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There’s nothing like a change-of-pace road course race. This week, the NASCAR Cup Series visits Circuit of the Americas for the first time. In fact, all three NASCAR series will compete for the first time at the Austin, Texas track. The EchoPark Texas Grand Prix takes the green flag Sunday afternoon.
The open-wheel genre of racing has enjoyed this location, with Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton winning here five times in the past decade. The IndyCar Series has also visited the venue, with big-name drivers like Scott Dixon competing on the nearly 3.5-mile long course.
Now, we get to see which NASCAR drivers will emerge as the strongest here.
As is typical for road courses, there are unique names in the field. Englishman Kyle Tilley (+100000) — who won at the Daytona Road Course earlier this year in the IMSA Sports Car Championship series — will make his NASCAR debut.
Chase Elliott (+225)
While Elliott had a late-race spinout ruin his chances of winning at the road-course race at Daytona earlier this year, his recent overall record at this style of track is stellar. He came into this season having won four straight races on these kinds of tracks. His five wins and eight top 10s in 13 career road-course starts sums it up, showing that his recent Daytona finish was more of an anomaly than any kind of trend.
Elliott runs seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series standings and has run consistently all year — coming into this weekend with three straight top-10 finishes. What he hasn’t done is capture a checkered flag yet to lock himself into the racing postseason. One can bet that has been discussed in closed-door team meetings this week.
OTHERS: Martin Truex, Jr. (+450), Denny Hamlin (+800), and Kyle Larson (+1000) are next in line when it comes to NASCAR odds this week. Truex has four career road-course victories, while Hamlin has won once. Larson comes into this weekend red hot after two straight runner-up race finishes at Darlington and Dover.
THE DARK HORSE THREAT
AJ Allmendinger (+2800)
Road courses are the most fun tracks to try to pick a dark horse finisher. Allmendinger is the perfect choice for this spot. While he’s only raced once this year in the Cup Series (not surprisingly a top-10 finish at the Daytona Road Course), he has been an Xfinity Series regular and he’s been around stock-car racing for more than 15 years.
In 22 career Cup Series starts at road courses, Allmendinger has placed in the top 10 a total of 10 different times and picked up his lone win (Watkins Glen). In the Xfinity Series, he won at the Charlotte Road Course in 2019 and 2020 and also owns victories at Mid-Ohio and Elkhart Lake — both being road courses.
He’s an interesting candidate to keep an eye on this weekend — in the Cup Series and the Xfinity Series.
OTHERS: Joey Logano (+1800) has taken runner-up honors the past two road-course races (Daytona earlier this year and Charlotte late last season). He has posted four straight top-10 finishes on these kinds of tracks, so he’s certainly not one to count out. And don’t rule out Daytona winner Christopher Bell (+2000). He proved he could do it before, why not again?
THE INTRIGUING LONG SHOT
Kurt Busch (+3000)
It’d be easy to throw the aforementioned Tilley in this category, but there’s another racer who is worthy of note.
It feels a little strange typing Kurt Busch’s name underneath the description long shot but the odds give him the 15th-best chances to win in the Cup Series on Sunday — so he could make for an intriguing wager. While he only has one career victory on a road course, he does have 13 top fives and 23 top 10s.
He’s in 18th place this year in the standings and desperately needs a win to make sure he gets into the postseason. So this is a massive opportunity for a guy who has shown he can wheel his way around the twists and turns of a NASCAR road course. He certainly has the talent to make a splash.