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GP Week : Issue 175
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The Dallas Cowboys won on Sunday. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-23. No, I have not taken leave of my senses to write a column about the NFL in a motor racing publication. It’s just that this is somewhat important. The Cowboys have won four and lost five games this season, and their next three games are at home in Arlington, Texas. The massive domed stadium is called, fairly unimaginatively, Cowboys Stadium, and cost a cool US$1billion. You better believe that football is huge in Texas. I mention this because Formula 1 is also in Texas this weekend. Most of the hardware – the cars, the pit equipment, etc – is on the ground in the Lone Star State already. The personnel will be arriving in the next 48 hours. The history of F1 in the USA is a fascinating one. There have been some classic venues, like Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Long Beach; some semi- successful, like Detroit; and then there are Phoenix, Dallas and at the end of the road, Caesar’s Palace. Optimism is high that the Circuit of the Americas will be in the former category and not the latter, and the hype around the circuit is very positive. But in the modern era, the hype around new circuits is always high and the truth never comes out until there is a Grand Prix held on the track. Even then, F1 can be a guessing game. Heck, who would have bet at the start of 2012 that two of the most engrossing races of the season would take place on tracks where there is almost always no overtaking, Valencia and Abu Dhabi? America is important. In spite of the fact that the proposed race for New Jersey has been postponed – and because of the support of Bernie Ecclestone, that race looks postponed, not cancelled – there is an audience for the sport in the country. The sheer population and economic power are too big to ignore, and not just because of the enthusiasm for all things American. Expect to see quite a few Mexican flags at the COTA track, to show support for Checo Perez, as well as lots of stars and stripes. In the modern era, where money dictates that F1 goes to places like Bahrain and Korea, it is unfashionable to suggest that F1 needs any one country more than the other. But with a new TV deal that will see a handful of races broadcast on NBC in 2013, and barely a week after some young American drivers tested F1 cars, there is a great opportunity for F1 to grab a foothold with the audiences and, maybe, advertisers in the world’s biggest economy. If Austin is a long-term success, this weekend could be a pivotal moment in Formula 1 history, regardless of the thrilling title showdown that is brewing between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso. Oh, and if the F1 racing is not exciting, the Cowboys face the 2-7 Cleveland Browns this Sunday. Being a San Francisco 49ers fan, I do not really care who wins. So long as it is not the Cowboys. OPINION NEVER MIND THE NFL, IT'S A BIG DAY FOR F1 OPINION PHIL BRANAGAN Guest columnist