The NASCAR Cup Series continues on today as it visits Circuit of the Americas for the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. The first road course on the schedule for this season, COTA was built in 2010, is a 3.43 mile, 20 turn track, and serves as arguably the most technical road course track on the schedule. Last year’s edition was won by Ross Chastain, who led 31 laps and passed both AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman on the final lap to win his first Cup Series race.
Driver to Fade:
The 2009 Formula One Champion, Jenson Button is making his NASCAR debut today driving the 15 car for Rick Ware Racing. One of several accomplished international drivers in the field today, Button has raced across many different series, including Formula One and Super GT, as well as in the illustrious 24 Hours of Le Mans, so he certainly knows how to wheel a race car around both right and left turns. Even with his background and skills, Button is making his first start in another series driving a vehicle that is different from anything else he has ever driven. And at the end of the day, Button is still driving for Rick Ware Racing. You are only as good as the equipment you’re driving. Although Button is a feel good story, we predict that he will struggle from his 24th place starting spot and finish outside the top 20 today.
A perennial contender when it comes to road courses, McDowell has had a slow start to the 2023 season, with just 2 top 20 finishes in 5 starts. Nonetheless, McDowell’s road course prowess is second to none, finishing in the top 10 in 4 of the 6 road course races last season, highlighted by a 3rd place showing at Sonoma. McDowell has also finished in the top 15 in both of his COTA starts, finishing 13th here last year and 7th here in 2021. McDowell had top 10 speed throughout Practice, but didn’t qualify as well, as he will start today’s race in 20th place. McDowell may not have the pace to steal a race win, but his first top 10 finish of the season is certainly within reach.
Winning this race last year, Ross Chastain has shown that he has quite the flare for road course racing, with 3 top 10 finishes last year in 6 road course starts. COTA in particular fits him quite well, as he has finished in the top 5 in both of his Cup Series starts here. Chastain already has some extra laps under his belt this weekend, racing in yesterday’s Truck Series race, where he led 10 laps on the way to a solid 5th place finish. Chastain comes into today’s race showing great pace, as he had top 5 speed throughout Practice. Chastain will start today’s race in 12th place, but we predict that he will work his way forward quickly and finish in the top 10 here for the third straight year.
2023 started off slow for Tyler Reddick, finishing outside the top 30 in his first two starts at 23XI Racing, but has turned it on the last two weeks with back-to-back top 5 finishes. 2022 was the breakthrough year for Reddick, where he picked up his first 3 wins, with 2 of them coming on road courses. With 2 wins, 3 top 5’s, and 5 top 10’s in 6 road course starts last season, Reddick has quickly made himself a favorite anytime NASCAR visits this type of track. Reddick has not won at COTA before, but he has 1 top 5 and 2 top 10’s in both of his previous starts here. Reddick unloaded with a rocket this weekend, having the fastest car throughout all of Practice and qualifying 2nd for today’s race. We predict that Reddick will continue his recent success on road courses and pick up his first victory of 2023 and his first victory with 23XI Racing!