For the first time since 1956, the NASCAR Cup Series will navigate the twists, turns, inclines and declines of Road America. How fitting the reunion takes place on Sunday, July 4 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has journeyed to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, since 2010, so teams‘ notebooks aren‘t totally empty. Break out the brats and cheese curds as we sort through another new venue on the Cup Series circuit.
Road America‘s return to the Cup schedule will be held in front of a full throng of fans roaming around America‘s National Park of Speed.
For more information on how the facility is protecting fans from COVID-19 and any other questions about navigating the facility, check out the track‘s website here.
As with all road courses on the 2021 Cup calendar, teams will utilize the low-downforce, high-horsepower package this weekend in Wisconsin. With 750 HP under the hood, teams will also have shorter spoilers and splitters to lessen the impact of aerodynamics.
Teams will receive three sets of tires for Saturday‘s practice session, one for qualifying and six for Sunday‘s race. This week‘s tire compound will be the same as utilized at Circuit of the Americas, the most recently raced new road course on the Cup calendar this season.
“Road America is one of several road courses at which we will run the same tire code this season,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear‘s director of racing. “All three national series ran this tire at COTA in May and the Xfinity cars ran it again at Mid-Ohio in June, with it coming back again at Indianapolis in August. It helps teams to have a common tire at different tracks because they can start to build a notebook on that tire and remove that variable from how they approach tracks that are of different lengths, number of turns and balance between straightaways and corners.”
PRACTICE & QUALIFYING
Because Cup cars have yet to traverse the hilly, twisty terrain of Road America, teams will be afforded one practice session on Saturday (12:35 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN) before qualifying Sunday morning (11:05 a.m. ET, CNBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NASCAR HISTORY AT ROAD AMERICA
— Tim Flock won the Cup Series‘ lone race on the original course in 1956 driving a Mercury. His average speed was 71.2 mph.
— The track was built in the early 1950s, a project headed by highway designer Clif Tufte, before hosting its first race in 1955, a Sports Car Club of America competition for its Chicago region.
— There will have been 23,702 days between the 1956 Cup race and the 2021 date, the longest gap between races in series history.
— Four past Road America winners from the Xfinity Series will compete in Sunday‘s Cup Series event: AJ Allmendinger (2013 winner), Michael McDowell (2016), Christopher Bell (2019) and Austin Cindric (2020).
— Road America will be the third “new” track on the Cup schedule in the last seven weeks.
Source: Racing Insights
If one thing is true, regardless of whether a track is new, Chase Elliott is the man to beat on road courses.
Elliott has won five of the last seven road course races and enters Road America as the favorite at 23-10 odds, courtesy of BetMGM. Kyle Larson, who won the most recent road course race at Sonoma Raceway, enters not far behind at 14-5 odds while Martin Truex Jr. sits at 13-2 odds.
On the surface, Truex would seem like a great bet with wins in three of the last 12 road course races. But use caution with Truex this week: The No. 19 team has finished outside the top 10 in six of the last seven Cup races, the lone exception being a third-place finish at Sonoma.
But if you‘re looking for a sleeper, consider Alex Bowman. The winner of last Saturday‘s race at Pocono Raceway, Bowman has four straight top 10s on road courses and has never finished worse than 14th on a road course since joining Hendrick Motorsports.
ROAD AMERICA STORY LINES
— Road America now boasts the longest track distance in the sport at 4.048 miles with a straightaway that’s 4,405 feet long and 36 feet wide.
— After Darlington Raceway in May, Kyle Larson trailed points-leader Denny Hamlin by 144 points. That gap has shrunken to just two points as Hamlin barely maintains his point lead.
— With top 10s in three of his last four races, Kurt Busch has snuck his way back into the Playoffs and sits +3 on the cut line entering this weekend‘s race at Road America.
— Kyle Larson has already won four races this year, but he could have as many as nine if not for late-race mistakes that took him out of contention.
— With a win last Sunday at Pocono, Kyle Busch has taken sole ownership of No. 9 in all-time NASCAR Cup Series wins with 59 victories. Next in line? Dale Earnhardt, who won 76 races.
— Nineteen races into the season, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin both remain winless after combining for 16 victories in 2020.
— Kyle Larson maintains the longest top-10 streak of his career with eight in a row, including a ninth-place finish in Pocono 1 despite blowing a left-front tire and impacting the wall in the final turn that cost him a fourth consecutive win.
Source: Racing Insights
Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out NASCAR Fantasy Live. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts. It‘s not too late to join in on the competition.
The 2021 Fantasy Live points leaders are Denny Hamlin (757), Kyle Larson (745) and William Byron (681).
ALSO ON NASCAR.COM
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