There is a growing anticipation sweeping through the Verizon IndyCar Series for its long-awaited debut at Circuit of the Americas in four months.
The 20-turn, 3.426-mile permanent road course in Austin, Texas, will be the second race of the 2019 season and play host to North America’s premier open-wheel championship for the first time March 22-24.
Since its inception in 2012, COTA has quickly become an iconic venue for racing series from around the globe.
With Formula One making its annual trek to the Lone Star State for the United States Grand Prix three weekends ago, it allowed many from the INDYCAR paddock, including Jay Frye, INDYCAR president of competition and operations, to get a better look at their newest circuit.
“Obviously, this is a world-class facility,” Frye said. “We wanted to come here for some time. I'm really excited about it. (COTA founder and chairman) Bobby Epstein and his team have done a phenomenal job. They've been great partners already. We're really looking forward to the future.”
One driver looking forward to the challenge is Alexander Rossi, the 2018 IndyCar Series championship runner-up for Andretti Autosport.
“I'm super excited about it,” Rossi said. “It's again another step in a positive direction for INDYCAR to come to a facility like this.
“It is an amazing racetrack. Austin's a great city. I think that there will be a really great fan reception here for us, and to be able to add new circuits to the calendar is always a good thing.”
Rossi is among a short list of drivers to have raced in other series at COTA. The Californian drove for Manor Marussia in the 2015 F1 race. Given the uncompetitive nature of the now-defunct team, he believes it isn’t a comparable measure of previous experience.
“I raced here, but I didn't really race against anyone,” Rossi said. “It was more kind of lapping around. It's not like I actually was going toe to toe with people, right?”
Rossi also participated in an INDYCAR test at COTA on Oct. 29 as Firestone zeroed in on the tire specifications it will produce for the 2019 IndyCar Series race. All full-season teams will join in a two-day open test at the track on Feb. 12-13.
“It's an awesome track to drive as a driver. It's a great, challenging track, technical, high speed,” Rossi said. “It'll be a challenge for us to kind of find a balance between high- and low-speed corners, but how it'll race, I have absolutely no idea.”
Michael Andretti, CEO of Andretti Autosport, has been an advocate of the Hermann Tilke-designed circuit and believes it fits well within the landscape of Indy car racing.
“I've been pushing for this race for a long time,” Andretti said. “It's a great place for us, great market. I think there will be a lot of interest from the fans that come out and watch.
“I think it's a great, great racetrack. It's beautiful. I was really, really happy when they are able to pull it off.”
Perhaps the most excited member of the INDYCAR paddock is Patricio O’Ward. Mexican by birth, Texas has long been considered home for the 19-year-old, who’ll be a full-season rookie driver for Harding Steinbrenner Racing in 2019.
He catapulted to success this year by winning the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship and added an impressive ninth-place finish in his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at the season finale in September.
“I couldn't be more excited,” O’Ward said of the upcoming COTA race. “I lived in San Antonio for like seven years of my life, so this is the closest thing I'll get to a home grand prix.
“I'm obviously working to get a Mexican grand prix (on the INDYCAR schedule), maybe 2020, but as of now I think this will do the job. I think the facilities are amazing and I think the racing is going to be awesome.”
Tickets for the Circuit of the Americas race go on sale at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday. For more information, click here.