NASCAR Cup Series at COTA Preview
A wild race at a brand-new Atlanta Motor Speedway saw William Byron take a thrilling victory, becoming the third Hendrick Motorsports driver to win in the season’s first five races.
This weekend throws a different challenge to the teams of NASCAR’s top division, as the Cup Series travels to Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin for the running of the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix.
This will be the first of six road course races on the 2022 schedule. More importantly, it will be the first road course race for the new Next-Gen car.
The Next-Gen car was designed with road racing in mind and includes several elements similar to what is seen in sports cars. The new car could make road course racing even more aggressive and exciting than it has been in past years.
As it relates to the track itself, this will be the second time that NASCAR has visited COTA – a track that has also hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix since 2012 – after the Cup Series debuted there in 2021.
However, last year’s event was marred by inclement weather and heavy rain, which led to several massive crashes and had many questioning NASCAR’s protocols for racing in the rain.
As the weather continued to worsen, the race was finally called after 54 laps, with Chase Elliott being declared the winner.
This time around, it appears that no rain is in the forecast for Sunday, which means that teams and drivers will likely get their first true opportunity to test their skills and speed on the tricky and technical 20-turn, 3.426-mile circuit.
When picking favorites for the weekend, it’s tough to look any further than Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson, as the two combined to win five of the seven road course events on last year’s schedule.
Elliott in particular should be hungry, as he returns to COTA as the defending winner, but also the only Hendrick driver to have not yet won a race this season.
Expect Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric to also be strong this weekend, as he comes from a road racing background and was always a contender for road course victories coming up through NASCAR’s lower divisions.
But with two first-time winners in the first five races, road courses provide an opportunity for another driver to add their name to that list.
Most fans probably didn’t have Ross Chastain as the hottest driver in NASCAR on their Bingo card entering the season. But after back-to-back runner-up finishes and a finish of third before that, Chastain seems to be establishing himself as a weekly contender.
Chastain is also coming back to a track where he had an impressive fourth-place showing a year ago, signaling that this could finally be his weekend to break through.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and Chastain will be hoping that applies to watermelon smashes as well if he can take home the checkered flag on Sunday.
Kasey Kreider is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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