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Austin American-Statesman

AGP Becomes Official Supporter of Meals on Wheels and More

AGP Becomes Official Supporter of Meals on Wheels and More

Today we announced an agreement to be an official supporter of Meals on Wheels and More of Central Texas (MOWAM). This 40-year old Austin non-profit operates about twelve varying service programs, with Meals on Wheels volunteers delivering daily nutritious meals to over 5,000 homebound individuals in Central Texas. MOWAM meal deliveries help elderly and disabled homebound individuals live an independent life while saving an average of $35,510 of state spending by keeping them at home and out of assisted living.

In 2011, MOWAM prepared 967,495 meals, placed 10,274 care calls, made 5,224 trips to the grocery store, made 786 home safety improvements and repairs, and provided 4,458 bags of groceries to those most in need. These services provide thousands of individuals in Central Texas with the support they need to live independently.

As a weekly delivery volunteer since 2007, I'm amazed that in less than the time it takes for a conventional lunch break, we can make a difference in clients’ lives by delivering a hot, nutritional meal and a smile. It really is that easy and fast!

Since 2010, we've been brainstorming ways to partner with MOWAM. We wanted to work with a reputable organization that benefits many Austinites immediately and effectively. When we were honored as #1 in Austin for Social Media by the Austin American-Statesman, we immediately saw a greater need to use our skills for social good. Earlier this year while volunteering, I snapped a photo of my insulated MOWAM delivery bag. I posted the photo to our Instagram account with the tagline: “For every “Like” on this photo by midnight, May 31, 2012, The Austin Grand Prix will donate $1 to Meals on Wheels and More of Central Texas.” The social giving initiative resulted in 14 likes, which doesn’t sound like much, but it is enough to provide 6 meals to those who need it.

On October 1, we shared another MOWAM photo on Instagram but also sent it out to our 7,000+ followers on Twitter. The idea was for AGP to donate $1 for every Retweet of the message or “Like” on the Instagram photo, up to $100. Within 24 hours the message had been Retweeted 150 times. To date, the message has been shared 300 times and been “Favorited” by 7 followers. On Monday, we donated the $100 check to MOWAM.

We will continue to lead social media giving initiatives for MOWAM that make it easy for members of the motorsports community to donate with the click of a button. Thad Rosenfeld, Director of Communications for MOWAM, had this to say:

Meals on Wheels and More is excited to be associated with The Austin Grand Prix, a locally owned and operated business that truly cares about the Central Texas community it serves.

// Please click here to learn how you can volunteer with MOWAM. If you have any creative giving suggestions, send us a message

MOWAM donation 2.jpg

Thad Rosenfeld, Director of Communications for Meals on Wheels and More, accepts a donation from Kerri Olsen on behalf of The Austin Grand Prix

Two-Wheel Update

World Superbike at Miller Motorsports Park

Two important pieces of information were released over the weekend concerning two-wheeled racing.  First, World Superbike (SBK) is moving to Laguna Seca in 2013, and second, MotoGP's 2013 calendar was released with two unconfirmed races in April, sans Austin.

// Superbike

Since visiting Miller Motorsports Park in May of this year, the idea of SBK coming to Circuit of The Americas has been in the back of my mind. Speaking with several SBK officials that weekend, the option to move to Austin was well received but no one would confirm whether talks were underway. SBK seemed happy with their stint at Miller but it was clear the new facility couldn't overcome the lackluster crowds and minimal exposure associated with the event.

In line with the overall sentiment from these discussions, this past Friday a new three year contract to host the United States round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was announced. Laguna Seca has replaced Miller Motorsports Park starting next year, opting to return to the Californian track where MotoGP also runs.

// MotoGP

Since MotoGP was put in limbo earlier this year, a serious void was created by the lack of a two-wheeled series at COTA. Frustrating many season ticket holders who expected MotoGP to be a foundation of the facility's program, the issues between Tavo Hellmund and Circuit of The Americas bled over to the MotoGP side of things, surprising many who hoped the series would be free of the F1 drama.

Waiting patiently for things to be resolved, complications were revealed when former MotoGP Champion Kevin Schwantz announced a lawsuit against COTA, claiming they went around him to secure an alternate deal with MotoGP owner Dorna and push him out.  While this issue remains to be resolved, motorcycle governing body FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) released a provisional calendar with two races in April yet to be confirmed. 

Two weeks following the season opener in Qatar, back-to-back races on the 14th and 21st of April are unconfirmed and the season expands from 18 races in 2012 to 19 races for 2013. The fourth event on the calendar is Spain, and with only Portugal, Spain's close neighbor, missing from the 2012 calendar, it's very possible what has yet to be confirmed is how the logistics between Austin and Portugal will take place in just one week between the two events.

