Will IndyCar Return To COTA? (Full Answer)

Share this article

IndyCar has raced at many different circuits throughout its existence. One such track, Texas Motor Speedway, has had a tumultuous stint with IndyCar in recent years. Because they have raced at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in the past, you may wonder if IndyCar will return to COTA. 

IndyCar may return to COTA in the future, but they are also looking to add more oval tracks to the schedule instead. IndyCar owner Roger Penske stressed the importance of having a high-speed oval like Texas Motor Speedway on the IndyCar calendar, which  may delay or prevent a return to COTA.

Below, we will discuss IndyCar’s history at COTA, and the specifics of the IndyCar Classic. We will also reveal if any other motorsports series have raced at COTA, and explore IndyCar’s current situation at Texas Motor Speedway. 

Scott Dixon's orange number 9 Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar on the COTA track with the observation tower in the background, Will IndyCar Return To COTA?

Has IndyCar Ever Raced At COTA?

IndyCar has raced at COTA, but only once, in 2019. This was for the IndyCar Classic race, and IndyCar hasn’t raced at the Circuit of the Americas more often largely because the sport already has an agreement with another Texas track, the Texas Motor Speedway, which has held races since 1997. 

IndyCar is unique among the world’s top motorsports divisions that include NASCAR and F1. While NASCAR primarily races on ovals and F1 races exclusively on purpose-built race tracks (with some street circuits), IndyCar is the most diverse, racing on ovals, street, and road courses

Some of these tracks include the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Auto Club, Charlotte, Dover, Kansas, and Michigan. All tracks that may make you think of NASCAR. IndyCar has also ventured to many tracks NASCAR hasn’t touched, like Edmonton Centre Airport, the Long Beach Street Circuit, and Pikes Peak. 

The Use Of COTA

There are also road courses IndyCar and NASCAR have both raced at. One such track is Circuit of the Americas, also known as COTA. This asphalt course features 20 turns, and is 3.4 miles long (5.5 km). Built primarily for F1 for the United States Grand Prix since 2012, COTA’s management also wanted to attract more events to the venue. 

However, IndyCar could not just host a race at COTA whenever it wanted, thanks to a territorial agreement they had with Texas Motor Speedway (TMS), where they had raced since the track’s earliest days in 1997. Negotiations between TMS and IndyCar occurred in August 2018. 

When negotiations were successful, it enabled IndyCar to schedule the race as a replacement date for the event they held at Phoenix the previous season. The 2019 COTA race was unique, because it was the first time since 2006 that F1 and another major open-wheeled series held an event at the same venue in the same year. In 2006, Champ Car and F1 both held an event at Montreal. 

What Was The IndyCar Classic?

IndyCar’s one and only COTA race was known as the IndyCar Classic, which took place in 2019. The Classic saw Will Power take the pole award, and rookie Colton Herta won the race. It was an iconic win for Herta, as he became the youngest driver in IndyCar history to win a race at age 18. 

The race ran for 60 laps and 205 miles (329 kilometers). Besides taking the checkered flag, Herta also took home honors for running the fastest lap, which took him just 1 minute, 49 seconds to complete on Lap 54. IndyCar scheduled a second COTA race for 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented this from happening, and the Classic has not appeared on IndyCar’s schedule again since. 

KEY FACT: The pole lap at the 2019 F1 race at COTA was almost 14 seconds faster than the IndyCar pole lap! 

As with all new races on the IndyCar schedule, the sanctioning body had to run multiple rounds of testing, which took place in October 2018. Tony Kanaan and Alexander Rossi served as test drivers for the Classic, and between February 12th and 13th of 2019, the rest of the field tested at the venue, racking up 11 hours of testing for IndyCar teams. 

With its exclusion from the current schedule, future IndyCar events at COTA remain a mystery. However, given the track’s popularity among other motorsports series, plus a diminishing racing product at a nearby track (see below), the IndyCar Classic may return. Before this occurs, however, the series will need to jump through a few hoops. 

Does IndyCar Race In Texas?

IndyCar does race in Texas, currently at the Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) in Fort Worth, where it has held events since 1997. IndyCar has raced in Texas at other tracks in the past, including the Houston Street Circuit at NRG Park (8 times) and COTA (once, in 2019).

