The United States Grand Prix has a new home, the Circuit of the Americas, and it can be located deep in the heart of Texas.
Like any new circuit, the track is wide open and is lacking in the amount of foliage. However, this enables the television folks to ensure the fans get great coverage of the action.
One thing is certain. The view of the track’s neighbors is all green. The 375-acre facility is said to have cost $400 million in private investments and provide the area with 1,700 construction jobs.
The facility is expected to provide 300 full-time jobs and 1,000 event specific jobs. The facility is expected to create a total of 6,000 jobs to the area economy.
It is expected between 800,000 to 1.2 million fans will attend events at the facility annually, and it is further estimated each of them will spend an estimated $1,500 on each of the 4.6 days that they are expected to be in the Austin area.
With all of this being said, it would seem to be hard to justify spending all of that money for a new, purpose-built facility when they could conduct the event at the most famous race course in the land. It is hard to imagine that a win at the new Texas course will ever hold the respect with which a win at Indianapolis is seen.
It is interesting to note an American, Lewis Hamilton, won back-to-back U.S. Grand Prix races. However, there were five years between them. He won the final race contested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the inaugural event Sunday at the Circuit of the Americas.
Clauson gets ride
Noblesville’s Bryan Clauson relocated to Indiana, where he could race sprint cars at 13.
He certainly wasn’t the first young man to make such an ill-advised career choice; however, he has shown every indication that his decision may have been less ill-advised than most.
Since his road to the big time has been plagued by potholes, Clauson has found it necessary to be somewhat creative in securing rides, both as a journeyman driver and in cars of his own.
Thursday, he will meet Pete Willoughby and Keith Kunz, and he will drive one of their midgets in the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Perris Auto Speedway. Clauson will be attempting to win his third consecutive Turkey Night. He already has locked up his third-consecutive United States Auto Club National Driving championship.
The Chili Bowl each January at the Tulsa Expo Raceway gets all of the ink. However, the winter classic is preceded by the Tulsa Shootout, which features mini-sprints. Although there are far fewer million-dollar teams, there is no lack of ambition in the Tulsa pits. So far, 176 are in the hands of Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards in Tulsa.
Although I don’t know that he ever claimed to be retired, Tony Elliott hasn’t raced for a while. However, he has been named by Don and Mel Kenyon of 3K Racing to drive their midget in the Rumble at Fort Wayne in the 15th annual holiday classic Dec. 28-29 at the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum Expo Center.
The 51-year-old Elliott, from Warsaw, the 1998 and 2000 USAC Sprint Car champion, will take over the driving duties of the driver known to most as “Mr. Midget.” Kenyon has seven United States Auto Club National Midget Series titles.
Elliott previously won the “Rumble” in 1998 and 1999. Few drivers have won multiple Rumbles. Tony Stewart has won the event a record nine times, while Billy Wease won it three times, and Rich Corson and Dave Darland won two each.
It sometimes seems as if the United States Auto Club has as many midget champions as it does midget drivers.
Darren Hagen, Shannon McQueen, and David Pricett all have their eyes on their respective titles.
Hagen has locked up the USAC National Midget championship, and McQueen is the USAC Western Midget champion.
Their championships are locked up.
However, while Prickett has a 29-point lead in the battle for the 2012 USAC Western Dirt Midget championship, he is a heavy favorite to lock up the title Thursday.
Going into Thursday’s competition the national midget points leaders are: 1. Darren Hagen (1283), 2. Tracy Hines (1084), 3. Bryan Clauson (1038), 4. Caleb Armstrong (924), 5. Kyle Larson (863), 6. Brad Kuhn (822), 7. Rico Abreu (816), 8.Jerry Coons
Jr. (737), 9. Bobby East (732), 10. Chris Windom (670).
USAC National Dirt Midget Points: 1. Darren Hagen (850), 2. Jerry Coons, Jr. (737), 3. Bryan Clauson (715), 3. Brad Kuhn (715), 5. Tracy Hines (700), 6. Chris Windom (670), 7. Kyle Larson (627), 8. Rico Abreu (579), 9. Caleb Armstrong (516), 10. Davey Ray (499)
USAC Western Midget Points: 1. Shannon McQueen (761), 2. David Prickett (610), 3. Nick Chivello (591), 4. Scott Pierovich (497), 5. Alex Schutte (449), 6. Frankie Guerrini (431), 7. Cole Carter (412), 8. Connor Kassik (380), 9. Randi Pankratz (352), 10. Jake Swanson (344).
USAC Western Dirt Midget Points: 1. David Prickett (579), 2. Shannon McQueen (550), 3. Alex Schutte (397), 4. Connor Kassik (380), 5. Randi Pankratz (352), 6. Nick Chivello (335), 7. Cody Swanson (329), 8. Cole Carter (283), 9. Scott Pierovich (273), 10. Jake Swanson (260)
Tim McKinney is an auto racing columnist for The Republic. He can be reached at 372-3936.