COTA Takeaways: Where does NASCAR go from here with racing in rain?


AUSTIN, Texas — If only more people had paid attention, maybe a solution could have been found before Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Last October, drivers provided clues about the hazards of racing in the rain. Yes, the Xfinity race at the Charlotte Roval was in a downpour, but drivers mentioned visibility issues after that race. One driver noted that it was “absolutely incredible how much you cannot see.”

Yet, seven months later, similar comments were echoed at COTA the day before the race and after Sunday’s Cup race in the rain.

Kevin Harvick called racing in the rain Sunday “the worst decision that we’ve ever made in our sport that I’ve been a part of, and I’ve never felt more unsafe in my whole racing career. Period.

He was among those eliminated by crashes caused by drivers unable to see because of the rooster tail of water that cars sprayed. Unable to see, Cole Custer slammed into the back of Martin Truex Jr.s’ car and lifted it up.

NASCAR responded by sending Air Titans on to the track to remove some of the water on the surface during the ensuing red flag. Series officials also mandated single-file restarts the rest off the race.

“We should have stopped earlier when there was too much rain,” Kyle Busch said. “That was bad when we were wrecking every restart. We should have checked up and waited. The rain subsided and we got back out there and everything was fine. Now, you couldn’t see. The last five laps you couldn’t see nothing through (Turns) 8, 9, 10, 11, down the backstretch into (Turn) 12.”

NASCAR stopped the event after 54 of 68 laps. Chase Elliott was declared the winner.

Scott Miller, NASCAR vice president of competition, vowed that series officials will do a better job managing races in the rain.

“We will learn,” he said. “We will be better next time.”

The concern is that the sport had seven months to learn from the Xfinity race and much remain unchanged. Now, the sport has four of the next 10 Cup points races on road courses. Maybe weather won’t be a factor. Maybe it will.

Since last October’s Xfinity race at the Roval, six of the nine Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series road course races have been impacted by rain.

So, what to do about racing in the rain?

Miller was asked if Sunday’s race would stop NASCAR from racing in the rain.

“I don’t believe so,” he said. “I think we’ll take a good look at how to be better at it.”

So if NASCAR plans to continue to race in the rain, then what?

“I don’t know what it is about this Cup body, but they put so much more spray in the air than the Xfinity cars do,” Tyler Reddick told NBC Sports. “I don’t know what that answer is. I couldn’t see behind one car (Sunday) on the Cup side. I could run behind three cars in qualifying (Saturday) in the Xfinity car. You could do this in the Xfinity cars, no big deal it seemed like, but that (Sunday) was bad.”

Miller was asked if there’s something that can be added to the cars to reduce the amount of spray.

“We’ve actually talked a little bit about that since the race, looking at getting some super high-res video or something (to see) … where the spray is emanating from (on the cars), and see if there is anything we can look at or do that might cut the spray down,” he said. “You look at other series and there’s a lot of spray, too.

“I think where we differ a little bit on racing in the rain is we pride ourselves on super tight competition. Our cars are really close together, much closer together than most other series. I think that’s kind of one of the things that poses a little bit more problem for us with the spray.”


NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Texas Grand Prix
Chase Elliott‘s victory made him the last of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers to win this season. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

It was only a matter of time, but the question was when would Chase Elliott win this season after all three of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates had won a race.

The reigning series champion noted earlier this year in a restrained manner that there would be good days and bad days. It’s a change from how he dealt with close calls or disappointment early in his Cup career. After runner-up finishes, he’d sound as if he’d instead finished last, beating himself up for a move made or one not tried.

Such feelings could have drowned him after Daytona in February after two weeks of near-misses:

He tangled with friend Ryan Blaney battling for the win on the last lap of the Busch Clash on the Daytona road course. The contact allowed Kyle Busch, running third, to get by both and win. A few days later, Elliott took the lead on the final lap of the Daytona 500, but it came just after the caution came out and he had to settle for second to Michael McDowell. A week later on the Daytona road course again, a slow pit stop put Elliott back in traffic and he was forced off course on the restart. He went on to finish 21st.

Since that weekend, Hendrick Motorsports tallied two wins from Alex Bowman and one each from Kyle Larson and William Byron, who also had a stretch of 11 consecutive top 10s before the streak ended Sunday with an 11th-place finish at COTA.

Car owner Rick Hendrick said he talked to Elliott last week, delivering a message for his young champion to “keep your chin up.”

Although it has been noted often how Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick — who combined to win 21 Cup races last year — were winless until Sunday, Elliott has sought to tune out such noise.

“Everyone is entitled to an opinion,” Elliott said. “That’s great. That’s what makes it exciting, right, to watch. Everybody can voice theirs, have something to say about it.

At the end of the day, the only opinions that matter, that reflect our performance and what we do on track, is our team and what we believe internally. That’s how we’ve always approached our racing at the (No.) 9 camp. That’s how we’ll always do it. We’re just focused on the opinions and the people that matter to us, the people that can make a difference, make us either go fast on Sundays or not.”

