Following the early demise of W Series, at least for 2022, the support bill for Formula 1’s 2022 United States Grand Prix is all historic.
It’s a pretty cool offering: 1966-1985 F1 cars headline the Masters Historic field and Masters Historic Legends caters for basically anything that had a crack at the Le Mans 24 Hours or America’s top sportscar races between 1982 and 2017.
But could IndyCar be on the bill for a future US GP?
Or even MotoGP…?
That’s obviously far too mad an idea to actually happen.
But it’s one that cropped up in a recent conversation between Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein and The Race’s Scott Mitchell-Malm.
Asked what the US GP needed to do to reach the next level, Epstein’s mind quickly turned to the support bill.
“Some of the support races for the fans, [we need to] make some of those of interest to the fans,” Epstein told The Race.
“Maybe an IndyCar support race? I’m just throwing it out there, I don’t know.
“But to make it a full racing weekend, unlike anyone’s ever done, for us might take us and differentiate us from maybe some of the other events.
“It’s a question of how big your paddock could be.
“But as far as the weekend fills out, I think that’s it. I want to still make it the best place for the racing fan to see the best racing and the best competition on the track that we possibly can.
“Because I feel like our staff does a great job of delivering the off-track experience and that’s all we control.”
When it was mentioned that Austin is one of the few tracks that currently hosts both F1 and MotoGP, Epstein liked the sound of that as an even more outlandish double bill.
“If we can have IndyCar or MotoGP, or even a stock car race, as part of the overall weekend, until you turn it into just the most incredible weekend for race fans, that would be interesting,” he mused.
“I don’t ever expect that to necessarily happen. But from a fan standpoint that’s what I think the fans might enjoy.”
F1 support bills in Europe are a fairly standardised rotation of F2/F3/W Series/Porsche Supercup, with things mixing up more at the flyaways.
That’s where support packages vary from little/none (just one national Porsche series race at the Japanese GP last weekend) to the famously packed Australian GP bill that also features top domestic championship Supercars (pictured above) and this year had national single-seater series S5000, too (and more Porsches).
The upcoming Mexican GP does actually boast an F1/IndyCar crossover of sorts: a ‘Legends Cup’ in which IndyCar race winners Mark Blundell, Bruno Junqueira, Paul Tracy, Max Papis, Oriol Servia, Michel Jourdain Jr, Mario Dominguez and Alex Tagliani will do battle in cars from national series Super Cup GTM!
IndyCar is relatively used to bill-sharing. It’s long done so with NASCAR’s lower tiers and the IMSA SportsCar Championship and its predecessors, and this year even had a joint event with the NASCAR Cup Series on the Indianapolis road course.
It’s also raced successfully at Austin in 2019 – when F1 aspirant Colton Herta took his first win in only his third start in the series.
Let’s just start by saying, if a motorsport fan had a choice, of course we’d like to see Formula 1, MotoGP, IndyCar and NASCAR compete at the same event. A combination of any of them would excite any fan, surely?
The biggest problem is there are too many egos involved. Every championship wants to protect its own interests and not be outdone by a close rival.
IndyCar is the championship that has been most open-minded about this, as under Roger Penske it has raced with NASCAR’s national series twice now, once with the Xfinity Series in 2021 and once with the Cup and Xfinity Series earlier this year, both on the Indianapolis road course. It had the most to lose by being an understudy in all but name, especially this year with the Cup Series in town.
IndyCar certainly felt overshadowed at that event. It was a fantastic combination of top championships from a neutral perspective, but racing on the Saturday certainly didn’t do anything for IndyCar’s stature on the weekend. NASCAR is a much bigger series and deserved its headline status, and it proved why these weekends are tough to put together.
It’s no secret ticket sales for the Brickyard 400 NASCAR event have dwindled from their heyday in recent years, so I believe that’s also an important thing to factor in. Would Penske be so keen to experiment if his NASCAR event was a sellout weekend? I still hope he would, but we don’t know the answer to that.
I hate to be a pessimist – mainly because of my love of racing crossovers born out of Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya’s NASCAR/F1 car swap at Indy in 2004 – but there are just too many vested interests to bring big series such as F1 and NASCAR together at one event.
And IndyCar would risk upstaging F1 with its spectacular on-track product, even if it’s overshadowed by F1’s sheer stature should they share a weekend.
The idea of getting MotoGP and F1 together at the same event is even more far-fetched.
Even regardless of the logistics of car and bike safety and paddock set-ups coexisting, MotoGP has a very well-established support bill format of its Moto3 and Moto2 ladder series, sometimes plus MotoE, the Red Bull Rookies Cup and various regional Talent Cups.
The idea of MotoGP and F1 together in some regards makes absolute sense: in fact, it makes far more sense for the two-wheeled series, given the huge popularity of F1 right now in the USA, and the chance to piggyback on it.
From a technical perspective, there’s likely to be little to prevent it, either, with the Circuit of the Americas designed from day one as a dual-use facility that doesn’t require significant changes when hosting two different types of racing.
It’s not something that’s ever been attempted before at this level, at least not in recent memory, but it’s a format that has been a staple in the lower ranks, with the Macau Grand Prix perhaps the highest-profile such event. The World Touring Car Championship, FIA Formula 3 World Cup and the cream of the Isle of Man TT grid onboard superbikes have all shared a paddock there.
There’s one significant hurdle that prevents a MotoGP/F1 joint bill from happening. Unlike the likes of IndyCar or NASCAR (still inherently national series), MotoGP is very much a world championship that sees itself as an equal to F1, not a support race – and the collective ego of the paddock might well be enough to stymie any attempts to run the two together even despite the considerable incentives that would come with it.
If COTA does want a two-wheeled support class, there’s probably a chance of making it with American domestic series MotoAmerica, which already heads to the Texan track to race alongside MotoGP every year (as it previously did at former venue Laguna Seca).
Epstein (pictured above with former F1 boss Chase Carey) is well aware that his F1/MotoGP/IndyCar/NASCAR quadruple-header dream is just fantasy, but said the fact he’s willing to even consider chasing such combinations shows his event’s commitment to fans.
“I think it’s a nod to the fans to give them, across the board no matter whatever we do, the best we can,” he said.
“You have one of the greatest tracks in the world and you should make the best use of it you can, you should put the best product on it every time you do.”
And he reckons F1 chief Stefano Domenicali would be pretty open-minded if Epstein approached him with the idea.
“I think he’d been incredibly supportive actually,” he said.
“He’s terrific and has been very open to suggestions. And I think he would embrace it.
“And I think the questions that he would have are very logical ones. ‘How big a paddock, Bobby, do you have?’ or ‘How much more do you want to build?’.
“I mean, a lot of it is operational but you and I are just throwing ideas out there. And so I’ll throw that out.
“But it might be fun to put the motorcycles on. We’ll try some more stuff. And he’s open to it.”
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