Formula One organizers say no need to speculate over future in Austin

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The effort to get more people to Austin’s Formula One race seems to have worked. After consecutive years of ticket sales going down, organizers say this was the second most attended year.

The formula to do it included lowering ticket costs, a rain refund guarantee and a highly-anticipated performance by Taylor Swift.

Bobby Epstein, Chairman of the Circuit of the Americas, believes the event is stronger than ever.

“I think everyone is riding on a wonderful high right now, the employees, everyone that works here, everyone associated with it. This is absolutely the best buzz we’ve had since the first year,” said Epstein. “There were a lot of ups and downs, it’s been rough, and it’s been fun – but I think everyone is so pleased right now and we’re just enjoying it.”

Tavo Hellmund, the man who first envisioned COTA, is confident there are plenty more races to come.

“I don’t know why anyone thinks the race in Austin could be in trouble. The great relationship that we set up with the state of Texas, as long as the state of Texas is willing to write a $10 or $15 or $20 million check, there will be a race here,” said Hellmund.

Back in 2015, Governor Abbott’s office said the state would contribute $19.5 million to the race – about 20 percent lower than in previous years.

The race in Austin is also part of a bigger plan to get more Americans into the sport.

Formula One was recently bought by Liberty Media Corporation, and they hope to start developing more presence in the United States.

“There’s a big audience here that we can build on,” said Chase Corey, the new Chairman of Formula One. “I’ve been surprised in just my 30 days being in this sport, how many people – it’s anecdotal at this point – but how many people are coming out of woodwork saying ‘I’m a Formula One fan, I’d love to have more races here, a bigger presence here’. It’s a longer term project, but we want to start building it and we want to start developing it, we’re very excited about the opportunity here.”

Hellmund believes a big part in making that happen is getting kids involved in the sport.

“One of the things I think we all collectively need to do is help an American kid get into Formula One, that would help a lot,” said Hellmund. “I think you have to have grassroots events, you have to have carting infrastructure from day one.”

So that kids going home with autographs from some of the best drivers in the world, can one day be on the other side of the pen.

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