For the first time ever, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin will host the NASCAR Cup Series from Friday-Sunday this weekend.
COTA will host four races, from Lamborghinis to the famed NASCAR Cup Series, for the first time in the Austin arena.
Here's everything you need to know about the races this weekend:
Matthew McConaughey will be grand marshal
The man "starting the engines" will be none other than Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey, who will grand marshal the race for the first time since he took the reins for the Daytona 500 in 2005.
Expect cup races, truck races, and... Lamborghinis?
(Lamborghini Squadra Corse/Twitter)
The weekend's four races will warm up with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which features racecar-style truck drivers duking it out, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series, or NASCAR's "minor league" circuit, will take some practice rounds on Friday
Lamborghinis will also make it into the mix as the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Series takes to the track all three days.
Finally, the weekend closes out with the big-ticket NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday.
COTA will also host a first-of-its-kind race in the NXS Pit Boss 250.
A new race—NXS Pit Boss 250
The NXS Pit Boss 250 will take its first turns around the track at COTA. NASCAR's minor leaguers will take to the track once again for the real deal Saturday for the winding course of the Pit Boss 250. Expect rising stars including Ty Gibbs, son of NASCAR driver Coy Gibbs and grandson of NASCAR and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, and Jeffery Earnhardt or Dale Earnhardt fame.
Who's who at the Cup
Bubba Wallace 🤝 Michael Jordan— Front Office Sports (@FOS) February 14, 2021
For last year's Daytona 500, Wallace was racing with Richard Petty Motorsports in the No. 43 Chevrolet.
This year, he will pilot the No. 23 Toyota co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. pic.twitter.com/t87H7r6D3w
Michael Jordan has swapped basketballs for wheels and is paired up with NASCAR Cup winner Denny Hamlin, who has selected Bubba Wallace as his new team's first driver. Wallace is currently the only Black driver competing in the Cup Series.
Meanwhile, Mr. Worldwide, also known as Pitbull, has teamed up with Trackhouse Racing founder Justin Marks, who will see Daniel Suarez as their team driver.
Chase Elliott, the 25-year-old son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, was the third-youngest driver in NASCAR history to win a Cup Series Championship last year, and he's back in business for COTA.
Campgrounds open on Thursday at 9 a.m.
Friday will feature practice sessions from the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series (12:45 p.m.), the Camping World Truck Series (2:05 p.m.) and the Xfinity Series (3:05 p.m.).
Saturday will see the first real races, with the Truck Series beginning at 12 p.m., the Xfinity Series Pit Boss 250 at 3 p.m. and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Race 1 at 6 p.m.
Sunday brings out the big guns. The Super Trofeo Race 2 will begin at 11:10 a.m., while the grand finale in the NASCAR Cup Series Grand Prix will begin at 1:30 p.m.
Three-day general admission passes start at $99, while reserved seats begin at $125 for the weekend. Three-day tickets are $10 for kids 12 and under.
Tickets can be purchased at NASCARatCOTA.com, by calling the ticket office at (833) 450-2864, or by downloading the NASCAR at COTA app.
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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