WHAT WENT RIGHT: Won from the pole once, at Atlanta … Captured his championship by finishing second at Homestead-Miami Speedway … Earned his way into the championship race for the second year in a row. Made it despite his only playoff win coming in the opener at New Hampshire … Earned eight stage wins.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Earned just two DNFs, for a crash (Dover) and an engine failure (Bowmanville) … A dirt racing veteran, Bell was the favorite to win at Eldora before he was involved in a Lap 36 crash. He finished ninth. … Went without a stage win in six-straight races at one point.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Bell makes the move to the Xfinity Series, where he’ll race the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Bell already has one Xfinity win. He won at Kansas in October in one of his eight series starts this season.
NASCAR weekend schedule for Circuit of the Americas
As the first road course of the year, COTA will begin a new approach by NASCAR to stage racing on road circuits. There will no longer be a caution to end stages, but points will be awarded for the finish order. In another change, the “choose” rule will be in effect on road courses.
A look at the weekend schedule:
Circuit of the Americas (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)
Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning, sun later in the day. High of 86. 80% chance of rain.
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Three Cup drivers got their first chance to experience North Wilkesboro Speedway’s worn racing surface Tuesday and said tires will play a key role in the NASCAR All-Star Race there on May 21.
The verdict was unanimous about how important tire wear will be.
“This place has got a lot of character to it,” Reddick said. “Not a lot of grip and it’s pretty unforgiving. It’s a really fun place.”
Dillon said: “If you use up your tire too early, you’re going to really be in trouble. You really got to try to make those four tires live.”
Buescher said: “The surface here was so worn out already that we expect to be all over the place. The speeds are fairly slow just because of the amount of grip here. It’s hard to get wide open until you’re straight.”
Reddick noted the drop in speed over a short run during Tuesday’s test. That will mean a lot of off-throttle time.
“I think we were seeing a second-and-a-half falloff or so over even 50 laps and that was kind of surprising for me we didn’t have more falloff,” he said. “But, one little miscue, misstep into Turn 1 or Turn 3, you lose a second sliding up out of the groove and losing control of your car.”
“That’s with no traffic. Maybe with more traffic and everything, the falloff will be more, but certainly we’re out of control from I’d say Lap 10 on. You have to really take care of your car. … It’s really hard 30-40 laps into a run to even get wide open.”
One thing that stood out to Dillon was how the facility looks.
While the .625-mile racing surface remains the same since Cup last raced there in 1996, most everything else has changed.
In some cases, it is fresh red paint applied to structures but other work has been more extensive, including repaving the infield and pit road, adding lights for night racing, adding SAFER barriers, the construction of new suites in Turn 4 and new stands along the backstretch.
“It’s cool to see how much they’ve done to the track, the suites, the stands that they’re putting in,” Dillon said. “To me, the work that is going in here, we’re not just coming for one race. We’re coming here for a while. I’m excited about that.”
Jordan Taylor, who is substituting in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet for injured Chase Elliott, brings a resume that includes 31 IMSA class wins, two 24 Hours of Daytona overall wins and two IMSA wins at COTA.
Keselowski hasn’t been a star in road course racing, but his 2023 season has started well, and he figures to be in the mix at the front Sunday. He led the white-flag lap at Atlanta last Sunday before Joey Logano passed him for the win.
The Dinger is a road course expert. Last year at COTA, he was involved in tight racing on the final lap with Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman before Chastain emerged with the victory.
Points position: 3rd
Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Auto Club)
Past at COTA: Two straight top fours, including a win
Chastain lifted Trackhouse Racing’s profile by scoring his — and the team’s — first Cup victory at COTA last season. He’s not shy about participating in the last-lap bumping and thumping that often mark road course races.
Buescher has never led a lap at COTA and is coming off a 35th-place finish at Atlanta after being swept up in a Lap 190 crash. Although he has shown the power to run near the front this year, he has four consecutive finishes of 13th or worse.
Points position: 20th
Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas I)
Past at COTA: Two straight top 10s
Bowman’s four-race run of consistent excellence (finishes of fifth, eighth, third and ninth) ended at Atlanta as he came home 14th and failed to lead a lap. At COTA, he is one of only four drivers with top-10 finishes in both races.
Three members of the Reaume Brothers Racing No. 33 Craftsman Truck Series team have been suspended for three races by NASCAR after a piece of tungsten ballast came off their truck during last Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The suspensions were announced Tuesday.
Crew chief Gregory Rayl and crew members Matthew Crossman and Travis Armstrong were suspended because of the safety violation. Mason Massey is the team’s driver.
In a tweet following the announcement of the penalty, the team said it will not file an appeal. “The ballast became dislodged only after the left side ballast container had significant contact with the racing surface,” according to the statement. “We would like to be clear that there was no negligence on the part of RBR personnel.”
NASCAR also announced Tuesday that Truck Series owner/driver Cory Roper, who had been suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy, has been reinstated.
The Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series are scheduled to race this weekend at Circuit of the Americas.