Many will say NASCAR’s regular season doesn’t start until this weekend.
In the Cup Series, this also applies to the cars teams are taking to the track. With the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, teams are debuting the lower-downforce aero package. This is the second season in a row NASCAR has reduced downforce on Cup cars.
Teams use a different package when they visit the two superspeedways, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
The new package has lower downforce, shorter spoilers and more adjustments. On top of the body changes, teams must start races with the tires they qualified on.
The below graphic shows off the adjustments made to Cup cars compared to the 2016 car.
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Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.
Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).
Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.
Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.
Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.
Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.
Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).
Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.
Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.
Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.
Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.
Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.
Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.
Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.
Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.
Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas
(All times Eastern)
START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.
PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.
TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.
FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.
LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.
NASCAR’s new Cup Series aerodynamic package for short tracks and road courses will be tested in competition on a road circuit for the first time this weekend as the tour stops at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
All three major national series will be in action at the 3.41-mile, 20-turn track this weekend. The schedule begins Friday with practice for all three series and qualifying for Xfinity and Trucks.
The Friday practice was added for Cup teams because of the new competition package, providing 50 minutes of on-track time for adjustments. Teams also will be racing with a new tire compound this weekend.
Chase Elliott (2021) and Ross Chastain (2022) are winners from the previous Cup races at COTA. Elliott won the inaugural event in a race shortened by rain, and Chastain won after a last-lap battle with AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman. The victory was Chastain’s first in the series.
A look at Friday’s schedule:
Circuit of the Americas (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)
Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning. Mostly sunny later. High of 87 with an 80% chance of rain.
Friday, March 24
(All times Eastern)
- 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. — Cup Series
- 11:30 a.m. .- 6:30 p.m. — Truck Series
- 1:30 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series
- 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Cup practice (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 8 p.m. on FS1)
- 4:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck practice (No live broadcast)
- 5 – 6 p.m. — Truck qualifying (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 9 p.m. on FS1)
- 6:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
- 7 – 8 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)