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Leno Gives Austin a Spin

The Tonight Show's Jay Leno gets an exciting, up-close look at Circuit of the Americas

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Jay Leno at COTA in Austin 3083
Leno speaks with members of the media after finishing laps around the track. Photo by Jon Shapley
Jay Leno at COTA in Austin
Jay Leno gives a short press conference at the COTA racetrack and talks about the myriad vehicles he has collected. Photo by Jon Shapley
Jay Leno at COTA in Austin 2435
Jay Leno takes a moment to joke with some children before racing around the COTA track in a McLaren. Photo by Jon Shapley
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The COTA girls wait as the McLaren is prepped for its race against the F1. Photo by Jon Shapley
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Nate Kostegiam prepares GoPro cameras mounted to the McLaren. Photo by Jon Shapley
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The McLaren. Photo by Jon Shapley
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Jay Leno waits as technicians prepare the vehicle. Photo by Jon Shapley
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Leno poses with a helmet for members of the press. Photo by Jon Shapley
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Leno and the driver get ready to speed off. Photo by Jon Shapley
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The cars racing. Photo by Jon Shapley
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Leno records a short TV segment as he returns from his first ride, before going out by himself. Photo by Jon Shapley
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Leno speaks with members of the media after finishing laps around the track. Photo by Jon Shapley
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The McLaren. Photo by Jon Shapley
Jay Leno at COTA in Austin 3039
Leno poses for members of the media after finishing laps around the track. Photo by Jon Shapley
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Jay Leno at COTA in Austin
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Jay Leno at COTA in Austin 3039

Less than a month from now, the Circuit of the Americas’ premier event will come roaring back to the outskirts of Austin. The Formula 1 United States Grand Prix is on the horizon, with a weekend of intense racing action beginning on November 15. Racing enthusiasts are starting to get excited, and Thursday one lucky fan got a chance to take a preliminary spin on the track.

That fan just happened to be a guy by the name of Jay Leno.

Most know him as the host of NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, but he also has a reputation as a guy who really loves his cars. While visiting the Circuit of the Americas, Leno estimated that he was somewhere around 125 cars in his garage, not to mention his equally extensive collection of motorcycles.

“Racecar driving is like sex. Men think they’re good at it, but they’re not.” — Jay Leno 

Naturally, he was excited to tour one of the finest racing tracks in the world. “This is a world-class circuit,” said Leno, remarking on his first impression before he even hit the track. “[It’s] also in my favorite city in Texas. I love Austin.”

Leno also sees the chance for Formula 1 to gain more traction and a larger following in the United States, whether it’s because of a track like Circuit of the Americas or from the buzz that surrounded the Ron Howard film Rush. “I think [Formula 1] is something that the younger demographic has latched ont o, and I think it will continue to grow. So I think it starts with the younger demographic,” he said.

While he does have a busy schedule, Leno does hope to be able to make it out for racing day later in November to catch the Grand Prix.

He also might be coming back for something other than fast cars. “This is the best barbecue town there is," he said. "It’s fantastic. It really is a fun city.”

Before getting behind the wheel of a McLaren 12C to drive around the Circuit’s 3.4-mile, Grade 1 track, Leno also expressed his belief that it won’t be just Formula 1 that will benefit from an American circuit, but racing in general. Although if he comes back for the Grand Prix, he doesn’t see himself as more than a spectator, since he understands the training that goes into it.

“Racecar driving is like sex," said the comedian. "Men think they’re good at it, but they’re not.”

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Tickets for the U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas are on sale now; check out their calendar for other upcoming racing events. 

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