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Ceremonial first lap stirs F1 fever on COTA track

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TWC News: Ceremonial first lap stirs F1 fever on COTA track
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The U.S. Grand Prix is less than one month away, and celebration on the $400 million race track is already underway. The Circuit of The Americas hosted its ceremonial first lap Sunday.

The race is bringing international attention to the Texas Capital. An official F1 race hasn’t been held in the United States since 2007.

"Austin is changing,” Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. “We want to keep what's good about Austin, but we also want to be open to new things."

The race track in southeast Travis County has celebrities paying attention as well.

"Well the great thing about Austin is it's a very sophisticated small town, but it's a big town at the same time,” actor Patrick Dempsey said. “So this is going to be a great place to come and race."

As many as 300,000 fans are expected race weekend. Officials are banking on race fans spending quick money.

"This one event over the weekend could generate about $220 million for Texas, $13 million for the City of Austin alone,” State Comptroller Susan Combs said. “And you ain't seen nothing yet."

To date, local officials estimate $12 million in tax revenue has been collected on construction and other start-up costs. Some of that money could go to public education.

"The money, the taxes that will be generated by COTA will benefit the Del Valle Independent School District," Travis County Commissioner Margaret Gomez said.

Race Legend Mario Andretti was also in town for the weekend, and had the honor of driving the ceremonial first lap.

The 72-year-old Italian-American not only shows confidence for the city of Austin to host a World Class motorsport. He's also impressed with the track itself, especially the not-yet-tested COTA signature turn.

"When people ask me, 'Why in Austin?’ I say, 'Why not?’" Andretti said."Turn one. 'Why?' Because of the uphill, hard braking, tight left-hand so obviously--it's going to invite overcorrecting."

Come race day, promoters hope the 150,000 seat capacity is filled, and if you don't have a ticket, take a seat with the 30 million people expected to watch the F1 race on television.

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