Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Come On Kurt

Formula One has a long history in the United States but it has been anything but a fairy tale. It has been a six-decade adventure from piggybacking on the Indianapolis 500 and running in the swamps of Florida to failed street circuits and currently a race at a beautiful facility that is slightly mismanaged and running out of taxpayers money. It is a relationship that Formula One does not need, the United States does not need but deep down the teams want it, the drivers don't mind it and there is an American fan base that will come out in support it.

Many believe they have the answers and can lead Formula One up the American sports mountain and while they might not be able to get it to the top, they think they can at least get it a nice piece of property with a beautiful view of the valley. 

Kurt Busch is most recent man to drop his two cents into the Formula One in the United States suggestion box. The Las Vegas-native believes Formula One's answer to the American market is a race in Las Vegas. While Busch commends Austin for building a facility and drawing respectable crowds each of its first four years, he believes Las Vegas would be a better option because each year could bring a different crowd of people and the race could benefit from Las Vegas being a nonstop tourist destination in the United States. Busch also sees the CART/IRL Split in 1996 as a reason for Formula One struggling to gain popularity because of negativity toward single-seater racing. 

It appears that Busch has failed to consider many other factors into why Formula One isn't a stalwart in the United States. The fact the United States hasn't had a driver win a grand prix in 38 years or hasn't had a manufacture, and I am talking a Ford or GM or Chrysler, or major corporation throw money into supporting American drivers and teams overseas or the fact the United States went most of the 1990s without a race never appeared to cross his mind. 

The American open-wheel strife has had as much impact on Formula One in the United States as the 1994 Major League Baseball players' strike has had on the popularity of cricket in the United States. None at all. Formula One has always known it doesn't need the United States and Bernie Ecclestone wasn't going to waste his time trying to get its attention. If Formula One wanted to be big in the United States, it would have been big by now. It wouldn't have gone years without a United States Grand Prix. There would have at least been a grand prix winner by now because someone would have stumbled in a race-winning car on accident. It's not that the United States hasn't produced a driver capable of winning a Formula One grand prix since Mario Andretti. It has but other paths that led to respectable ways of living were available to them. 

We are at the point where Formula One will never be big in the United States. There are six hundred million things vying for people's attention. Formula One will be a niche and Formula One is doing well as a niche in the United States. Every race is shown live on an NBCUniversal property along with qualifying and normally free practice two. The other sessions are available streaming online. Haas F1 has had a respectable first half to its first season on the grid. Austin has been a success and the Formula One paddock seems to enjoy heading to Texas. Maybe a second race in Formula One could be a good thing but the powers at be should want to have one race with a solid foundation before looking to spread its tentacles. 

Formula One has never been a big deal in the United States. The country has never stopped when the international circus comes to town. Posters of drivers and their machinery don't adorn walls of every other boy and girl. Former ESPN pundits don't taunt Lewis Hamilton like they do LeBron James. None of that will ever change. Formula One has a place in the United States but it won't be at the front of the line and that is ok.