The history of auto racing in various forms in New Jersey is a long one. From road races that cross-crossed the state to Atlantic City to raceway park and the Marlboro Grand Prix at the Meadowlands, the Garden State has found its way, even without the power of NASCAR, to come up when organizers look to the New york metro area. The streets of New York are a nightmare, as was Staten island, where NASCAR’s ill-fated bid for a track came and went. Pocono Raceway, not that far from the state borders, and upstate New York Watkins glen remain the spots where racing fans outside of the funny car circuit or the dirt tracks at Wall Speedway need to go to satsify their racing jones.
However this week the trial balloon was again floated to bring big time racing back to the area, this time in the form of a road race in Weehawken and West New York for Formula One. A similar idea came and went last year for Jersey City, because of the lack of political backing and the issues effectively securing Liberty State Park. However this latest bid appears to have governmental support, which could actually make the idea viable at some point down the line.
Formula One, a billion dollar global business, has never taken hold in the United States, and the circuit, led by Bernie Ecclestone, is now making its latest play for the country in the form of a race in Austin, Texas with other markets also in the mix. The New Jersey idea, through the streets of Weehawken and West New York, with the New York skyline as a backdrop, is the best possible option for a road race in the area, although maybe not the best option for New Jersey towns that might be taxed for resources should the race come to fruition. F1 may also not be the only option, as New York based IZOD, has also made overtures to bring Indy Car back to the area as well. Could the open and clear roads of the Meadowlands, where the Grand Prix was last held, be a better spot?
F1 has traditionally found its way to the streets, from Toronto to Monaco, negotiating tight turns and bringing large crowds to a local economy through tourism. Those races have been built over time, and expansion, especially for one race abroad, has really been cost prohibitive in the recent years, as it takes millions to import teams, build tracks and infrastructure and then make sure all is running well. Having at least two races in the U.S. would take away the team sting, but what about the shutting down of roads, and how much of those dollars would go into the cash-strapped local economy, while tourists and teams and media stay across the river in Gotham?
The Meadowlands might make more sense. The roadways are open and have hosted such an event before. The hotel support and other infrastructure for big events exists, given the proximity of the stadium and the arena. Traffic for crowd egress is already addressed, and you do have that skyline in the distance. Now if a promoter is taking on the full nut, and the dollars help those cities just across the river, great. If it is a multi-year commitment, with the support of big brands, even better. Frankly if it was the U.S. based Indy Car circuit, whose parent company employs many folks already in the area, versus the import of F1, even better.
For racing to grow in the Untied States it needs a New York presence. NASCAR has never solved the issue. Indy has tried and failed in earlier efforts. F1 needs that boost to compliment their Texas race and could use the support of Madison Avenue. Can the road race work in such congestion? Do we need it? Only if the dollars make sense. Then, sure thing, start those engines. The pageantry would be amazing, the media sublime, but the infusion of dollars makes it even more interesting.