What drivers are saying about inaugural NASCAR weekend at COTA

·13 min read

Here’s what some drivers have said about Circuit of the Americas going into the track’s inaugural NASCAR weekend.

NASCAR CUP SERIES

AJ Allmendinger

“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.”

Aric Almirola

“Personally, I feel that I have improved in my road course abilities over the years. In the Busch Clash and the Daytona road-course race in February, I was much more confident behind the wheel and found more speed than 2020. I think our Smithfield Ford team has found more speed in the car, too, with the 750-horsepower package. Circuit of the Americas is going to be a completely different challenge for everyone, but we’re going into the weekend with more road-course confidence than years prior.”

Chase Briscoe

“I think it’s gonna be hard. The thing is there, I don’t think you can necessarily try stuff that’s gonna work at other places with it being a road course, but I will say that it’s probably gonna be a challenge to go and do a practice environment. That’s something that normally doing a shock change or doing whatever is so second nature and they can do it so quickly to really maximize that practice time, where we haven’t done that a lot in the last year and a half, so I think the team guys might be a little rusty when it comes to that, but I think the other thing at COTA as far as I know there’s only a 50-minute practice and by the time you do an out lap, do an in lap, and do whatever lap you’re doing, you’re probably not gonna get but maybe eight to nine laps of practice at the most, so it’s gonna be really hard to make changes and figure out what kind of works because you’re probably only gonna get two or three changes at the absolute most.

“So, you’re still gonna have to unload very quick from a speed standpoint and a balance standpoint, so it’s gonna be hard. I’m glad we’re gonna have some practice just, for me, to get back in the rhythm of especially road course racing to see what I need. I felt like at the Daytona road course at the very end of the race we were pretty good, it just took us three or four adjustments to get to that point, so hopefully at COTA we can kind of start where we ended Daytona and have some good speed.”

Kyle Busch

“They’ve had a little bit of history there with Formula 1, IndyCar and other racing series there, but obviously the first time for NASCAR Cup Series cars there this weekend. There are a lot of flat turns on that circuit and a little bit of elevation change, which could make for some interesting moments. Our big heavy stock cars with not a lot of downforce running around that road course is going to take a lot. We’ll see how it goes. There’s some experience like that with the NASCAR Xfinity Series guys running Road America, with its long road course, as well. Some of the young guys in our series who have run at Road America will have a little bit of an advantage there, and also when we go to Road America in the summer. But I was able to visit a couple of times in April, it was even in the same week. We went there for a Toyota media event and announcement and then I was back there in another type of car just trying to learn the circuit and what it takes to get around there. We’ve also had plenty of simulator time, too, so hopefully we can be on top of things when we arrive there this weekend.”

William Byron

“It’s going to take a really long time to make one lap. So, we’re kind of nervous about practice and how that’s going to go and how many laps you’re going to get legitimately. That’s going to be tough. There’s not a lot of walls there so there’s a lot of runoff, which is probably a good thing for our cars because we usually run into each other a lot on road courses. Usually, guys make big mistakes. Hopefully I’m not one of those that’s making a big mistake. But at least if I do at COTA, I feel like I can get away with it, which is nice. Typically, if there’s a lot of grass around the race track for us, it doesn’t work well for our cars. This is one of those tracks where there’s just a lot of asphalt where you can run off. That might make it a more aggressive race, maybe; knowing that you can get away with it. But for me, I feel like it’s just like every other road course. You’ve got to figure out how to get in and off the corners. Like the same old things, be good at shifting and down shifting and all those things.”

Cole Custer

“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 racey as hell.”

Austin Dillon

“I think the best passing zones are probably on all the big straights. The esses are pretty tight; you can’t really gain anything there. Turn 11 (a hairpin turn) is probably the best. … Obviously, lengthening the straightaways as much as you can is huge and in the final corner. … Into the stadium section on the downhill braking zone, leaving the last corner, and then the one before the big straightaway are the three that I see that will be the most important. Turn 1, up the hill, you can out-brake someone into there, but it gets tight quick. I think the first three I named are probably the big ones. But Turn 1 is a struggle to really get off of that corner sometimes, in what I’ve noticed. You can maybe get someone on entry, but it’s probably going to put you in a bad position leaving.”

Ty Dillon

“To me, it will be an equalizer race. We do have the opportunity to get some practice in, but I’m looking forward to a race where no one has any experience at before. I think that lends a hand to someone like myself. I really strive on adapting quickly to new situations and road courses have been a good place for me to capitalize on that.”

Chase Elliott

“It’s a super neat facility – super nice facility, number one. The track’s fun. It has a lot of character to it, I feel like. I’ve never been here, never seen it before in person before (doing the Goodyear tire test) and really haven’t watched a ton of races here, so it’s really been a pretty steep learning curve for me, trying to piece together all the different parts of the track and understand where you need to be good and how to make it flow.”

