Jacksonville Sports Day

NASCAR in Texas to Make Debut at Circuit of The Americas

CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS™ COTA

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.

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.

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.

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