This was the most awesome day ever.
Last weekend the most amazing thing happened at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas race track: 20,000 people (and 400 dogs!) drove 7,000 cars on a parade lap (at 20 MPH) around the track and raised enough money to provide 1.6 million meals to people in need.
I was one of those drivers and it was glorious.
Even better, my teen daughter drove the track too, her first track experience, and one she’ll remember forever.
We weren’t alone in reveling in the day. Literally every face we saw was beaming. People opened their windows, snapping photos and shooting video as they lined up to make a donation and then head out of the pit for a lap around the track.
Every type of car came to COTA for the drive, from minivans filled with families to pickups, classic Caddys, Telsas, Porsches, BMWs, Mustangs, Challengers, Corvettes and more.
After making the lap, drivers stopped in the parking lot to shoot photos with the track’s iconic tower in the background. Spectators climbed the stairs to the bridge over the track to take in the view. Monster trucks blasted their booming horns to celebrate.
It was the most welcome and fun mass social-distancing exercise ever.
The event came about when COTA founder and chairman Bobby Epstein dreamed of welcoming Austinites to his home turf when the city reopened after the pandemic-imposed shutdown. “Bobby said ‘Austin will open again and when it does I want to invite everyone out to drive this track,’” COTA’s Tim Prukop recounted.
Seeing local food banks being overwhelmed by demand in the wake of the shutdown, Epstein and his team hatched a plan to open the track to the public in exchange for donations of food or cash to benefit the Central Texas Food Bank. And, COTA’s efforts were enhanced with support from their partners; Germania Insurance and Austin Bold FC both donated $10,000 to the cause, and other partners, including local grocer H-E-B, Southside Flying Pizza and United Rentals got on board to help, too.
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If you ever get a chance to drive a world class race #track, do it. Don’t ask questions or hesitate, just do it. That was us Sunday when we heard that the #CircuitoftheAmericas had invited the public to drive a parade lap to help benefit the #Centraltexasfoodbank. Um, OK. This is what it’s like to drive out of the pit at #COTA and take the first couple of curves on the track. And still pretty thrilling, even at 30 MPG. And I bet our #hyundaisonatahybrid was the only car on the track with a solar panel roof! #raceday #trackday #hyundai #sonata #hybrid #F1 #F1racing #mothersday #worldcarawards #WCOTY #drivelikeagirl #femaledriven #shedrives #agirlsguidetocars
Circuit of the Americas Set a Big Example
The event was managed by COTA but it took an army to set up cones outlining the route on and off the track, to collect donations and to ensure a safe event. Hundreds of volunteers from the COTA team, sponsors, partners, friends, family, and others could be seen everywhere, masked and gloved, directing traffic but also waiving and beaming as happy carloads of people drove by.
The event was such a success that COTA is planning another one soon. Afterward, “Bobby said it was the absolute best event we’ve ever had here. He was as thrilled as everyone who attended,” Prukop told us.
And personally, I hope every track in America will plan something like this. There’s no better way to attend a huge event with other people, still be socially distant, help out an urgent cause, and to put a little thrill and fun into driving. And, to drive a world-class track is in itself a special privilege. Thank you, COTA for making last Sunday the best day ever.