By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Serving as the United States home for Formula 1 since opening in 2012, the Circuit of The Americas plays host to some good ol’ American Muscle this weekend when the NASCAR Cup Series comes to town for the inaugural running of the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix.
The 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course sitting just outside of Austin, Texas is one of a handful of new tracks for the Cup Series to visit in 2021 and the first of five road course races that will take place through the summer stretch of the season.
With the unpredictability that comes with a new locale for NASCAR’s top division, a return to somewhat normal race weekend conditions will come this weekend with both practice and qualifying taking place to give the drivers some track time to learn the course instead of throwing them into the deep end when the green flag drops on Sunday.
In an effort to gain even more valuable experience on the challenging track, a number of Cup Series regulars will be racing in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, including: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, and Austin Dillon.
“I’m a huge visual person,” Harvick said of running his first Xfinity race since 2018. “The experience I have in going to these racetracks for a long time – I can tell you every crack, every curve and every marker in the wall and those are the things I want to have embedded in my mind before we get to Sunday.
“I want to make sure we’ve hit most of the curbs and know where you can take a risk, making a pass and where to make time and how to get on and off of pit road in a live situation, because the practices are short. The Xfinity car is going to be the best tool and just being able to make laps is the most important thing.”
By the Numbers
What: EchoPark Texas Grand Prix, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 14 of 36
Where: Circuit of The Americas – Austin, Texas (Opened: 2012)
When: Sunday, May 23
TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 2:30 pm ET / PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course
Race Length: 68 laps, 231 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 15 laps; Stage 2: 17 laps; Final Stage: 36 laps
From the Driver’s Seat
“We did the Goodyear test out at COTA a couple months ago, which was fun,” said Chase Elliott. “We got a chance to see a new racetrack. The track has a lot more elevation than I think a lot of people would think or see on tv. Turn 1 is a big hill and unless you are there to see it in person it doesn’t look like it, so way more elevation than I anticipated. It was also interesting because I felt like different parts of the track had more grip than other parts and I suppose that’s because they had to patch different areas and some areas have really old asphalt.
“One of the toughest things for me was understanding the level of grip at different points around the track. I think it is going to be a real challenge, obviously a real long back straightaway that we have seen in the F1 races there so that will be interesting there. I think for our cars, I’m not exactly sure how we will handle and adapt to that. Being really detailed and hitting your marks as always and trying to put together a good race and should be able to have a good result.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Saturday, May 22
- NASCAR Cup Series Practice (10:05 to 10:55 am – FOX Sports 1)
Sunday, May 23
- NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (11:00 am – Two rounds/Multi-car qualifying – FOX Sports 1)
- EchoPark Texas Grand Prix (2:30 pm – 68 laps, 231 miles – FOX Sports 1)