“Starting Grid” event kicks off F1 - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

“Starting Grid” event kicks off F1

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Nearly 1,300 people packed into a giant ballroom at the Hilton in downtown Austin Thursday for "The Starting Grid," the official kick off for the festivities leading up to the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.

"This is going to be a great event for Central Texas. It's going to bring the international community to our community. A $300 million plus economic impact," said Steve Sexton, the President of Circuit of the Americas which is the Grand Prix facility outside Austin.

Guests at Thursday's luncheon, which was $55 a plate, included the two men who played significant roles in bringing F1 to Austin: Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein. Texas Governor Rick Perry and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell were also there.

"I'm very confident that we're ready," said Mayor Leffingwell.

In two weeks, up to 300,000 visitors are expected in Central Texas for Formula 1 festivities.

Just a few months ago there were questions about whether the US Grand Prix would happen this year due to funding-related issues.

"There were a lot of doubters, a lot of people who said Formula 1 wasn't right fit for Austin," Mayor Leffingwell told FOX 7 and added that it's clear there is a place for F1 in Austin.

Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard agrees.

"It's a big event. Austin knows a lot about great festivals, music, film, sports events, massive state government is here, things happen. It's not going to be that different in that it's some kind of a unique burden. There's something cool about it," said Howard.

Howard addressed the crowd gave them a sneak peek of his upcoming movie, "Rush," a truck story set in the 1970s about rival F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. Howard hopes the upcoming US Grand Prix will drive interest for his film and the film will do the same for F1 in the U.S.

"It (F1) only moves through your region once a year so there's an element of excitement almost like a festival feeling in and around it so it really makes for a fun weekend," said Howard.

The Formula 1 US Grand Prix is set for Nov. 16-18 at Circuit of the Americas in Elroy, TX.

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