Op-Ed: McCombs sounds more promising than Hurley ever did

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I’m not going to mince words.

Today’s news about the planned U.S. Grand Prix seems to hit the right notes.

Location that makes sense (and has elevation)? Check.

Website and Twitter? Check. (That’s kind of a joke, yes.)

But most of all — a person with the resources and, more importantly, experience to help see this big idea through? Check.

Enter Billy Joe “Red” McCombs. One-time billionaire (hey, the economy’s hard on us all). Former owner of both an NBA and NFL team. Multiple business interests, including in oil.

Now, if you squint enough, some of those discriptions of McCombs may sound a bit like Chad Hurley, one of the founders of YouTube who was, of course, tied to the failed USF1 effort. Multi-multi millionaire. Different business interests.

A vanity effort by both, perhaps? A reason to worry for fans?

I don’t think so. The key difference is McCombs’ successful sports business experience. This is a guy who was voted owner and executive of the year while running those pro teams. This is a guy who knows and has been involved in fan-friendly sports.

Plus, this is a guy who can operate in the rarefied air of Texas politics and business, which is going to be a must for this track to get completed.

Sure, he appears to be the “deep pockets” guy — but it doesn’t sound like that’s all he is. And I can’t imagine he’d put his reputation, especially in his home state of Texas, on the line if he wasn’t extremely confident that come 2012 the Formula 1 world will be coming to Austin.

I think McCombs is just the credibility and validity that promoter Tavo Hellmund needed. And needed badly.

Now, all that said, I don’t discount that this effort still has a long ways to go and a lot of major hurdles to pass. Sure, there’s a site now for the track (and accompanying complex). But nothing else. And two years isn’t very long off.

But other than holding his press conference this morning in front of a completed paddock, I’m not sure that Hellmund could have done much better for himself and for the prospects for the race.

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