NASCAR hits Austin, Texas this weekend for its first race at Circuit of the Americas. All three series will run on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile paved road course.
The Cup Series race, the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix, is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on FS1. Qualifying on Sunday (11 a.m. on FS1) will determine the starting lineup for the race. Teams will also be able to practice on the new course on Saturday (10:05 a.m. on FS2).
Denny Hamlin continues to lead the series’ standings by more than 100 points. He has 574 points. Second place points leader William Byron is at 473 points. Martin Truex Jr. has three wins, the most in the series, and is one point behind Byron (472). Alex Bowman earned his second win of the season last Sunday at Dover, but sits at 13th in points.
Among the drivers in the top-16 in standings without a win are Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick. Defending Cup champion Elliott has the best odds to win, according to BetMGM. He’s listed at +225 with Martin Truex Jr. at +450, Denny Hamlin at +800 and Kyle Larson at +1000.
For more pre-race reading about the track, click here.
Predictions for NASCAR at COTA
Although Christopher Bell has finished out of the top-10 in the last four races, don’t count him out for COTA. His win this year was at the Daytona road course, and although Circuit of the Americas is an entirely different track, Bell demonstrated his ability to maintain position while navigating slow-speed corners.
Elliott’s recent string of top-10s (three in the last three races) and his five career wins on road courses make him a safe bet for Sunday, but it will ultimately come down to whoever makes the least mistakes, as No. 11 crew chief Chris Gabehart said. Drivers will need to be especially cautious of speeding penalties given the tight Turn 20 entry that leads to pit road.
Other names to watch include Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, both of whom will have the advantage of competing in the Xfinity Series race this weekend. During an otherwise quiet season, Harvick is rolling into the weekend with four straight top-10s. Busch has four Cup wins on road courses.
Ultimately, any of the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers seem likely to win to me, but Elliott or Larson could stand in their way and give Hendrick Motorsports another victory to match JGR’s five wins.
How to watch NASCAR race at COTA
Race: EchoPark Texas Grand Prix Distance: 231 miles on a 3.41-mile road course, 68 laps (stages end on Laps 15, 32 and 68)
When: Sunday 2:20 p.m. TV: FS1 (1 p.m.) Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio