AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — NASCAR driver Kurt Busch said team owner Gene Haas is serious about making a strong entry into Formula One, a move that could expand the series’ footprint in the U.S.
“It will be an incredible challenge. He knows that,” Busch said Sunday at the MotoGP motorcycle race in Texas.
“It’s a matter of the fans getting behind it, supporting Gene and trying to give F1 another chance,” he said. “We’ve had Michael Andretti, before him was his dad. We had Scott Speed as a driver. Now we have an (American) owner. It will be interesting to see how the driver lineup shapes up.”
Haas announced Friday he had been granted a license from Formula One’s governing body to start a team as early as 2015, which would be the first U.S. entry for the series in decades.
At 35, Busch said it won’t be him racing a Haas Formula One car.
“My time has passed to be a competitive driver in F1,” Busch said. “But a test session? I’d jump on that every time. They’re going to have hard time keeping me out of the shop, from hanging out.”
The last attempt for an American Formula One team came in 2010, but the entry lacked funding and development to join. The last U.S.-based team was Parnelli Jones Racing in 1974-76, when Mario Andretti drove. Carl Haas (no relation to Gene) and Teddy Mayer fielded an American team in 1985 and 1986, although they were based in London.
Money is not expected to be a problem for the deep-pocketed Gene Haas, owner of CNC machine manufacturer Haas Automation and the Windshear wind tunnel in North Carolina.
“He’s serious,” Busch said. “You just don’t drop $40 million on a wind tunnel and not think that you’re serious about racing.”
Haas is determined to build his business brand overseas and sees Formula One as the key, Busch said. Busch said he recently toured a Haas manufacturing plant and saw the company shipping machines to Malaysia, Sweden and Argentina.
“They’re going all over,” Busch said. “F1 is a footprint to advertise and to create your brand’s name in motorsport. You do it in F1, there’s no ranking higher.