Given the emergence of Schwantz's case against COTA, one could argue that there's little reason to pursue legal action unless a deal between Dorna and COTA is underway. The silver-lining is that we may soon have the top two-wheeled series here in Austin, but we'll continue to wait until official word is out later this year.

Save Your Seat In Line at COTA

Seating diagram of Main Grandstand provided by Circuit of The Americas.

This evening COTA announced a waitlist-style deposit option for "Select Seating" at the circuit, and released a seating diagram for the Main Grandstand.  Though the details provided by COTA are relatively vague as to the location of these seating options There are still many details yet to be released, but fans are able to place a deposit of $100 through the Circuit's Paypal account to reserve their position in the waitlist for these future purchase opportunities and "seating licenses."

Combined with a website redo, Seat Licensing information and FAQ can be found here at the Circuit's new website.

Detailed information about location and pricing of these seating options are not specific, and no seating chart or map has been provided but the seating diagram helps to understand the general locations and types of options available.  Additional information was provided by COTA to John Maher at the Austin American-Statesman:

The seat licenses will be for all racing events at the circuit for the next 15 years. A license does not include the price of tickets for those events. The price for the seat license varies according to the proximity to the finish line and the amenities offered.

In the main grandstand, which will have 26 rows, those amenities will include stadium seats, in-seat food and beverage service, priority on-site parking and a direct view of three big video boards. The main grandstand features a view of the start/finish line and the pit area.

There will also be select seating available at two spots that figure to provide some of the most dramatic views of the race — Turn 1, and Turns 15 and 16.

The seat license does not include the price of tickets, though from the FAQ it says it will be refunded if you decline to purchase later.  It does not indicate whether or not the $100 seat deposit purchase will eb applied towards any future monies spent with COTA.

The newest rendering from Circuit of The Americas, released Jan. 21, 2012The most interesting part of this story is the ticketing portion of the timeline which goes well into the summer of 2012.  The priority based waitlist system went active at 10:00PM January 21, 2012 and lasts until Febuary 13; after that, the website indicates, a survey will be sent out and then sales representatives will contact individuals who made deposits in order to process transactions beginning March 1, 2012.

Those fans hoping to lock in Grandstand tickets before they make travel arrangements will likely be quite frustrated as those tickets are not expected to go on sale until Summer 2012.  Details on regular grandstand tickets and general admission have not been annouced as of yet.

We will continue to update you with progress as more details are released.

// UPDATE 01

We received a more-detailed seating diagram, posted it above and updated the article to reflect this information.

Always Have a Plan B


Sadly, this is the update that we didn't want to be writing about.

Late last night, the Austin American-Statesman posted this update on the Red Bull F1 Showcar:

Red Bull announced early today that they are not doing a public show car event in Austin this week.

“Due to feasibility, a formal Formula One show car demonstration that is open to the public will not be executed this week,” Red Bull said in a statement. “However, in an effort to bring fans up-close and personal to Formula One, the Red Bull Racing show car will be on display in front of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum this Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.”

We don't have any further answers to the Who? What? When? Where? and Why? of it, but don't stay in bed and sob Satuday morning...

We planned an informal meetup from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM on Saturday at Doc's Motorworks on South Congress. Doc's is AWESOME! They have FANTASTIC food, great drink specials, and are located smack dab in the middle of Austin on the famed South Congress Avenue.

Come join us and connect with other motorsport fans while enjoying the legendary views of downtown Austin.

We'll also have video set up for you to share your thoughts about Austin and send a message to other motorsport fans around the world.

Oh wait, did we mention:


So, here's your plan:

Stop by the Austin Infiniti dealer today from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM to check out their "Infiniti Red Bull Racing F1 Car." They're located at 8140 Burnet Road, Austin, Texas.

Go down to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum around noon on Saturday to see the Red Bull Racing F1 Showcar which will be on display for the public. Who knows who else could be there alongside the car...

After the museum viewing on Saturday, take the short 5 minute drive down Congress Avenue to Doc's Motorworks, located at 1123 South Congress Avenue. Get free schwag! Be on TV! Well, on the internet at least.

We've been very pleased with the response for our Facebook Event with 85 people RSVP'ing within 24 hours. It's clear y'all are very excited about Formula 1 returning to the U.S. We hope that you'll join us Saturday at Doc's Motorworks so that we can compile interview clips to express the enthusiasm and support for Formula 1 in Austin, with hopes that Red Bull hears the message and returns soon to give Austin a proper show.

