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"Start your engines!" Minister of Culture Matthew McConaughey started the race in his signature twang as the grand marshal for Austin's first NASCAR race at Circuit of the Americas on Sunday.
The race ended prematurely due to the rain, but the historic event still made an impact on thousands of Austinites and sports fans from around the country.
With low visibility and excess water on the track, drivers had a hard time keeping control in COTA's first NASCAR race. Two crashes marred the first two stages, and a collision between Cole Custer and Martin Truex Jr. had a fiery end as Custer's front end temporarily went up in flames. Both were unhurt, but officials could no longer ignore the rain.
A red flag was flown into the stormy air, and Austin's first race was delayed in the second stage.
A huge and frightening hit for Cole Custer and Martin Truex Jr. at Circuit of The Americas. pic.twitter.com/dGmCoXQPx6
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 23, 2021
As the rain died down, drivers tried to finish the race, but another red flag meant Chase Elliott was the de facto winner of the race.
Even with a less-than-ideal finish, the race was still an unforgettable experience for a range of characters, from locals to travelers from around the country. The sea of cars in the parking lot were dotted with out-of-state license plates. One family that was camping comfortably on the course lawn said they came in from California.
Thomas Revoir and Benjamin Marshall, wearing just overalls and red-white-and-blue bandannas, were coming from North Carolina, but COTA was just a pit stop as they continued a cross-country road trip.
Revoir and Marshall said they were unhappy with the race being called early because "as Americans we don't fear rain."
Meanwhile, locals embraced a new location much closer to home than Dallas' Texas Motor Speedway. The venue has already hosted Formula One races in the past, but Seguin resident Chris Luna said that NASCAR was different.
For Luna and his crew, the race at COTA was more than just a convenience. After his good friend died last month, Luna and his friends decided to go to the race in his honor.
"He used to be the ringleader for us," Luna said. "He had everything for us, tickets and stuff. But we're coming... because he was NASCAR all the way."
Chris Luna (left) and crew came to the race in honor of their friend who recently passed. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
Even those working the event were excited to see so many in the stands as businesses begin to recover from COVID.
Four women dressed in flaming denim stood out from the crowd. The COTA Girls, who take pictures with fans and work to hype up the stands, said they were happy to be back at work.
On the team, Holly Wood said that the girls usually hype up Formula One races but came to the NASCAR event to get people back into the groove of racing events.
"We're just looking to... get people excited because nobody was out here for a long time," Wood said.
The COTA Girls, dressed in flames, helpe dkeep the crowd lively at the race. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
Food trucks lined the back of the stadium, many of them Austin businesses. Wes Tinsley, co-owner of Quesadillo ATX, said he was grateful to be asked to provide food after a hard year.
"A lot (of businesses) had to shut down but we were fortunate enough to stay afloat, and i hope that this will bring some business for us," Tinsley said. "We're excited to be here and be a part of it for the first time, and hopefully we get a chance to do this again."
The race is part of an explosion of professional sports coming to Austin as it gains recognition and a "boomtown" status. Del and crew sat atop the bleachers of Austin Bold FC, the city's semipro soccer team, to watch the race. Meanwhile, Ray wore a shirt honoring Austin FC, Austin's first professional team of any kind, at the race.
Ray was double-booked for the evening. Directly after catching an adrenaline rush at COTA, he planned on heading to Jack and Ginger's for Austin FC's official watch party.
While the race ended, almost literally, in flames, Austin's enthusiasm at COTA's first NASCAR race proves that there's a hunger for more sports at Austin's premier racing venue.
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Texas voters are split on whether Gov. Greg Abbott should run for a third term and whether Matthew McConaughey should run at all. But Democrats are clear: they want to see Beto O'Rourke on the ballot.
These are the findings of a Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters released this week.
Abbott and McConaughey received the highest favorability ratings of the elected officials, candidates and potential candidates, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
- Abbott: 49%
- McConaughey: 42%
- O'Rourke: 34%
- Former Texas GOP Chair Allen West: 25%
- Former Texas senator and Republican challenger Don Huffines: 8%
Overall, 48% say Abbott does not deserve to be reelected to a third term compared to 46% who say he does. "A Trump favorite in a state that is turning less red in recent election cycles, Abbott has a decent but in no way overwhelming grasp on reelection," Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said in a press release.
Abbott, McConaughey and Beto O'Rourke could vie for governor in 2022. (Office of the Texas Governor)
Voters are also divided on Matthew McConaughey, who is reportedly considering a gubernatorial run. Forty-one percent of voters say they would like to see him run, compared to 47% who say they wouldn't.
The poll found that Democrats and Independents favor the Oscar-winning Austinite, whose party affiliation is unclear. Forty-seven percent of Democrats would like to see him run, compared to 43% who wouldn't. Forty-four percent of Independents would, compared to 43% who wouldn't. Republicans, on the other hand, say 60%-29% they would not like to see him run.
Another possible candidate is former U.S. Representative and presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke, who is also reportedly mulling a bid. Overall voters say 52%-41% they would not like to see him run for governor. But 77% of Democrats and 50% of Independents would, according to the poll.
