Formula 1's decision to stage the United States Grand Prix this weekend in Austin, Texas while NASCAR is also in action just a couple of hundred miles to the north in Dallas/Fort Worth has led to criticism from senior figures in the US motorsport scene, with motor racing icon AJ Foyt the latest to back NASCAR over F1 in the head-to-head showdown between the two championships.
"I have nothing against F1, don't get me wrong, but I think the NASCAR race would be a better race to go see," Foyt told reporters in a teleconference on Wednesday. "I could be wrong. But I really think it could be a lot better race."
The decision to pit the F1 Grand Prix against a crucial round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship play-offs had already been poorly received by Eddie Gossage, the president of Texas Motor Speedway which is hosting NASCAR's races this weekend while F1 is at the Circuit of the Americas.
"I absolutely think it's foolish," Gossage had fumed earlier this year when the respective series scheduled had initially thrown up the conflict between the neighbouring facilities, worrying that the clash could divide the motorsports fan base and risk hurting both events financially.
"It's a shot fired by F1 at NASCAR. I can't say I was surprised because Bernie Ecclestone does a lot of foolish things," he said, also criticising the management at COTA for not having "the strength and the fortitude to stand up and say no" to Ecclestone.
"The thing he unfortunately doesn't recognize is there is an 800-pound gorilla when it comes to major American motor sports," Gossage added. "The 800-pound gorilla is NASCAR."
Foyt was in agreement about the respective importance of the two series in the US: "You got F1, that I never did ever see go very big in the United States, and Eddie Gossage does a great job promoting the [NASCAR] race."
Foyt, who will be 80 next year, is the only man to win the motorsports holy trinity of the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans during his long career, but unlike his great motor racing contemporary Mario Andretti he never felt drawn to trying his hand at Grand Prix racing.
"I had a chance a couple times to drive F1," he said. "I never was that much interested because I never cared to wear a necktie each time I went to eat breakfast. I'm a Texas boy and I just loved racing in the IndyCars and Sprint cars.
"I really don't know much about F1, so I'd be talking out of turn saying one thing or another. I know it's a very strong operation, it's been around for many years," he added. "Still, it's not like the Indy 500, or a good high-bank race in Texas with IndyCars. I've always loved IndyCars."
Foyt is still a key team owner in the IndyCar Series, and has just signed British rising star Jack Hawksworth to compete for him in 2015 alongside former F1 driver Takuma Sato.
"I was thinking about coming out of retirement but my wife told me, 'You're turning 80 years old in January, all you'd be doing is holding up the field," laughed Foyt, adding: "I kind of agreed with her."
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