Slow Down There 'Pardner, Keep Your Shirts On

Is this really what we want to see in front of us at an F1 race in June? Lets hope this guy gets a COME AND RACE IT™ shirt!Many in the motorsports industry were quite surprised when the FIA World Motor Sport Council established the preliminary 2012 calendar a few months ago and set the Inaugural Austin F1 race date for June 17th, 2012. If you were to ask any Austinite about holding a major event outdoors in the summer, they would have just about died laughing. Clearly, the WMSC and other primarily European F1 decision makers didn't quite understand the gravity of the heat in Texas, and what it would mean to the many international travelers whom would be leaving 21º C (70º F) average highs in Europe, would be very surprised with Austin's average of 33º C (91º F) for the month of June.

We expressed our same concern when we first heard about the June race date, but didn't bring it up, expecting it to be changed later in November, when the official 2012 calendar is set.  Well as Autosport is reporting today, Bernie Eccelstone has sent out a message to the teams about modifying the calendar for the 2012 season and is expected to push for Austin to be moved to November, just before the Brazilian GP.

This is very welcome news from our point of view and also makes a lot more sense logistically. Granted, the Canadian GP in Montreal is in early June and holding the USGP just back-to-back is logical. However, this would force the teams to either drive from Montreal or pack up and fly to Austin. 

F1 car being loaded on DHL plane for transportTransporting the teams is a costly and logistically complex operation, employing many people dedicated just to move the teams around the world. Thankfully, the F1 fleet of DHL planes on their way to Brazil in November, stop over at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) for a layover.  It's no coincidence that COTA picked a parcel of land so close to the airport here in Austin, whereby having the F1 fleet fly through Austin would be cost effective and efficient.  Things just keep falling into place, huh?

So what does this potential calendar change to late fall really mean?

1) It will be significantly cooler and more enjoyable for you to walk around the track, explore the various events at Circuit of The Americas and in downtown Austin, and allow you to focus on having fun in our fine city; not spend it hopping from shade spots to shade spots, searching for water, misters and A/C.

2) This will allow COTA to meet more of the deadlines with ease and ensure that the facility is at its peak operational capability when the teams arrive early the week before the F1 race.

3) As our friend John Maher at the Austin American-Statesman reported in April, the University of Texas at Austin (UT) stated it would consider moving a 2012 Longhorns football (American) game if it conflicts with the F1 race in Austin. A reminder that each UT Longhorns football game draws a crowd average of 100,000. Also, the F1 calendar is set prior to NCAA football schedules, which would prevent logistical change of schedule nightmares. More great news, unless of course, you were hoping to double book your trip here to see F1 and some great Texas football.

4) Ozone levels are lower in the fall than in the summer and will have less environmental impact. As discussed in the City of Austin's agreement with CELOC (the organizing entity for Circuit of the Americas to receive state funds), the Central Texas ozone season is April 1 - October 31. Therefore, a November race would complement environmental initiatives established by Council Members Chris Riley and Mike Martinez.

And to keep the ball rolling, Austin businesses in cooperation with the Austin Chamber of Commerce are working to get Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) to accomodate direct international flights instead of going through Dallas and Houston.  This of course means less layovers for travelers and a more internationally friendly atmosphere, so lets hope this happens as well!


Final F1 2010 Austin Watch Party

Shortly after the formal F1US announcement on May 25, 2010, I was scouring the internet for any and all available news related to the return of Formula One in the US via Austin.  While trying to identify other F1 fans in Austin, I came across a group of people who gather to watch F1 races when they are re-broadcast on SpeedTV later on race day.  As I recall, I found out about an upcoming watch party at Steiner Ranch Steakhouse for the 2010 European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain via Lionbridge Auto Leasing's Facebook page and countacted Tad Cole to get more details.  I immediately called Kevin and urged him to be at the steakhouse at 2pm Sunday to meet other racing enthusiasts and start networking.  He went, wearing his CARI shirt (which was fresh off the printing press) and joined about thirty other people viewing the race in the bar area, packed with flatscreens and cold beer.  He met Michael Ferweda, owner of Zinger Hardware and the original organizer behind the F1 watch parties, and several others who participate in Your Ride is Here and Hill Country Drives, both car enthusiast organizations that attract fans of racing and encourage charity participation.

Since the first event, Kevin became a frequent attendee and made it out to five watch parties from June through October.  However, with the final race of the 2010 F1 season coming up the second weekend in November, time was running out for me to make it to a party.  Since Southwest Air makes it so easy for me to get from Chicago to Austin (direct flight, best flight crew), I decided I had to be at the final watch party of the season.  Since Kevin’s first attendance the watch parties have switched venues to Cool River Café.  It’s a great spacious venue with surround sound pumping through the theater quality speakers and a 14 foot screen broadcasting the race.  Just like anyone else outside of the live broadcasting zone, Austin F1 fans have to stay socially unconnected and away from Facebook, Twitter and other digital news sources until they watch the race to prevent hearing the outcome.  I can personally attest that once you make the mistake of spoiling an F1 race to another fan, you will never make that amateur mistake again.  It’s like Tivo-ing a BCS bowl game so you can watch it properly in its entirety after work and then a co-worker telling you the outcome of the game in the middle of the work day.  You just don’t spoil it for others.

