NASCAR drivers voice support for COTA return in future seasons

NASCAR has not announced if there will be any more trips to Circuit of the Americas after this weekend’s races, but multiple drivers have made clear how they feel about continuing to compete at the track outside of Austin, Texas.

"Dang right I want to see it come back," Ross Chastain exclaimed. "I had some some great runs there and super fast cars and just a lot of fun — Trucks, Xfinity, Cup cars, all of them. ...I hope that (Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith) doesn't let it go."

Drivers having interest in returning to COTA is only one part of the discussion. The road course is not in the Speedway Motorsports portfolio, nor is it owned by NASCAR.

Speedway Motorsports has rented the road course every season since 2021 when Elliott won the inaugural Cup race. This season's race was made possible by the option year in the deal, per the Austin American-Statesman.

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Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen

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Chastain is one of seven drivers to celebrate a win at COTA across nine national series races. He joins Chase Elliott (Cup), Tyler Reddick (Cup), Kyle Busch (Xfinity), AJ Allmendinger (Xfinity twice), Zane Smith (Truck twice) and Todd Gilliland (Truck).

It would be easy to say that being able to smash a watermelon at the start-finish line had an impact on Chastain's view of COTA. After all, it was his first Cup win. Yet other drivers seeking their first COTA win have similar feelings about the track.

"I like COTA, it's a lot of fun," Michael McDowell said. "It's a proper road course. I mean, it's awesome. Elevation and long and sweeping and tight and technical and passing zones. It's a really fun race track. It's a really good race track."

McDowell noted that the track design with runoff areas in the turns is beneficial for the Next Gen car, a heavy vehicle that needs time to recover after a driver mistake.

Drivers also have to be able to maneuver through 20 unique turns while avoiding other competitors, cutting the course and receiving penalties. This is a track that rewards precision driving.

“I think (COTA) has everything — every type of corner imaginable," Austin Cindric said. "High speed, low speed, lefts and rights, braking zones, medium speed corners. You go through the whole gearbox. There is some tire wear.

"We’ve got some patches in some places, but if anything that will make the tire wear maybe a little bit less, and I also don't feel like this tire necessarily wears any more than any of the rest, but it’s somewhat of an abrasive racetrack, so past that it’s just got everything in it and you just have to have the complete picture to be competitive there.”

NASCAR's brief time there has not been without issues.

The inaugural Cup race at COTA in 2021 took place amid heavy rainfall. Several drivers crashed and Kevin Harvick called it "the most unsafe thing" he'd ever done in a race car. The rain also shortened the race by 14 laps.

The second outing was far more successful. The Cup race took place under sunny skies and delivered a wild ending as Chastain, AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman went back-and-forth over the final lap.

Last season's race at COTA was set to be the biggest. Fans knew that the Next Gen car could deliver exciting action on the track and there were guest stars from Formula One in the lineup — Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button.

Three overtime attempts and several drivers spinning in Turn 1 meant that last season's race fell short of the high water mark set in 2022. It also led to NASCAR moving the restart zone closer to Turn 20 before this season's race.

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NASCAR: NASCAR Cup Series Championship

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There have been 25 different winners in 77 points races in the Next Gen era.

"I think with moving the restart zone, like they have for next week, that will probably calm down some of that Turn 1 chaos," McDowell said. "But they'll still be passing and racing."

The chaos put a damper on some excitement but drivers still voiced their support for returning to COTA and Austin in the future.

For Joey Logano and Justin Haley, the fan support in Texas was noticeable. Christopher Bell called COTA a "world class facility and a world class race track" while saying that NASCAR should probably continue going there for road course races.

This comment from Bell is key considering that NASCAR has altered the number of road course races over the seasons. There were seven road courses on the 2021 schedule, a major expansion from the days when Cup teams only raced at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

There are only five road course races this season, yet COTA made the cut.

"I’m okay with us getting the road course schedule back down, which we have slowly, but surely been doing, but I think that COTA is a good one to go (to),” Bell said.

Bringing COTA back for 2025 would provide drivers across the three national series with opportunities to continue gaining experience at a track that has hosted Formula One, IndyCar, Supercars and IMSA.

It would also be a move that would excite multiple drivers in the garage.

"(COTA) is my favorite road course," Chastain said. "(Road courses) are all so different than ovals and such a different mentality. Darlington, Bristol, Darlington are my three favorites. Road course-wise, COTA is definitely top of the list."