The NASCAR Cup Series will travel to Austin, Texas this week to race at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). This will be the first race for the Cup Series on a road course in 2023. The racing will be different from what we saw last year. The Cup Series will bring a new aero package to the track (the same package used at Phoenix), there will be no breaks at the end of the Stages and the choose rule is now in effect. Add in some really good “road course ringers” and we have the ingredients for an exciting race. The EchoPark Texas Grand Prix can be seen Sunday at 3:30 pm ET on FOX.
STRATEGY FOR COTA
Ryan Blaney is driving me nuts. I continue to roster the No. 12 car and Blaney continues to struggle at the end of Stage 2. I have been placing Blaney in the Garage each race and then he makes an incredible rebound in the final Stage and finishes in the top-10. I wish had the points I lost from placing Blaney in the Garage this year. The race at Atlanta saw the Fantasy Live points drop from beating 98.3% of the entries to now outscoring 96.5% of the lineups. We will need to bounce back this week at COTA.
NASCAR allowed the teams to practice for 50-minutes Friday because they have a new aero package that the teams have not been able to work with this year. I am posting my picks based mostly off of the drivers who have a history of running well on the road courses and posted fast speeds in practice.
Here are the picks for the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix…
TYLER REDDICK (9): Reddick participated in a two-day test at COTA in January. Reddick was the best driver in the Cup Series at the road courses last year. He won the races at Road America and the Indy Road Course. He also finished fifth at COTA last year. The switch from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing shouldn’t slowed him down. Reddick posted the fastest speed in practice with the fastest long-run speed. Reddick qualified second for the race. I expect Reddick to run up front, score a lot of Stage Points and finish up front at COTA.
ROSS CHASTAIN (7): There is a lot to like about Chastain this week. He won this race last year and he will get a lot of track time to get his rhythm down for Sunday’s race. Chastain will run the Truck Series race Saturday and he posted the third-fastest speed in practice with the second-fastest long-run speed. Chastain qualified 12th for the race, so he has the track position to run up front. Chastain proved last year that he is not afraid to move drivers out of the way in order to get to Victory Lane. I would not be surprised if Chastain muscled his way to Victory Lane again this week.
KYLE BUSCH (8): Was it Busch or was it the car that sucked at the road course tracks last year? We will find out Sunday. Busch had a 22nd-place average finishing position on the road courses last year. This is a new aero package and Busch has a new team. He will be driving the car that won this race last year. It also helps that Busch is competing in the Truck Series race Saturday and he tested the Gen-7 car at COTA in January. Busch was fast in practice. The No. 8 car posted the fourth-fastest speed with the third-fastest long-run speed. Rowdy has a car fast enough to score a lot of points Sunday.
AUSTIN CINDRIC (9): Cindric participated in a two-day test at COTA in January. He said his team found a setup that gave him balance in the car (it handled well). Cindric led 11 laps, score Stage Points in both Stages and finished eighth at COTA last year. The No. 2 car posted the seventh-fastest speed in practice and qualified third for the race, so they have speed again this week. This is a good race to use an allocation with the No. 2 car.
DANIEL SUAREZ (9): Suarez is a good road course racer and he looked good at COTA last year. The No. 99 car was leading the race after Stage 1. Suarez got spun out and fell to the back of the pack. His car had top-five speed and it looks fast again this week. Suarez posted the fifth-fastest speed in practice and qualified fifth for the race. It is not a bad idea to use your allocations with Suarez at the road course tracks.
(GARAGE PICK) AJ ALLMENDINGER (10): Allmendinger is one of the best road course racers in the Cup Series. Giving him 50 minutes to practice and the Xfinity Series to get his rhythm down should be plenty of track time to give Allmendinger a chance to win at COTA. Allmendinger was not very good in practice because his car was “way too tight.” The team was working hard to free up Allmendinger and he did go from 31st to 18th on the speed chart at the end of practice. Allmendinger can win the race Sunday if his team can simply get his car the 10th fastest speed. I will have Allmendinger in the Garage as an insurance policy Sunday.
Good luck and be sure to follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR. I will send out a Tweet during the race to let you know if I plan to swap out one of my drivers for my Garage pick.