Fans watching the race in Cool River's Media Bar

On Sunday, November 14, Kevin and I joined about 50 F1 fans at Cool River for the last watch party of the season.  We ordered some Austin favorites – chips and queso to start, a few Shiner Bock beers to wash it down, a Chipotle Burger for Kevin and I had some tasty BBQ Sliders – small bite-sized BBQ cheeseburgers with toppings of your choice.  Shiner is a great Texan beer brewed for over 101 years in Shiner, Texas.  It is a Texas favorite and considered an “import” throughout the rest of the US, including Chicago.  I always get a chuckle when I see Shiner Bock listed as an import beer on a Chicago menu!  It reminds me of the lazy days of summer on a porch in the gorgeous Hill Country of Texas. 

We started mingling with other F1 fans while the Dubai Grand Prix broadcast in the background.  I was extremely excited to meet the wizard behind The Austin American-Statesman's twitter account, @StatesmanF1.  Dave Doolittle and I have been tweeting for months about the latest Austin Grand Prix developments, and we finally got to meet IRL ("In Real Life," as we say in the Twitterverse)! We enjoyed sharing stories and our predictions on how the Dubai Grand Prix would pan out.  I also had the opportunity to meet Michael Barnes while he took in the watch party and gave a different account as Social Columnist for the Statesman.  You can read his recap here.

We chatted with many enthusiastic fans including Mike McKinnon; Sondra Sondregger and Jack McCauley, owners of Velocity Adventures in Austin, Texas; David Hill, an enthusiastic sports photographer; Warren Peck, owner of Races2U (see below), and Ken Adams and Ryan Fox of Your Ride is Here. Your Ride is Here is a non-profit organization that provides cancer patients with transportation to treatment in a high-end automobiles.  Ken realized personally that "making every appointment was critical to the success rate. Therefore, reliable transportation was one of the most important aspects of my life during those two months."  Cancer treatment is hard enough; getting there should be as painless as possible.

Ken and Mark presenting Your Ride is Here

Your Ride is Here raffled off a helmet racing shield and a titanium rear wing shim, which was used in Mark Webber’s Red Bull car from the 2008 season.  Not only is a piece of a Formula 1 car a rare thing to come across, but the helmet shield was signed by Austin pro driver Rodrigo Sanchez, who was attending the party with his manager, Toni Calderon, and representing Racing For Mexico.  Earlier this year, Racing For Mexico announced their partnership with MexNet Alliance, "a non-profit organization composed of business professionals and entrepreneurs whose main aspiration is to serve and provide a model for accelerating the success of present and future Hispanic leaders in the US."  The money raised from the raffle of these two items goes to the transportation costs associated with getting patients to their chemotherapy treatment for Your Ride is Here.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching Sebastian Vettel winning the 2010 F1 race season and celebrated with – what else!? – a cold can of Red Bull! It was thrilling to see the youngest Formula One driver win his first championship.  You could feel the energy and excitement in the room as he crossed the finish line.  Everyone in the room hopes to see Sebastian and all the other F1 drivers and teams in Austin in less than two years.

We also enjoyed our first F1 simulator: a custom rig built by one of the loyal attendees of the watch parties (please share his name if you have it!), which allows you to sit in a life-size seat and drive a race car while the F1 2010 PC Game is displayed on a larger-than-life screen.  Below is video of Kevin giving it a go for the first time on the Spa track in Belgium.  Outside Cool River, Warren Peck of Races2U brings his slot-car racing setup for racers to test their competitiveness and skill against other racers.  He’s built an eight car digital slot racing track that allows fans young and old to race replica Formula 1 cars to their limits and beat each other to the finish line. As Warren describes, "These are not the slot cars we played with as kids. Real racing strategy is required, and it can be quite competitive."

Kevin on F1 Simulator from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.


The watch party was a great way to network with other F1 fans inKerri in her CARI shirt at the watch party Austin in a casual and comfortable environment.  Cool River’s entertainment viewing area was well equipped with plenty of comfortable seating conducive to watching the race alone, with a small or large group of friends, or while meeting new racing enthusiasts.  They also have billiard tables off to the side and I hope the simulator and slot car races will be repeat visitors, as they provide interactive racing experiences which engages F1 fans with two hands on the wheel.  We look forward to meeting you at a 2011 F1 Watch Party!

Did you make it to any F1 Watch Parties in 2010, in Austin or elsewhere?  What is your favorite way to watch F1 racing, aside from the pit, of course!?

See more images in the Gallery - Final F1 2010 Austin Watch Party