NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Circuit of The Americas

NASCAR to make debut at Circuit of The Americas

The anticipation has been building and the time has come for the NASCAR Cup Series to make its debut at the Circuit of The Americas this Sunday, May 23 for the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The Circuit of The Americas (COTA) is a multi-elevational, 20-turn, 3.41-mile, paved road course located just outside Austin, Texas, and will be the stage for this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race. The Circuit of The Americas is the second of seven road course tracks on the Cup Series schedule this season – Daytona RC (won by Christopher Bell, 2/21), COTA (5/23), Sonoma (6/6), Road America (7/4), Watkins Glen (8/8), Indianapolis RC (8/15) and Charlotte ROVAL (10/10).

This weekend’s procedures will be action packed, with practice and qualifying taking place over the weekend. This will be the third of eight race weekends this season with designated practice and qualifying.

The lone NASCAR Cup Series Practice will take place at 10:05 a.m. ET – 10:55 a.m. ET (Saturday, May 22) and can be viewed on FS2 from 10-11 a.m. ET.

The Busch Pole Qualifying will be held on the same day as the race at 11:00 a.m. ET (Sunday, May 23) and can viewed on FS1 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET followed by NASCAR Race Day (1 p.m. ET).

Expect the drivers and teams to soak up every bit of the extra time on track because very few of the competitors in the field have any experience in a stock car at the road course. Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champ Kyle Busch participated in a FOX Sports production day at COTA back in April, where he got to drive production cars around the 3.41-mile course.

“It’s definitely an interesting place,” said Busch. “It’s a long course – a lot of corners, a lot of high-speed straightaways, heavy braking zones, so it’s definitely going to have its challenges for the drivers as well as the equipment.”

This weekend’s event, the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix is scheduled for 68 laps (231 miles). The race will be broken up into three stages. The first stage is 15 laps, the second stage is 17 laps, and the final stage will be 36 laps in length.


NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: EchoPark Texas Grand Prix

The Place: Circuit of The Americas

The Date: Sunday, May 23

The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 1 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 231 miles (68 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 15),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 32), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 68)


2021 NASCAR Cup Series season embraces road racing

For the first time in a NASCAR Cup Series season (1949-2021) the schedule calls for the series to visit seven different road course tracks – Daytona International Speedway Road Course, Circuit of The Americas (COTA), Watkins Glen International, Sonoma Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (ROVAL) and Road America.

The previous most road courses the NASCAR Cup Series competed on in one season was four back in 1964 and 1957.

Series Track Track Type Winner Date Season
Cup Augusta (RC) Road Course Fireball Roberts 11/17/1963 1964
Cup Bridgehampton Road Course Billy Wade 7/12/1964 1964
Cup Riverside Road Course Dan Gurney 1/19/1964 1964
Cup Watkins Glen Road Course Billy Wade 7/19/1964 1964
Cup Kitsap Road Course Parnelli Jones 8/4/1957 1957
Cup Lancaster Road Course Marvin Panch 11/11/1956 1957
Cup Titusville-Cocoa Road Course Fireball Roberts 12/30/1956 1957
Cup Watkins Glen Road Course Buck Baker 8/4/1957 1957

Road Warriors: Cup Series best on the road courses

With so many unknowns for the teams this weekend, a lot of eyes will be on the known road course ringers in the NASCAR Cup Series, specifically 2020 series champion Chase Elliott who leads all active drivers in road course career wins with five victories. But Elliott isn’t the only active driver entered this weekend with road course wins on his resume, a total of nine drivers entered this weekend have a former NASCAR Cup Series road course victory.

Active Cup Drivers With Road Course Wins & Where

Active Drivers Road Course Wins Tracks/Seasons
Chase Elliott 5 Charlotte RC (2019, 2020), Daytona RC (2020), Watkins Glen (2018, 2019)
Martin Truex Jr 4 Sonoma (2013, 2018, 2019), Watkins Glen (2017)
Kyle Busch 4 Sonoma (2008, 2015), Kyle Busch (2008, 2013)
Kevin Harvick 2 Sonoma (2017), Watkins Glen (2006)
Christopher Bell 1 Daytona RC (2021)
Ryan Blaney 1 Charlotte RC (2018)
Denny Hamlin 1 Watkins Glen (2016)
Joey Logano 1 Watkins Glen (2015)
AJ Allmendinger 1 Watkins Glen (2014)
Kurt Busch 1 Sonoma (2011)

Three drivers thirsty for a win this season, Kevin Harvick (nine wins), Denny Hamlin (seven wins) and Chase Elliott (five wins), led the series in wins last season scoring victories in 21 of the 36 races. But this season all three have goose eggs in the win’s column, but this weekend that could all change.

If Elliott secures his sixth NASCAR Cup Series road course victory this weekend, he will become the seventh driver all-time with six or more road course victories, joining the all-time series leaders and NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon (nine road course wins), Tony Stewart (eight wins), Bobby Allison (six), Richard Petty (six), Rusty Wallace (six) and Ricky Rudd (six). Elliott almost got his sixth at the Daytona Road Course earlier this season, leading a race high 44 laps but was shuffled in a late restart that took him off the course, he rebounded to finish 21st.