"McConaughey and O'Rourke may still be on the fence, but their numbers suggest they have the attention of voters," Malloy said in the same release.
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Austinites will soon be able to train like some of Hollywood's biggest stars as F45, a fitness franchise backed by major celebs, like Mark Wahlberg and David Beckham, is on its way to Austin.
F45 listed Austin as the location of its corporate headquarters in a June 21 federal filing—a big shift for the California company. The fitness franchise is preparing for its initial public offering, which will be as an Austin-based company.
F45 will be one of many California companies—Tesla, Oracle and Samsung—that have recently expanded in the Capital City. The company has several famous investors on its side—famed basketball player Earvin "Magic" Johnson and golfer Greg Norman in addition to Wahlberg and Beckham.
The fitness company is opening a 44,000-square-foot headquarters, located at Penn Field on 801 Barton Springs Road, with a lease running through 2029. F45 was one of the early adopters of Austin-based real estate-technology platform AnthemIQ, helping tenants find commercial real estate.
F45 focuses on one-on-one 45-minute workouts, which patrons watch on in-studio displays. With 2,247 franchise agreements spanning across 63 countries, F45 also has offices in Australia and England.
"We believe this flexibility will enable us to capitalize on our estimated long-term global opportunity of over 23,000 studios," the company said in its filing.
The greater Austin area already has 11 F45 locations, which take up 1,600 square feet of space each.
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The staffers are coming! Texas Lege staffers turn to Twitter after special session announcement, defunding
Texas Legislature staff members have taken to social media to raise awareness—and also just air their misfortunes—following the summer special session announcement and their own defunding.
In a game-seven-type move by Texas Democrats, the 87th Texas Legislative session was capped off by a last-minute walkout to avoid a final vote on a bill that would add restrictions to voting.
Needless to say, Gov. Greg Abbott—who cheerleaded the bill throughout the legislative session—was not thrilled.
Not up to date on your Texas Lege drama? Abbott was pointing to when former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis staged a dramatic hours-long filibuster over a 2013 abortion bill, which the public gallery aided. The "story" Abbott is referring to ended with him and other prominent conservatives sweeping the 2014 statewide election and the bill passing in a special session.
According to Abbott, the regular session centered around supporting "hardworking Texans and building a state that is safer, freer, healthier, and more prosperous."
However, the two items deemed at the top of Abbott's wish list for this session—election integrity and bail reform—did not reach his desk at the end of the session, both championed by Abbott to be "must-pass emergency items."
"It is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans that neither reached my desk," Abbott said in a statement. "Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas, which is why these items, along with other priority items, will be added to the special session agenda."
Abbott said he expected lawmakers to work out their differences prior to the special session and continue to pass other emergency items and priority legislation.
So, everything is cool, right? No worries?
Hours before the no vote, as the clock ran out on the bill that he championed, Abbott tweeted that he would veto funding for the entire state legislative branch. The decision would impact not only Texas lawmakers but their staff and aides. "No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities," Abbott tweeted May 31.
I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch. No pay… https://t.co/KNyuNvxP55— Greg Abbott (@Greg Abbott)1622484820.0
With pay, health insurance and other support for staffers on the line, the threats became a reality on June 18 with an official veto of the funds from Abbott.
The veto effectively nixes all funding for the legislative branch.
"Texans don't run from a legislative fight and we don't walk away from an unfinished business," Abbott wrote in the veto. "Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session."
However, questions have been brought up over the constitutionality of the veto itself. Section 24 of the Texas Constitution makes not paying members of the legislature illegal.
The special session is set to begin July 8. So, what does this mean for lawmakers, staffers and aides?
No pay, no insurance... and Twitter followers?
The staffers took their final stand on Twitter where they aired their grievances with the situation and asked for followers to increase their footprint.
Meet Jen Ramos, a staff member for Texas State Senator Judith Zaffarini—and also defunded by Abbott.
My name is Jen. I’m one of the #txlege staffers defunded by Greg Abbott. Apparently now I’m supposed to ask for Tw… https://t.co/pteKADP3Hj— Jen Ramos ✨ (@Jen Ramos ✨)1624466531.0
And she's not alone. Use the hashtag #txlege and you'll find other similar messages online, like Camille's and Hector's and more.
My name is Camille, my friends call me Cam or Cammie. I’m one of the #txlege staffers defunded by Greg Abbott. And… https://t.co/mOvcjxTiUL— Camille Lasin (@Camille Lasin)1624474153.0
My name is Hector. I’m one of the #txlege staffers defunded by Greg Abbott and who had to deal with elections stuff… https://t.co/88PINm9KCv— Hector 🏙🤠 (@Hector 🏙🤠)1624466987.0
My name is Jake Salinas. I'm the TX Dem that saved the film industry in TX and broke quorum on SB7 Now our Gov h… https://t.co/PLf9ScA4Ev— Jake Salinas (@Jake Salinas)1624464237.0
It's unclear whether Abbott and other prominent Republican lawmakers will come together with Democrats to overturn the veto and continue providing insurance and regular pay for lawmakers, staffers and aides.