Austin Texas; Circuit Of The Americas
The Saturday session for the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix was a washout. The rain that started falling overnight sustained throughout the day, and continued into the evening. There was a brief window of highly marginal conditions which allowed free practice 3 to proceed. Race organizers held onto a singular strand of optimism as they sought the opportunity for the qualifying session. By 4 PM it was clear to everyone that conditions would not permit any more racing this day. The qualifying session was rescheduled for 9 AM Sunday.
The third practice session ended at 11 AM, before most fans even arrived at the track. As the wet, cold and frustrated fans sought comfort and purpose to to the day I discovered a rainbow which lead to an oasis.
The property which adjoins the southern perimeter of Circuit Of The America’s is owned by Patrick Figueroa. Pat, with the love of his life and partner Stella, add an incredible dynamic to any visitors experience at Circuit Of The Americas.
During every race event Stella and Pat open their house to visitors. I had heard the “Stella and Pat” story after the 2014 US Grand Prix from my friend Mike. As we approached in the pouring rain Stella welcomed Mike by name and opened their doors to us. Serving TexMex style food and several varieties of beer, I felt as though I was meeting an old friend for the first time. After being led to “get a plate of food” from one of the 6 waiting crock pots, I found myself sitting at their kitchen table, enjoying beef barbecue. But far more gratifying than the hot food and cold beer were the sincerely warm smiles of Stella, Pat, his brother …. and their other family members.
Prepared for a few hundred people, Stella and Pat were equally content with the scant crowds that the severe weather brought. Pat described the last party during a MotoGP2 motocycle race. Regardless of the type of racing Stella and Pat get excited, for they love people people. Both her and Pat’s eyes lit up when I asked “why do you do it?” Stella explained that they find great joy in meeting people from all over the world, offering them food and friendship and a taste of Texan Hospitality. She was also grateful for the open invitations to visit people from around the world. But the deeper I dug I discovered that feeding race fans was just the tip of the iceberg. Their motives are firmly rooted in their values, and they receive great joy in welcoming new friends.
The land which the Circuit Of The Americas sits on was once refereed to as “Poor Mans Land”. The property had no special value other than to the family farm owned by Pasquale Figueroa, Pats father. Pasquale had 50 head of cattle and 16 horses. Over time four parcels of land were sold off to pay for his daughters weddings while the remainder of the property was passed to Pat.
Pat received much more from his father than his name and land. Pasquale was an avid philanthropist in the community. He was known to hold “benefits” for needy community members and provided free banquets for local organizations. Pat was modest when he spoke of his father, but Stella was quick to expand. As the Governor and Senioreta of the Local Moose Lodge, they continue the same tradition in their community
The Elroy Road access to the COTA parking lot T serves as their drive way. And it is with no pretense that Stella and Pat welcome passers by in for a bite to eat and to join the party. While huddled in their living room today I met some F1 fans from Brazil and England. A crowd of a hundred plus is more to their liking, but I was grateful that I didn’t have to share them.
So if you are looking to add value to your COTA experience, I highly recommend stopping in to see Stella and Pat. They will will welcome you with open arms. They do not ask for anything but will humbly accept donations, though jar hidden from sight.
Special thanks to my F1 guru John Ranft for his support this weekend.