Expect the former road course winners to contend for the victory this weekend as well. Six of the nine former Cup road course winners entered this weekend finished in the top-10 at the Daytona Road Course earlier this season: Christopher Bell (first), Joey Logano (second), Denny Hamlin (third), Kurt Busch (fourth), Kevin Harvick (sixth), and AJ Allmendinger (seventh).

Several of the Cup drivers will be pulling double duty this weekend, to log those much-needed extra laps, one such driver is Kevin Harvick who will be in both Cup and Xfinity races this weekend.

“I want to make sure we’ve hit most of the curbs and know where you can take a risk making a pass and where to make time and how to get on and off pit road in a live situation, because the practices are short,” said Harvick. “The Xfinity car is going to be the best tool, and just being able to make laps is the most important thing.”

Harvick will be joined by fellow Cup drivers – Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick – in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

Called Up: Road Aces join the fun on Sunday

Three drivers that have been tapped to showcase their road racing skills this weekend that are worth keeping an eye on are Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger and Live Fast Motorsport’s Kyle Tilley.

Team Penske’s 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, Austin Cindric, will be piloting the No. 33 Ford this weekend and will have to qualify on time to make the race, but if he does, he anticipates quite the event.

“I think the restarts are gonna be wild,” said Austin Cindric in his media availability this week. “You have a very wide inviting front straightaway. You even see it in the F1 races there. I mean, guys will drive it off in there and collect three or four cars, so I think restarts are definitely going to pretty crazy in all three series — a lot of opportunities to pass at this racetrack, a lot of tire fall off, which obviously provides a bit of a dynamic to the race, whether if it’s on strategy or on the racetrack, so, otherwise, you kind of have every type of corner at this racetrack.  There’s a lot to look forward to, I think for the NASCAR fans and a lot of unknowns for us as drivers.”

Cindric has made four Cup starts this season for Team Penske posting an average finish of 21.8. Before competing in the NASCAR, Cindric learned the ropes in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship from 2017-2019 gaining valuable road racing skills. Plus, the up-and-coming star has posted four of his 11 career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins on road courses.

Kaulig Racing has entered their part-time No. 16 Chevrolet team with road ace AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel this weekend. Allmendinger’s lone NASCAR Cup Series career victory came at Watkins Glen International (2014). He also has four road course wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Allmendinger also has road course wins in CART and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (2021 Rolex 24). He competed in the first road course on the schedule this season at Daytona and started 34th due to Metric Qualifying and raced his way up to a seventh-place finish. He will also be competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

Last but not least is Live Fast Motorsport’s pick for the inaugural Circuit of The Americas event, driver Kyle Tilley. Tilley is an accomplished road racer from Bath, England, that will pilot the No. 78 Ford this weekend at COTA. Tilley currently competes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the Era Motorsport’s ORECA LMP2 07. Tilley alongside drivers Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel and Paul-Loup Chatin finished sixth overall and won the LMP2 class in this season’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.  This will be Tilley’s NASCAR national series debut this weekend.

Joe Gibbs Racing looks to ring the ‘Bell’ at COTA

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell surprised many of the critics with his early season win at the Daytona Road Course, but now the 26-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma has the opportunity to continue to prove the win was not a fluke as he goes for back-to-back road course wins this weekend in the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas.

Bell led twice for five laps en route to his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at the Daytona Road Course back in February. Bell passed Joey Logano with just two laps remaining to take the win in a wild, rain-filled event.

Bell is no stranger to running well at road courses. In the NASCAR Xfinity he also has a victory at Road America (2019).

Bell is currently 12th in points having posted one win (Daytona RC), two top fives and five top 10s this season.

Road Courses are a great place for a driver looking for his first win

With all the unknowns and the outstanding unpredictability of the competition this season, this week’s new venue – the Circuit of The Americas – could offer a great opportunity for a driver to grab a first-time win.

Road course events are notorious for granting drivers their first career win in the NASCAR Cup Series. The most recent example of that was at the Daytona Road Course earlier this season when Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell grabbed his first Cup career victory. Even the sport’s ‘Most Popular’ driver Chase Elliott, now considered a road course favorite, grabbed his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Watkins Glen International in 2018. In total, 16 different drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series have earned their first NASCAR Cup Series career victory on a road course.

Drivers That Earned Their First NASCAR Cup Series Win On A Road Course

 

First-Time Winners Dates Road Courses
Christopher Bell Sunday, February 21, 2021 Daytona RC
Chase Elliott Sunday, August 5, 2018 Watkins Glen
AJ Allmendinger Sunday, August 10, 2014 Watkins Glen
Marcos Ambrose Monday, August 15, 2011 Watkins Glen
Juan Pablo Montoya Sunday, June 24, 2007 Sonoma
Steve Park Sunday, August 13, 2000 Watkins Glen
Bill Elliott Sunday, November 20, 1983 Riverside
Ricky Rudd Sunday, June 5, 1983 Riverside
Tim Richmond Sunday, June 13, 1982 Riverside
Mark Donohue Sunday, January 21, 1973 Riverside
Ray Elder Sunday, January 10, 1971 Riverside
Darel Dieringer Sunday, November 3, 1963 Riverside
Dan Gurney Sunday, January 20, 1963 Riverside
Eddie Gray Sunday, June 1, 1958 Riverside
Parnelli Jones Sunday, August 4, 1957 Kitsap
Chuck Stevenson Sunday, November 20, 1955 Lancaster

This weekend, 19 different drivers entered at the Circuit of The Americas are looking for their first career NASCAR Cup Series win.