His win marks the first time since 2014 that all four Hendrick teams have won at least a race. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each had four wins that season and Kasey Kahne won once.

“If you can just be there, be in the mix, be capable of running up front, winning races,” Hendrick said, “that’s as good as it gets for an organization.”

Well, it could get better as soon as this weekend. Elliott’s win ties Hendrick Motorsports with Petty Enterprises for the most wins all-time in NASCAR at 268. Hendrick Motorsports could break the mark this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, located two miles from the team’s complex.

Elliott lost a chance to win that race last year when Byron spun to send the race into overtime as Elliott led. Elliott gave up the lead to pit. Eight cars stayed out. Elliott restarted 11th. He finished second to winner Brad Keselowski. Three nights later, Elliott won at Charlotte in a midweek race.

“We’d love to go there and have another great run, be able to fight for another win,” Elliott said.


NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Texas Grand Prix
Ross Chastain led four laps in Sunday’s race. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Ross Chastain finished a career-best fourth. His previous best Cup finish had been seventh in this year’s Daytona 500. He had not had a top 10 since. Said Chastain: “The Skip Barber Racing School here at COTA taught me a ton in the last year at road racing and in the rain.”

Michael McDowell’s seventh-place finish marks his career-high fifth top 10 in a season. Despite the accomplishment, he lamented finishing second to Joey Logano at the end of stage 1. McDowell was in that position by being among the few drivers to have rain tires when the green flag waved. Said McDowell: “I wish I could have beat Joey for that stage.That stage point would have been nice, but he was just a little bit better than us. We got stage points and ran in the top 10.  We passed a lot of cars, so it was a great day.”

Tyler Reddick’s ninth-place finish kept him in the 16th and final playoff spot. He has a 38-point lead on Matt DiBenedetto.

Here’s a look at the how many points 12th-16 in the playoff grid have (the top 11 spots in the playoff grid are held by race winners):

597 — Denny Hamlin (points leader)

428 — Kevin Harvick

366 — Austin Dillon

338 — Chris Buescher

334 — Tyler Reddick


NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.

NASCAR suspends Chase Elliott one race for incident with Denny Hamlin


NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one Cup race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600, the sanctioning body announced Tuesday.

“We take this very seriously,” Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition, said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The incident that happened off Turn 4, again after looking at all the available resources — in-car camera, data, SMT, which basically gives us (a car’s) steering, throttle, gives us braking — it was an intentional act by Chase in our opinion.”

Hendrick Motorsports stated that it would not appeal the penalty. Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Carson Hocevar will drive LaJoie’s car this weekend.

Hendrick Motorsports also stated that it would submit a waiver request for Elliott to remain eligible for the playoffs. Sawyer said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “I don’t see any reason at this point in time why wouldn’t (grant the waiver) when that request comes across our desk.”

This weekend will mark the seventh race in the first 15 that Elliott will have missed. He missed six races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident in early March. Elliott, who is winless this season, is 29th in points.

Elliott and Hamlin got together shortly before the halfway mark in Monday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

As they ran together, Hamlin forced Elliott toward the wall. Elliott’s car slapped the wall. Elliott then made contact with the right rear of Hamlin’s car, sending Hamlin into the wall.

“I got right-rear hooked in the middle of the straightway,” Hamlin said after the incident. “Yes, it was a tantrum. He shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”

Said Sawyer on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “In the heat of the battle, things happen, but they have to learn to react in a different way. … Our drivers need to understand that you have to handle that in a completely different way than hooking someone in the right rear and putting them in harm’s way, not only with just a major head-on collision like Denny had, but also other competitors.”

Sawyer also said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that “nothing gave us the indication that on that particular contact with the fourth-turn wall … that anything was broke” on Elliott’s car and could have caused him to come down and hit Hamlin’s car in the right rear.

NASCAR also announced that Scott Brzozowski and Adam Lewis, crew members on Michael McDowell‘s team, had each been suspended two races after McDowell’s car lost a tire in Monday’s race.

Winners and losers at Charlotte Motor Speedway


A look at winners and losers from Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Ryan Blaney — Blaney stopped his winless streak at 59 races and gave team owner Roger Penske his second major race victory in two days. Blaney had the best car but had to fight through restarts late in the race to win.

William Byron — Byron, the winningest driver this season, barely missed getting victory No. 4. He finished second and scored his fifth straight top 10.

Martin Truex Jr. — Truex logged his third top five of the season.

23XI RacingBubba Wallace was fourth and Tyler Reddick fifth, giving 23XI Racing a pair of top-five finishes for the first time in a points race.


Jimmie Johnson — The seven-time champion admitted having problems adjusting to the Next Gen car on a 1.5-mile track. He crashed early and finished last.

Legacy Motor Club — It was a bad night for Jimmie Johnson and his team’s drivers. Johnson finished last in the 37-car field. Noah Gragson was 36th. Erik Jones placed 32nd.

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin — Two drivers who had strong cars didn’t make it to the finish after crashing near the halfway point. Hamlin said Elliott “shouldn’t be racing next week. Right-rear hooks are absolutely unacceptable. He shouldn’t be racing.”