Brad Keselowski

“One of the things about this track here in Austin, it’s got a couple of key action spots. Turn 1 is designed as though a fan said, ‘how can I have the most calamity in that corner on the start?’ So, there’s a couple of things – first off, it’s uphill, which helps the car stop, so it encourages the driver to try to out-brake another driver, which is big on a restart or a start because all of the cars are already so close together. Second thing is, it’s really wide on entry, so it’s almost impossible to block because there’s just a lot more racetrack. And then, of course, the third part is it’s a super slow corner meaning you have to use a lot of brakes to get through there. So, like I said, almost like it was intentional – I’m sure it was intentional – to create some epic starts. I think you’ll see that here.”

Erik Jones

“I think it is just technical as far as COTA is concerned. From what I’ve done on the simulator, there’s just a lot of technical portions of the race track. A lot of slow-speed stuff and a lot of really tight hairpin corners. It’s a matter of taking your time and being easy with it. Our cars are really heavy and got a lot of power and not a lot of grip so you just have to be easy with the race car and get it to do its work and not really force it to do anything.”

Corey LaJoie

“There’s not a whole lot of elevation change besides that big uphill climb into Turn 1. I ran a BMW down there, which was a WRL (World Racing League) race and there were about eight different classes. The speed discrepancy was big. So, I was right there in the middle. My point being if I’d gone off Turn 1 and there was a GT car behind me and he didn’t get around me through that right-hand sweeper, up until the esses, he was stuck behind me because the course is so slow and those esses tighten-up so much. I think if you are somebody who might not be as fast as somebody in front of you, if you can just maintain your position on a restart through (Turns) 1 and 2 and get to the esses, you can maintain that position all the way down into (Turn) 11 and into the hairpin and it’ll single out and you can probably maintain for a long time. There are only three passing zones, I think. Beyond that, there’s going to be a lot of sliding around because that track is pretty racy.”

Tyler Reddick

“One thing in particular, that’s like ‘wow, I haven’t experienced that before’ – maybe aside from how after you exit Turn 9 and you’re going into (Turn) 10, is you have a very important and slightly downhill hairpin right ahead of you. You can’t afford to underdrive it and you can’t, obviously, afford to blow through it. And then right after you get done doing that, one of the most important acceleration zones is after that hairpin. You pretty much follow it up with, yet again, another very critical, high-speed, really important braking zone into (Turn) 12. I don’t say we have a lot of tracks that I’ve ever experienced or I’ve ran in NASCAR that has two corners that are kind of back-to-back exactly like that. I think maybe at Road America, you have turn one that’s the high-speed, right-hander; you have that little short chute, if you will, into (Turn) 2. And then you haul back down into Turn 5 – I can’t remember the nickname for that corner. That’s the only place that’s somewhat like that, that I’ve experienced.”

“This track, just for me, has a little bit of everything from other road courses that I’ve been to and experienced. The amount of run-off that we do have, I was really excited about. The big turtles (curbing) that we’re putting in – I think we’ll still be able to, if you can get over the turtles without destroying your race car, there’s a lot of track you can use to save it and get back going. But those turtles are definitely going to tear some stuff up. There’s a lot of room for error, if you do make a mistake. I think that will promote drivers to be aggressive and race hard with all the run off that this track does have.”

Martin Truex Jr.

“I feel like there’s a handful of really good passing zones. Obviously, as usual, after the long straightaways and the front straightaway and back straightaway are both really long going into really hard braking zones that are low speed, first gear. Those are definitely good areas. There’s a little short chute on the back, about halfway around the track that should be pretty good. Then I think coming out of the last corner onto the front straightaway is a good one as well. I think there’s going to be plenty of opportunities there with it. Especially the fact that it’s got older pavement and it’s going to have pretty decent tire wear. That’s going to open up a lot of opportunities as well and should be fun.”

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

Austin Cindric

“I think the restarts are gonna be wild. You have a very wide inviting front straightaway. You even see it in the (Formula One) races there. I mean, guys will drive it off in there and collect three or four cars, so I think restarts are definitely going to pretty crazy in all three series — a lot of opportunities to pass at this racetrack, a lot of tire fall off, which obviously provides a bit of a dynamic to the race, whether if it’s on strategy or on the racetrack, so, otherwise, you kind of have every type of corner at this racetrack. There’s a lot to look forward to, I think for the NASCAR fans and a lot of unknowns for us as drivers.”

Daniel Hemric

“I am blown away. You cannot fully appreciate COTA for itself until you actually come and have a chance to run a lap. We can all have simulation and look at film and do all kinds of stuff, but being on the racetrack, seeing all the elevation, seeing how fast some of the high-speed stuff is, how hard some of the braking zone are and how tight some of the switchback corners are, it’s going to be incredible to see how everybody, all of us – the whole field – can navigate that together. It’s going to be a challenge for these race teams, a challenge for the drivers, but I’m sure we’re up for it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

John Hunter Nemechek

“All in all, this place is amazing. It brings a lot of different road courses together and kind of throws a lot of different components in to it and I think it’s going to be fast, it’s going to be technical, it’s going to be a mixture of a bunch of different road courses, and as a driver, I like to see that.”

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What drivers are saying about inaugural NASCAR weekend at COTA originally appeared on NBCSports.com