IndyCar has run 34 races at Texas Motor Speedway, but in 2022, it looked as though IndyCar may return to COTA for 2023, given the increasingly tumultuous racing product at TMS in recent years. As it stands, IndyCar is holding its annual event at TMS in 2023, and one big reason is that IndyCar is looking to keep another oval track on the schedule. 

The Need For Ovals

Texas has been a staple in IndyCar since it opened in 1997, to the point many once considered it to be a crown jewel of the schedule, in a similar light to NASCAR’s crown jewels. They often raced in front of sellout and near-sellout crowds, but this has not been the case in recent years. Attendance has plummeted, and the racing product has, at best, stagnated. 

KEY FACT: Attendance at IndyCar’s 2022 race at Texas Motor Speedway was estimated to be as low as 5,000 – the track can seat around 160,000 people.

However, stagnated racing and controversy surrounding Texas is nothing new, as the former CART Series was forced to cancel an event in 2001 when their drivers suffered from disorientation due to excessive g-forces. Following Dan Wheldon’s tragic death at Las Vegas in 2011, drivers nearly refused to take part in the 2012 event for safety reasons. 

Las Vegas, one of Texas Motor Speedway’s sister tracks, featured similar catch fencing, and drivers feared that such similar catch fencing posed an unnecessary risk. In the years since, fans have complained mainly about single-file racing, one of the common-denominators of a low-quality racing product. 

Will IndyCar Return To COTA?

With many other racing series hosting events at COTA, IndyCar may return to the circuit in the future. However, IndyCar may first look to add more oval tracks to replace Texas if the racing at TMS does not improve, as they are looking to add more ovals to create more balance on the schedule. 

Some oval tracks that have been in the discussion include the Milwaukee Mile, where IndyCar has raced in the past. But regarding TMS specifically, IndyCar owner Roger Penske expressed excitement for the series to return to the 1.5 mile (2.4 km) oval in 2023, stressing the importance of having a fast oval on the schedule. 

For 2023, IndyCar has five events on ovals, including two at Iowa, and one at Texas, Indianapolis, and Gateway. If IndyCar ends up racing at more ovals, then that could open the door to replacing Texas with COTA, but only if the racing product does not improve.

KEY POINTS

• IndyCar has only raced at COTA once, in 2019

• There have been other IndyCar events in Texas, mainly at Texas Motor Speedway

• IndyCar may return to COTA, but it’s not likely at the moment

What Other Motorsports Race At The Circuit Of The Americas?

NASCAR

In 2021, the NASCAR Cup Series ran its inaugural race at COTA. It was the Generation 6 car’s first and only appearance at the track. But the race was called after just 54 laps because of inclement weather. Despite the rain-shortened event, NASCAR deemed it a success, because it allowed the Cup Series to test out the rain tires and windshield wiper. Chase Elliott was declared the winner.

In 2022, NASCAR’s Next Gen car raced at COTA for the first time, and Ross Chastain won the event. The race will return to the Cup Series in the spring of 2023. The NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series have also raced at COTA since 2021. 

Formula 1

F1 has also run at COTA for the United States Grand Prix almost every year for over a decade. The inaugural event occurred in 2012, when COTA succeeded Indianapolis as the event’s venue after a four year hiatus in the US. F1 has made an annual trip to COTA in each year since except 2020 (due to the COVID-19 pandemic).  

MotoGP

Grand Prix motorcycle racing has also held events at COTA, with the first in 2013. Like F1, they have made return trips to COTA in each season except for 2020. MotoAmerica raced there between 2015 and 2019, before they took a two-season break. They returned to the track in 2022. 

Other Racing Series

The Trans-Am Series has also held an event at the track since 2015, and there have also been GT World Challenge races too. The W Series, an all-women single-seater racing series, held one event in 2021, and there have been V8 Supercars, Lone Star Le Mans WEC, and even World Rally Cross races at the track too over the years.

Final Thoughts

IndyCar will only return to COTA if they find more oval tracks to race at that can replace Texas Motor Speedway. The track has only held one IndyCar event in the past (the 2019 IndyCar Classic). The track isn’t on the 2023 IndyCar schedule, so it’s unclear if we’ll see it return any time soon.