UPDATE 2:15PM 10/25/2011: The announcement is official. Race confirmed for June 2013. Contract for "full decade." F1 analyst Steve Matchett estimates top speeds of 200 mph. The most surprising aspect of the announcement: the rumored "well-regarded NASCAR executive" involved in the project is none other than Humpy Wheeler himself, who alluded to the difficulties he faced when trying to bring NASCAR to the New York area...
|New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announces that his state will host F1 in June 2013. Image from Speed TV streaming.|
|Official F1 street circuit layout through Weehawken and West New York. Image from Speed TV streaming.|
|Elevation changes of new F1 street circuit, Weehawken and West New York. Image from Speed TV streaming.|
ORIGINAL CONTENT 06:00AM 10/25/2011:
A Manhattan literary agent once said to me, “No one here's going to give a damn about NASCAR unless they're running stock cars down Wall Street.”
Some awfully big names tried to make the next best thing happen: the construction of a major NASCAR track in the New York metropolitan area.
|NASCAR show cars have rumbled through Times Square, but the Sprint Cup Series has no race that is local to Manhattanites –despite the best efforts of many. Photo: New York Daily News|
As recently as 2000 – as NASCAR prepared for new levels of exposure via TV deals with Fox and NBC – talk was rampant that Donald Trump was on the verge of working a deal to build a track close by the George Washington Bridge, bringing NASCAR and its top series to the gates of Manhattan.
“Pocono is the closest speedway that we have to New York City, and it’s not far from Philadelphia,” said H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler in June of that year.
At the time, Wheeler was president of Charlotte Motor Speedway and a key member of Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc. team. Expansion of the stock car racing market seemed limitless in 2000, and Speedway Motorsports was frequently mentioned in connection with NASCAR’s New York interest.
“Those are two markets we must be in the vicinity of to grow [the sport]. Our new growth will not come from the heartland. We have to get to the top-10 markets,” Wheeler vowed.
But stock car racing’s dream alliance of NASCAR and New York would never be realized, dying on the vine of financial and local political turmoil.
|Today’s announcement: Formula One in the streets of mid-town Manhattan? Not quite – but close! Photo: Shell promotional video|
Now news comes that surely must rankle the power brokers of stock car racing: the official announcement of a Formula One race in northern New Jersey is expected to be made this afternoon by Governor Chris Christie. McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari, and the rest of the F1 lineup will be racing in 2013 on a street circuit in Weehawken and West New York, located essentially at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel leading to mid-town Manhattan.
|One rumored layout for the street course that will be used by the highly-sophisticated F1 cars. Map: Google Maps|
The October 25 press conference will be held at the Port Imperial ferry terminal in Weehawken, along River Road – a road that is to be a key component of the F1 course, paralleling the Hudson River with Manhattan in the background.
While the unpretentious Governor Christie may look like he should be wearing a flannel shirt and sitting in turn three with a cooler of beer, come 2013 he'll likely be wearing dressy casual and rubbing elbows with McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali, Force India's Vijay Mallya and the international cast of characters populating the Formula One circus.
|New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left) at Monmouth Park Racetrack in 2010. Today he breaks news regarding horsepower of a different kind.|
"In these uncertain economic times when every direct and indirect revenue source is vital, our own Formula One race could be a very positive boost to our citizens," the mayors said.
"This said, we need to ensure that the financial benefits from the privilege of having these races in our towns are equitably shared and that no tax dollars are used. The investor group has already told us that our towns would be substantially compensated annually."
Ironically, a member of “Humpy” Wheeler's own family – daughter Patti Wheeler – is married to Hindery, the man who has helped F1 succeed where stock car racing failed. She has long played a major role in NASCAR and motorsports broadcasting through her Wheeler Television production company.
To add insult to injury, Autoweek reports that a “well-regarded NASCAR executive” is rumored to be joining the F1 New Jersey project.
F1's advance in the United States - first with the announcement of next year’s race at the new Circuit of The Americas outside Austin, Texas and now with the revelation of the New Jersey street circuit - signals a new push by Formula One to claim market share in the United States. It’s no secret that the most powerful forces in F1 have not been happy about the lack of an American race since last running at Indianapolis in 2007.
|Static displays at the New York International Auto Show have been as close as F1 has come to Manhattan. In the year 2013, the show’s home at the Javits Center will be within earshot of F1 engines fired in anger.|
While the funky, down-to-earth music scene aspects of Austin may seem like an odd pairing with the glitz of F1, the world’s most elite form of motorsports is an ideal dance partner for the city that never sleeps.
And so F1 will run in the very shadows of Manhattan's skyscrapers, reveling in the glamour to which it is accustomed. Meanwhile, NASCAR looks on enviously from the rustic Pocono Mountains 80 miles to the west, still unable to advance any closer to the world's biggest sporting stage.
So what do you think? Why did F1 succeed with this entry into prime real estate? Will you attend this event? And will these two US races allow F1 to finally make inroads with a fan base firmly committed to NASCAR?