For modern motorsports races, whether they're IndyCar, Formula 1 or NASCAR, I think a key component to the race weekend (and to the fan experience) has become a big music concert. The concerts are usually part of the race activities and are frequently included in the admission price of a race ticket as an incentive to attract more fans. I attended IndyCar's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April and really enjoyed the concert by Joan Jett the evening before the actual race. A lot of people at the concert told me they were more Joan Jett fans than they were race fans, but the more exposure they had to IndyCar, even during practice and qualifying, was turning them into race fans too.
It now looks like the concert that was scheduled to accompany the inaugural United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas has been cancelled, at least at the original planned location. According to the Austin American Statesman, the event was planned for a public park called Auditorium Shores but the concert would have required an exception to city rules, which limit the number of large events that can be held there. There was also a potential conflict with a Junior League fundraiser, and I am very surprised the race organizers were not able to come to an agreement. I think they should have donated money to the Junior League or involved them in the race events or just done something to allow the concert to proceed. Now they probably have to scramble to find another venue.
There is another concert planned for November 15 in connection with the Austin City Limits music brand, but that has tickets for sale, the canceled show would have been a free part of the F1 events. The race-connected free concerts are big events, in Formula 1 there's a series called F1Rocks, which has featured Eminem, Metallica, Beyonce and this year's big show featured Lenny Kravitz at the Melbourne Grand Prix in March.
It disappoints me, as I know how important the concert can be to the success of a race as it attracts those casual fans, fans who only buy a ticket for the race because they also want to see the concert. No free concert, and I think a lot of those casual fans won't attend the race.
As an American fan of Formula 1 racing, I feel a strong connection with the Austin race and know if it's not successful financially, that will hurt the chances for future races here in America. I want to see the race be sold out and provide a great experience for fans, so everyone walks away from the race, especially Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management, seeing that Formula 1 can work in America.
A lifetime auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. He's a fan of and writes about Formula 1 and IndyCar racing. You can follow him on Twitter -@thefredsherman
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