By Zach Sturniolo
Published: 24 Mar, 2022
4 Minute Read
The Next Gen car is primed for its road-course debut.
NASCAR heads back to Circuit of The Americas on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. After a downpour of rain shortened the inaugural event in 2021, the Cup Series returns to Austin, Texas, for what’s setting up to be a (dry!) thrilling weekend.
Get set for the weekend with everything you need here:
SHIFTING INTO PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
The Cup Series will hit the track for practice on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET (FS1), with the 39 entered teams divided into Group A and Group B. Each group will be allotted 20 minutes of practice.
After practice, each group will be given a 15-minute timed qualifying session in which teams can set multiple lap times. The fastest five cars from each group will advance to the second round, in which the 10 remaining drivers will fight for the pole award.
RELATED: COTA schedule | Cup Series standings | COTA Turn by Turn
— Twenty minutes southeast from the Texas capital in Austin sits the mammoth, 3.41-mile track. Tavo Hellmund announced plans to build the facility on an 890-acre piece of property in 2010, with billionaire Red McCombs named the most financially significant investor.
— The track’s design was submitted by HKS, Inc. and Tilke Engineers & Architects. The Dallas-based HKS designed AT&T Stadium where the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys play, SoFi Stadium which houses the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, among other stadiums. Hermann Tilke is one of four designers recognized by the FIA and has helped create other Formula One facilities like Bahrain International Circuit, Marina Street Bay Circuit and Yas Marina Circuit.
— Since opening in 2012, the circuit has hosted a number of racing and live sporting events including Formula One (2012-2019, 2021), MotoGP World Championship (2013-2019), American Rallycross (2018-2019), V8 Supercars, American Le Mans Series, Rolex Sports Car Series, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar series, IndyCar and more.
— The track features 20 turns, the first of which is a hairpin atop an 11% gradient incline at the end of the front straightaway. After a series of esses, a blind corner and a hairpin at Turn 11, drivers attack a 0.62-mile (1 km) straightaway that carries them to the second half of the track.
— Sunday’s race will mark the second for Cup at COTA after last year’s debut.
— COTA is the first of six road courses on this year’s schedule.
Source: Racing Insights
While the sidewalls are thinner and the bead diameter increases from 15 inches to 18 for the Next Gen car, Goodyear returns to Circuit of The Americas with the same tread compound as teams used in 2021. This tread is also scheduled to run at Sonoma Raceway and Road America.
Additionally, Goodyear has entirely redesigned its wet-weather radial tire and will bring it to COTA — although the forecast indicates they will not be necessary. The new tire tread is based on Goodyear’s Eagle Supercar 3 consumer tire.
COTA STORY LINES
— Hendrick Motorsports has won eight of the last 11 races overall as well as nine of the last 11 road courses.
— Each of Chase Elliott’s last two wins came on road courses, including this race one year ago as well as the inaugural race at Road America. After William Byron’s win at Atlanta, Elliott is Hendrick Motorsports’ only winless driver this season.
— The last 11 races have been won by drivers under the age of 30, the longest streak in series history.
— Trackhouse Racing is tied with Hendrick Motorsports for the most top fives this season. Ross Chastain, driver of Trackhouse’s No. 1 Chevrolet, finished fourth in this race one year ago and has finished inside the top three in each of the last three races.
— Kurt Busch leads all drivers with a 9.6 average finish through five races. Busch finished inside the top five at both Phoenix (fifth) and Atlanta (third).
ROAD COURSE? SAFE BETS AHEAD
The best pick of the weekend is the easiest pick of the weekend: Chase Elliott. Elliott, the 3-1 favorite, has won an absurd 36.8% of all road course starts (seven of 19) and won this race a year ago, even if teammate Kyle Larson (4-1) was chasing him down before rain halted the event.
The bets that will actually make you money, of course, are the more interesting ones. Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric is posted at 16-1 odds according to BetMGM. However, the rookie made one of his seven Cup starts here a season ago and blistered the field through the opening laps on slick tires while his competition opted for wets. Cindric is a road-course veteran and may be a factor Sunday.
The same 16-1 odds are applied to the No. 16 Chevrolet of AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger is on a part-time schedule for the second straight year but is a two-time Cup winner on road courses and an excellent road racer overall, winning last year’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course event.
RELATED: Odds for COTA
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ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.
NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.