Commentary: The Race Between The Races

Brad Keselowski / Chicagoland / Sept 2012
It is either him…or Vettel. Photo courtesy of Chrysler Group LLC

The circus has returned to our shores.

Sunday will mark the return of Formula One's United States Grand Prix. The new Circuit of The Americas near Austin, Texas will finally see some serious action with the world's most renowned driver-athletes. Being the second-to-last round of the lengthy Formula One season, the path towards both the driver’s and constructor’s championships may be decided on the newest venue in motorsport.

Meanwhile in South Florida, the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be decided. Brad Keselowski has the advantage going into the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Keselowski's win will be his team's, Penske Motorsport, first Sprint Cup and the constructor’s, Dodge, first since 1975.

Before anyone proclaims this weekend the culmination of the return of American motorsport, consider this is a renaissance. Perhaps, you could consider this a curious quandary over the future of motorsport.

It is a weekend where one could easily play off the other. These two series offer intense competition amongst their own racing communities. Formula One had always been called the "circus" due to the cyclical dramas involving Bernie Ecclestone, the king of Formula One, its driver-athletes, various constructors and FIA management. NASCAR is similar with its own web of drama – though the names have a bigger household shelf life on these shores.

With all of the cursing at press conferences, retribution crashes and paddock fights between Formula One and NASCAR, one might consider just ignoring both races. On the other hand, would you rather see some passion exhibited in motorsport?

Herein lies the key to watch both races. The passion exhibited by cursing drivers, fighting pit crews and overall outrageousness – Eddie Jordan's 1970s get-up in Abu Dhabi duly noted here – is worth getting two television screens together to watch both races simultaneously.

In reality, this would not be the case. There is a gulf amongst motorsport fans that would prevent one group of loyal fans to watch the other series' race. NASCAR fans would rather watch their heroes bang up each other at Homestead than watch the complexities of the Circuit of The Americas. Formula One fans would rather slit their own wrists than stand a minute of homologated so-called stock cars with brutal tech onboard these racers going around an oval-ish track.

You know, hip-hop artists and hard rock folks came together in the past. These were considered polar opposites for a while until someone had the idea of putting Run DMC and Aerosmith together for a song. Consider this analogy a thought – you may be surprised to hear that there is some crossover between Formula One and NASCAR that would surprise the heck out of you.

Some – not a lot, but some – may be apt to keep their eyes on this weekend’s two major motorsports events in this country.

From a media standpoint, this will not be the case. Clearly the Ford EcoBoost 400 will garner the majority of the national broadcast audience for motorsport. The race will be broadcast on ESPN, while the United States Grand Prix will be shown on Speed. None of the terrestrial television networks in this country will carry either race. SiriusXM will carry both races on their respective channels via satellite radio.

However, the larger global audience could care less of Brad Keselowski wins the Sprint Cup. They want to see Sebastian Vettel rack up more points for another driver's championship in Austin. Formula One commands a greater global broadcast audience regardless of where the race is run at what time it is run. I would expect the entire world to stay up for this round with the implications it has for the championships.

It just appears that the Formula One race in Austin would simply be a paragraph on Monday's sports section. One of you mentioned that the coverage had been lacking ahead of the United States Grand Prix. In Texas, it appears that the media in Houston had not mentioned anything about the race, even though the implications for strong and positive revenue generated for the state is very important to note.

When will both races get equal billing in this country? Will it take a highly successful American driver-athlete to make it in Formula One for more of us to watch? Or, will NASCAR continue to rule the motorsport paradigm as long as it has our full and undivided attention.

However, the television powers-to-be know that it will not be either the Ford EcoBoost 400 or the United States Grand Prix that the American viewer will watch on Sunday. It will be the full slate of games scheduled by the National Football League on both FOX and CBS.

I would argue for balance on Sunday. I would argue that the NFL could take a break for one Sunday (it is the Minnesota Vikings' bye-week this weekend, for those of you who care). If you have to, you could bring in an additional 2-3 televisions into the same room. You might as well see some great racing between Homestead and Austin – and your favorite NFL team, to boot.

Who will become the real winner on Sunday? The pundits have all the answers, really. Me? I am just a casual observer. However, the real winner will be the Circuit of The Americas and how the future of motorsport in this country will ride on this new venue.

Sorry, NASCAR, but I have to pick the Formula One circus in Austin this time around.

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