Texas Three-Step: Lone Star State could be on brink of INDYCAR triple crown

Texas has provided a spark for INDYCAR in one way or another since 1973. Now, the state could end up being home to a "triple crown" of INDYCAR events in 2013. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The news broke today that the IZOD IndyCar Series will bring top-level open-wheel street racing back to Texas in 2013 with the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

The race will be held on a 1.7-mile temporary course around the Reliant Park Complex with a carousel that circles the perimeter of the Astrodome. It was last held in 2007 under the auspices of the Champ Car World Series, with the 2008 event canceled just two months before the race due to the Champ Car/Indy Racing League merger.

Houston will become the second city in Texas to host INDYCAR in 2013, joining Fort Worth and the Texas Motor Speedway oval. Intriguingly, it may not be the last, as the Austin-based Circuit of the Americas, a world-class purpose-built road course that will host the penultimate Formula 1 race in 2012, has expressed interest in hosting an IZOD IndyCar Series event as well.

Should the COTA interest develop into an agreement between the track and INDYCAR, Texas would join California as the only two states to boast a "triple crown" of IndyCar competition - an oval, a natural road course, and a street circuit.

Could Texas support three races? Absolutely. Texas is the second-largest state in the United States in terms of total area and second-most-populous according to the latest census. The three cities of Austin, Fort Worth, and Houston are part of a megaregion called the Texas Triangle, within which over 70% of all Texans live. The cities are three of the largest in America - Houston boasts over two million people, while Austin and Fort Worth both average three-quarters of a million residents. Fort Worth can also draw from metropolitan Dallas (1.2 million), while Austin is within proximity of the 1.3 million residents of the San Antonio metro area.

Moreover, Texas has proven to be a stronghold for racing of all types, even in recessionary times. Texas Motor Speedway routinely boasts the best non-Indy 500 crowds for INDYCAR, and its two NASCAR Sprint Cup races are high-water marks for that sanction's attendance figures as well.

The promotional opportunities both for the State of Texas as well as INDYCAR are significant should all three events make it to the 2013 schedule. While California also can boast having a "cross training" slate of events between Long Beach (street), Auto Club Speedway in Fontana (oval), and Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma (road), the three events are separated both by physical distance as well as by timing on the INDYCAR schedule.

Conversely, should IndyCar find a way to split the difference between Texas Motor Speedway in June and Reliant Park in October with a race at COTA in Austin, it could conceivably stage a true "Texas Triple Crown" in the space of four months. The graphic design for such a promotional concept creates itself, considering that each leg of the Triple Crown would fall at a different point of the Texas Triangle. The storyline nearly writes itself (especially if they can find a way to work A.J. "Super Tex" Foyt in there somehow).

It seems apt that such promising opportunity springs from a state that in many ways defined America's bold pioneer spirit. And it would certainly give Texans something else to remember besides the Alamo.

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