Eddie’s sails either, but NASCAR in Texas hasn’t been all too healthy in comparison to the glory years, as LWOS’ NASCAR nutter, Jim LaPlante, offers his impression: “Funny how sometimes very smart people do some very dumb things, eh?
“NASCAR’s been having their own on track attendance problems in the last few years, and even losing a handful of fans for the Texas race is an impact. I cannot see any benefit for either series here.”
How right he is. F1 and NASCAR have seemingly lived in concurrent harmony for many years, and this flagrant arrogance from Bernie, and the pained response from the Eddie, cannot be good for either sport. Two adults with businesses to run couldn’t reach a mutual agreement that bolstered both parties.
Though it’s as Bernie says: “They run a domestic series here. We run a world championship.”
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