This September, the NASA National Championships presented by Toyo Tires will return to a single event format where one race will determine who wins the title of National Champion in each NASA class. The Spec Miata race is going to be a barn burner because Toyo Tires has put up a prize package for the class worth more than $100,000, which is the biggest payout ever for an amateur racing class. Of course, you can’t host such a milestone event at just any track, so for 2018, the NASA Championships will take place at the home of Formula 1 in the United States, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The Circuit of the Americas, or COTA for short, came about as a result of an ambitious partnership that was focused on developing a world-class home for Formula 1 in the United States. The idea for COTA was first proposed in 2010 by Tavo Hellmund and the track was designed by Hellmund, motorcycle racing champion Kevin Schwantz, and noted track architect Hermann Tilke. Construction began in 2011, and the track hosted the 2012 United States Grand Prix in November of that year. The track is a stop for nearly all the major professional sports car and motorcycle series in the country and has hosted international series like the Australian V8 Supercars, the Porsche Supercup and the FIA World Endurance Championship. COTA also has impressive chops as a concert venue, with acts like Willie Nelson, the Foo Fighters, Kenny Chesney, and the Dave Matthews Band performing at the onsite Austin360 Amphitheater.
COTA is just outside Texas state capital, Austin, and is a popular tourist destination. Austin-Bergstrom Airport (AUS) connects with all the major hubs in the country, which makes flying in easy. The track is just 12 minutes from the airport, so it’s not out of the question to grab a cab or a ride share from AUS. If you’re driving in, COTA is close to the major north-south route I-35 and not too far from the major east-west route I-10. Access is easy via TX-130, so any size hauler can make it to the track without much drama.
COTA’s location just outside Austin opens up all of the many options in town. There is decent chain hotel lodging near the airport at the Hilton or the Hyatt, but if you’re feeling particularly flush, you can hang your hat at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort or perhaps the Driskill Hotel downtown. Austin is also a great spot for VRBO and AirBnB listings if you want to get some local flavor renting out a private home. Austin has a vibrant nightlife scene on Sixth Street, and there are also many excellent recreational outdoor activities around Austin, so if you stay a few extra days, you’re sure to find some fun while trying to “keep Austin weird.”
If you have spent any time at all watching barbecue shows on the Food Network or the Travel Channel, you know Austin is most famous for the Texas-style barbecue that can be found in the city as well as in the small towns near Austin. Acclaimed pit master Aaron Franklin’s Franklin BBQ near downtown is the stuff of legend, but make sure to plan ahead as the line starts early in the morning and they often sell out by early afternoon.
If you want to go old school and are willing to drive a bit, the Salt Lick, Black’s, Louie Mueller, and Kreuz Market are all solid choices. Feeling adventurous? Wild Bubba’s near the track offers up an amazing selection of exotic meat burgers like kangaroo, yak, and antelope. Whichever route you choose, you’re going to roll into full plates of some fine meaty goodness, so make sure to pack your antacid of choice.
COTA was built to meet FIA’s top specification, so the track is different from older circuits that were created long before modern FIA standards existed. COTA’s track surface is smooth and consistent, with large runoff areas and proper curbing on nearly every corner. COTA also has significant elevation changes around the track that are challenging to master. There are some excellent guides online on how to handle COTA’s 20 turns, so tune up your Google-Fu and imagine sailing into Turn 1 at the front of the pack.
As for local services and parts, Austin has most of the major OEM dealerships and there are plenty of local parts stores for your general automotive needs. NASA sponsor and racing megastore Winding Road Racing calls Austin home, so nearly anything you need, including welding and fabrication services will be within easy reach. You also can rent out the same garages that the big boys use, allowing you to wrench away on some seriously hallowed ground.
If you think you can show those Formula 1 drivers a thing or two and are in to win a NASA National Championship, load up your wagon and make plans hit the trail to the Lone Star State for the big show in September!
Special thanks to Texas Regional Director Will Faules for his help with this guide to COTA.
Circuit of the Americas
9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Austin, TX 78617
150-172 Old Pecan St.
Austin, TX 78701
Hyatt Regency at Lost Pines
575 Hyatt Lost Pines Rd.
Cedar Creek, TX 78612
900 E. 11th St.
Austin, TX 78702
Wild Bubba’s Wild Game Grill
13912 FM 812
Del Valle, TX 78617
Winding Road Racing
2500 Mc Hale Ct. #100A
Austin, TX 78758