Playoff Bubble: New venue provides new opportunity to win

With 10 drivers already locked into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and one spot reserved for the points leader without a win (currently Denny Hamlin), that leaves just five spots still up for grabs by virtue of a win or on points as the series heads to the Circuit of The Americas this weekend. The NASCAR Cup Series has reached the halfway point in the 2021 regular season schedule and time is of the essence for teams to solidify their position in the postseason.

One driver along the Playoff cutline riding the momentum right now is Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick. After dropping as far as 28th in the points following Atlanta (3/21), the 25-year-old from Corning, California has put up five of his six top-10 finishes this season and has clawed his way back up to 16th in the series driver standings – the final transfer spot for the Playoffs. With his eighth-place finish at Dover last weekend, Reddick is now 17 points up on Matt DiBenedetto in 17th in the driver standings – the first spot outside the postseason cutoff.

Of the drivers not already locked in to the Playoffs by wins or being the points leader but are above the postseason cutline – Kevin Harvick (+151 above Playoff cutline), Chase Elliott (+146), Austin Dillon (+60), Chris Buescher (+28) and Tyler Reddick (+17) – getting that first of 2021 season is crucial with the parity of the competition this season. With 13 races left in the regular season and already 10 different winners in the first 13 races of the season, the odds of five more different winners happening are not that farfetched.  Though it would be the first time more than 15 drivers have won in the NASCAR Cup Series since going to the elimination-style format in the Playoffs (2014-2021), the previous record for most wins during that time was 15 different winners in 2017. Last season the NASCAR Cup Series produced 13 different winners, led by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick with nine victories. Harvick is still looking for his first win of the 2021 season; he finished in the top-10 (sixth) at the Daytona Road Course earlier this season.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Matthew McConaughey named grand marshal at COTA – This week it was announced that Texas native Matthew McConaughey, an award-winning actor, bestselling author, co-owner of Austin FC and a professor and Minister of Culture at the University of Texas, has been named the Grand Marshal for the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas.

“We are thrilled to have Matthew McConaughey serve as the Grand Marshal for the much-anticipated inaugural EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix here at Circuit of The Americas,” said Bryan Hammond, executive director for NASCAR at COTA. “Matthew is beloved here in the state of Texas and makes his home right here in Austin when he’s not traveling around the world for work and passion projects. As a motorsport enthusiast of NASCAR and other forms of racing, we couldn’t think of anyone better to give the command to start engines for this historic race.”

It’s the second time McConaughey has served in a Grand Marshal role for a NASCAR race as he also gave the command to start at the Daytona 500 in 2005.

“I’m honored to be the Grand Marshal for NASCAR’s first visit to Circuit of The Americas here in my hometown of Austin,” said McConaughey. “There’s nothing more American than NASCAR racing and it’s wonderful to see the sport make its first visit to this challenging road course.”

William Byron surfs a top-10 hot streak to COTA – Hendrick Motorsport’s driver William Byron has been considerably consistent this season posting 11 consecutive top-10 finishes from the third race in the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he won to just last weekend at Dover International Speedway. Now the North Carolina native, Byron, heads to the Circuit of The Americas to keep the streak alive. Byron is tied with Joey Logano (2015) for the third-most consecutive string of top-10 finishes among active drivers with 11 each, behind Kevin Harvick (2020) and Kyle Busch (2018-2019) each with 13 consecutive top-10 finishes.

Top Five Active Cup Drivers With Most Consecutive Top-10 Finishes

Active Drivers Consecutive Top-10 Finishes Season
Kevin Harvick 13 2019-2020
Kyle Busch 13 2018-2019
Joey Logano 11 2015
William Byron 11 2021
Brad Keselowski 10 2015

Harvick and Busch’s streaks began in one season and ended in the next season, where as Logano and Byron’s were achieved all in one season. Logano’s streak of 11 straight top 10s also included five wins in 2015.

The all-time NASCAR Cup Series record for the most consecutive top-10 finishes is 24 set by Herb Thomas in 1953 (5/17/1953 – 10/4/1953) and then later tied by Joe Weatherly in 1962 (7/17/1962 – 11/22/1962).

NASCAR Hall of Famer and FOX Sports TV analyst Jeff Gordon holds the record for most consecutive top-10 finishes by a Hendrick Motorsports driver with 21 straight top 10s from 6/14/1998 – 2/14/1999, Gordon also put up 14 straight top 10s from 6/18/1995 – 10/1/1995.

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