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It’s back to the road course for the fourth race of the season, making this already the most events on this track type in NASCAR history. Three road course races remain. With only two to three events on road courses for most of the NASCAR’s history it was difficult for race teams to rationalize putting in the effort of building special cars and drivers had to spend time in other series to get enough practice to truly be good.
The 2022 schedule has not yet been released, but one suspects there will be quite a few road course races next year as well, so in addition to setting this week’s lineup for the Jockey Made in America 250 at Road America, make sure to add to your detailed set of notes.
Road America is not an inaugural race, but since the Cup series has not competed here since 1956 when Tim Flock beat Billy Myers to the checkers by 17 seconds, it may as well be. As a result, it goes alongside the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), Daytona International Speedway Road Course, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval as new road courses on which drivers have a limited knowledge base.
That should make this a fun race to watch – and on a track measuring more than four miles in length, there are a lot of good opportunities to make terrible mistakes.
Group A: Most Expensive (>=$10,000)
Kyle Larson ($10,500)
It’s too soon to tell if Larson is going to become Elliott’s principal rival on road courses, but it is certainly looking that way at the moment. The two drivers did not go head-to-head at COTA because Elliott struggled in the middle of that race and used some strategy to score the victory. When they battled door-to-door at Sonoma, Larson was clearly superior. More importantly, he scored 72.3 points in the DraftKings game to Elliott’s 47.05.
Chase Elliott ($10,600)
This is not the week to think outside the box. While readers are probably getting a little tired of the Hendrick mates being profiled 1-2 in Group A, they deserve the distinction once again because that is how they finished the last two road courses. Elliott was victorious at COTA and second at Sonoma, but he might have finished behind his teammate in both events if the Texas Grand Prix had not been shortened by rain. At the moment, road courses are his best opportunity to regain the momentum he lost at Pocono Raceway.
Group B: (Between $9,900 and $8,000)
With only four drivers in Group A this week, the next two levels are packed. There are some great drivers here and with relatively modest caps for Larson and Elliott – compared to the high $11k or $12k range they’ve been in – you have some choices. Prepare to set two rosters with one of the Hendrick mates topping each.
AJ Allmendinger ($9,000)
You should prepare to select three drivers from Group B this week, but that means you are going to have to take some of the drivers at the bottom of the cap ladder. Allmendinger is a little more expensive than we would like, but he is actually one of the drivers capable of winning this week. His skill on road courses is equal to anyone in the field. And with Xfinity experience over the past several years, he has laps on this track. Last year he was second to Austin Cindric at Road America.
Joey Logano ($9,800)
Logano is barely under the $10k mark, but since he is one of our top choices in this week's Best Bets column, he is just as worthy of consideration here. With top-fives in his last four road course races, Logano should be valued as highly as Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr., which effectively means you save $300-$500 by taking him. That will come in handy with the hard decisions below.
Austin Cindric ($8,300)
Cindric won last year’s Xfinity race and finished second in 2019. Like Allmendinger, he has more experience on this track than the Cup drivers and will get even more seat time with the 2021 Henry 180. Driving a fourth Team Penske car this week, he has the equipment to get a top-five and he was on pace to do that at COTA in the early stages of the Texas Grand Prix. He could be that cheap Group B driver you’re looking for to make your Group C choices easier.
Group C: (Between $7,900 and $6,500)
Michael McDowell ($7,600)
Stranger things have happened than a driver like McDowell winning on a road course. We will direct your attention to Christopher Bell’s win on the Daytona Road course as an example. If McDowell can get track position in the closing laps, he will be determined to show that his Daytona 500 win was not a fluke. Even if he does not, a top-10 seems quite likely on the heels of two such finishes in the first three road course races this year. We’re willing to bet that at the end of seven events on this track type, he will be above the .500 mark.
Ross Chastain ($7,900)
While one might easily question Chastain’s seventh-place finish at Sonoma after NASCAR allowed him to cut the course without penalty, he was running with the leaders in the final laps. More importantly, he drove to a fourth-place finish in the rain at COTA and that is no small feat. With this week’s announcement that Trackhouse Racing purchased Chip Ganassi Racing [https://edit-edge.nbcsports.com/edge/article/statistically-speaking/trackhouse-purchases-chip-ganassi-racing], there is a lot of pressure on both Chastain and Kurt Busch to perform and they should rise to the challenge.
Group D: (Less than or equal to $6,500)
Ty Dillon ($5,700)
Part time drivers have become Fools Gold in NASCAR, but every now and then one of them rises above the rest. The Gaunt Bros. No 96 has had solid runs in the past and when he was running full time Ty was often as strong as his brother Austin in equipment that didn’t quite measure up to what Richard Childress Racing had. This machine is similar in potential to the No. 13 that he ran last year and with a little luck, he can get a top 25.
Bubba Wallace ($6,000)
Wallace should also contend for a result in the low-20s, which is about as much as you can expect from Group D. If one eliminates his poor COTA finish, the past three years have seen him average a result of 23.4 on road courses. His last effort produced a 14th at Sonoma. Wallace is coming off a fourth-place finish in Pocono 2 and a sweep of the top 15 on that track, so he has momentum on his side.
The top-10 points’ earners from the 2020 Pocono 350 were: Kyle Larson (72.3), Kurt Busch (64.45), Martin Truex Jr. (59.7), Ross Chastain (59.45), Joey Logano (50.7), Chase Elliott (47.05), Kyle Busch (40.4), Erik Jones (39.45), Daniel Suarez (36.35), and Ryan Blaney (35.45).
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