Formula One and NASCAR: Room for Both in America

In two weeks the Circuit of the Americas will be hosting the American Grand Prix for the third year in a row. After a break from Formula One in America from 2008-2011, where they raced in Indianapolis, IN, the teams returned to the United States to Austin, TX in 2012.

While the “will they, won’t they” debate regarding Americans jumping on the Formula One bandwagon will rage on, the fact that there is a Grand Prix weekend in the United States can only increase the fandom among American Motorsport fans. Right now, major sports networks seem never to have heard of IndyCar or Formula One, judging by their complete lack of coverage—except for the Indianapolis 500—and only begrudgingly show 30 seconds of NASCAR highlights as long as there was a good wreck of course.  The fact that there is global attention being paid to an event in the States will hopefully give the sport some much needed exposure in the U.S.

Formula One will probably never overtake the popularity of stock car racing in America, but the more people are exposed to it can show race fans that Formula One and NASCAR can co-exist rather than the one or the other attitude that some people seem to take. I’m proof that you can be a fan of both.

I will admit that many years ago I turned my nose up at F1, thinking it was just boring parade laps with everybody in single file with no overtaking and vehemently defended my precious NASCAR against F1 fans who said it was nothing but cars going in circles. They didn’t understand the strategy or the amazing feats of engineering which were made in order to get the archaic chassis with motors that still used carburetors around these tracks.  Those open wheel loving fools just didn’t understand.  That was my attitude, not once thinking of the irony that I was treating F1 exactly the same as they were treating NASCAR.

NASCAR has changed its rules and its cars more times than I’ve changed pants in the last ten years, and it seemed like they didn’t take any driver or team input into consideration regarding what they needed from the cars to make them competitive and easy to make passes (overtakes) with. The single file parade laps that I was staying away from by not watching F1 were now a weekly occurrence for the 36 week NASCAR schedule.  It was just a few years ago when I finally became bored with the stale brand of racing that was being put in front of me from NASCAR and got my DVR all set up to start recording Formula One races in their ludicrously early times in the Eastern time zone.

I felt dirty at first, turning to The Other Series, but little did I know I was about to start watching one of the most exciting seasons of racing I had ever seen. The season was the spectacle that was the 2012 Formula One season.  Seven different winners in seven different races, not even NASCAR could compete with that.  While the excitement around that was exciting enough I found a new love for racing in learning the complexities of the sport that I had previously cast aside as boring.  Even later in the season, when Sebastian Vettel stunk up the results by taking wins in four straight races, that didn’t turn me away from the sport.

Now I believe that I started watching Formula One the same year that the sport was returning to the United States as pure coincidence. But, maybe subconsciously, I had it stuck in the back of mind.  Maybe just hearing about it a little more often than never got me over the edge to watch some of the races to see what all the excitement was about.  I still watch every NASCAR Cup race on the schedule with plenty of Nationwide, Truck, Modified, ARCA, Etc., Etc., sprinkled in and now I add Formula One to my calendar every Grand Prix weekend.  The drivers are different, the races are different, the technology and the fans are all different but the more exposure that Formula One can get in America the more people will start to realize that there is room for both sports in the heart of the American Motorsport fan.

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