AUSTIN, TEXAS - MAY 22: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Llumar Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Texas Grand at Circuit of The Americas on May 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

What to Watch: Full guide for the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas

EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas (⏰ 2:30 p.m. ET | 📺 FS1 | 📻 PRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s race, the 14th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2021 season. 

Where: Circuit of The Americas, a 3.41-mile, 20-turn course located in Austin, Texas
Qualifying: 11 a.m. ET on FS1
Green flag: 2:43 p.m. ET
TV/Radio: FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 76. East southeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%, according to NOAA.gov
Grand Marshal: Matthew McConaughey
Race Distance: 68 laps, 231 miles
Stages: 15 | 32 | 68
Pit-road speed: 40 mph
Caution car speed: 50 mph
COTA 101: Get the full lowdown
Entry list: See who’s in the field
Pit-stall assignments: See who is pitting where | Expert breaks down pit selections

Aanextgenpro 36Five to watch

Here are five big story lines we’ll be following at Circuit of The Americas.

1. With an 80 percent chance of rain for Sunday’s Cup Series race, it sounds likely that drivers and teams will make use of Goodyear rain tires. Fortunately, drivers’ first laps on the Circuit of The Americas course were under wet-weather conditions during the series’ lone practice session Saturday morning. The Cup Series raced on rain tires for a good portion of last year’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The Cup Series will also qualify on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on FS1.

2. Speaking of the Charlotte Roval, defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott was the winner of that race last year and it’s no surprise that he’s the odds-on favorite to win Sunday’s race. Elliott has won five of the last eight road-course races and has led the most laps in four of the past five. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports driver also leads all drivers with six stage wins on road courses. Elliott posted the fifth-fastest time in Saturday’s practice session. He’s still winless so far this year, but COTA very well could be where he turns it all around.

3. Right behind Elliott on the favorites list is Martin Truex Jr., who owns four career road-course victories, second behind Elliott among active drivers. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has earned three wins in the past 10 road-course events. He earned eight top-10 finishes in that stretch, with a worst finish of 14th. Truex has emerged as an early championship favorite with three victories so far this year at Phoenix Raceway, Martinsville Speedway and Darlington Raceway.

4. Another driver who is staking his claim as a threat for more race victories is Alex Bowman. The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports driver won last weekend at Dover International Speedway, his second win of the 2021 season. Bowman and Truex are the only two drivers with multiple victories in the first 13 races. Bowman’s road-course performance is underrated, finishing in the top 10 in three of the last four road-course races. His worst road-course result since joining Hendrick is 14th. Don’t be shocked if Bowman is around at the end to gain his third win of the year.

5. A number of Cup Series drivers used Saturday’s Xfinity Series race to gain extra experience on Circuit of The Americas ahead of Sunday’s event. Full-time drivers Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, Cole Custer, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick and Tyler Reddick all found rides. Xfinity Series regulars AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley will also start in the Texas Grand Prix. Prior to the Xfinity race, Harvick said it was a steep, steep learning curve in the rain on a new track in Cup Series practice on Saturday. More track time can never hurt and we’ll see how they benefit from it.

Race-day staplesSuarez Com Powerrankings Hero

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

Power Rankings: Daniel Suarez turning heads | Scope the ranks
Paint Scheme Preview: Check out the designs taking on COTA | See the schemes
Fantasy Fastlane: See which drivers to use, avoid | Full Fantasy advice | Set your roster
Preview Show: Jonathan Merryman and Alex Weaver preview the race | Watch the show

Get in on the action

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

Betting odds for COTA raceSee the odds
COTA betting: Chase Elliott is priced as big favorite | Find out why
How legal betting is helping NASCAR grow the sport | Read more
Take a shot at winning cash prizes with the free-to-play Jackpot Races app | Hit the jackpot
Full guide to 2021 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ

Learn the new track

It’s NASCAR’s inaugural weekend at Circuit of The Americas. Get familiar with the track.

20 times the turns: Turn-by-turn breakdown of COTA | Learn every corner
Mystery box: Unraveling NASCAR’s newest road course | Full analysis
A majestic place: Explore Circuit of The Americas | Get a tour in photos
• Good tips:
F1 superstar Daniel Ricciardo offers Chase Elliott advice for COTA | Watch video

Fast facts

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

• Chase Elliott has won four of the last five road-course races and has finished sixth or better in seven of the last nine.
• Fresh off his victory at Dover, Alex Bowman has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four road-course starts.
Ryan Blaney’s 2018 win at the Charlotte Roval is the only road course win for Ford in the last 10 races
The race winner started in the top 10 in eight of the last 10 road-course races.
• Elliott (5) and Martin Truex Jr. (3) won eight of the last 10 road-course races.

Catch the pack

Read up on all the headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Byron tops the board: William Byron fastest in rain-soaked practice at COTA | See practice results
• Silly Season:
Brad Keselowski reportedly has offer to move to Roush Fenway Racing with driver-ownership role | Read more
• Potential opportunity:
Matt DiBenedetto could take advantage of Roush-Keselowski rumors | Read more
• Hanging up the helmet:
Jeff Green officially retires from NASCAR | Read more
• A virtual victory:
James Davison dominates en route to Pro Invitational Series win at COTA | Read more
Betting on Bubba: DraftKings partners with Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing | Read more
• Cashing in:
North Wilkesboro Speedway, Rockingham Speedway may get funding from North Carolina government | Read more

Say what?

Drivers have plenty to say ahead of Sunday’s race at COTA | Read our quotebook
Austin Dillon chats with NASCAR.com’s Terrin Waack in garage at COTA | Watch video

“It’s always fun going to a new race track, so I’m looking forward to something new. It’s a doubleheader weekend for us, so it’s going to be busy. I’m excited to be back in the Cup car after a really fun race at the Daytona Road Course earlier this year. Overall, I think it’s a technical race track – weather is going to be a factor, so there will be a lot of challenges that we will have to face. I’m confident that Kaulig Racing will have a solid weekend.” — AJ Allmendinger, No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 09: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Throwback Chevrolet, waits on the grid prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 09, 2021 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

“I don’t even know how much practice we do or don’t have. It’s the same for everybody. We just got to go there and try to hit it off the bat. Chase (Elliott, teammate) has been there. That’s a big help. It will be crucial to learn from him. It’s crucial to learn from him any time we go to a road course, he’s so good at them. Just trying to improve. I feel like our weak point is going to be me as a race car driver. I feel if I do my job, do a good job for the team, we’ll have a good, solid day.” — Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

“I laugh a little bit when I think about going to COTA. That track was designed for Formula 1 cars, cars that can cut around tight apexes like Turn 1, Turn 11 and 12. Our big heavy stock cars are going to struggle with that; but it’s a new challenge and I’m looking forward it. With the asphalt being abrasive at COTA, it’s going to wear out the tires, so your strategy is going to have to evolve on the fly. It’s going to be quick movements that you make and commit to, so with all that being said, I’m ready to attack course, find the right rhythm with the lap time but also find the right tire strategy bring us to Victory Lane. It’s a cool place with 20 corners; lots of action coming.” — Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

“It’s a very technical track and a little bit awkward. Not a ton of flow because there are long straightaways and how tight the corners are and every single corner is different. It’s a very hard track – I can see some people doing really well in parts of it and struggling in others. There will be a lot of passing zones, I think, and it’s going to be racy as hell.” — Cole Custer, No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford