Drivers to watch for the NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA


NASCAR hits its first of six road course races this season with a trip to Circuit of the Americas.

Last year’s inaugural Cup race in Austin, Texas, was marred by torrential rain that shortened the race.

With a much drier forecast ahead coupled with the Next Gen’s road course debut, which drivers will be in the mix for the win on Sunday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)?


Chase Elliott

  • Points position: First
  • Last three races: Ninth — Las Vegas; 11th — Phoenix; Sixth — Atlanta
  • Recent at COTA: Won inaugural Cup race in May 2021

Elliott is NASCAR’s current road course ace, and although teammate Kyle Larson is trying, no one else in the series is even close. Elliott won Cup’s lone trip to Austin a year ago, nabbing one of seven career road course wins in 19 such starts. In other words, the 2020 series champion has an outstanding 36.8% win rate on road courses throughout his Cup career.

Also noteworthy is that each of Elliott’s last two victories came on road courses — COTA and Road America. Despite being Hendrick Motorsports’ only driver without a win this year, Elliott is the series’ points leader and enters Austin fresh off his best finish of the season.

With Elliott building a streak of consistency, COTA might be the perfect track for the No. 9 team to rekindle its magic and get back to Victory Lane.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 10th
  • Last three races: Third — Las Vegas; Second — Phoenix; Second — Atlanta
  • Recent at COTA: Finished fourth in May 2021

Chastain is on an incredible hot streak of three straight finishes inside the top three. And while the Trackhouse Racing driver may not be the first name you think of on a road course, Chastain wheeled the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish last year and led four laps in the inaugural event.

Of course, the track was drenched in rain a season ago, and this weekend’s forecast looks bone dry. Factored with a new car, it’s difficult to say definitively whether Chastain will be able to translate last year’s drive into something as productive — or better — on Sunday.

Regardless, Chastain proved to be a formidable contender when right turns were presented in 2021, with finishes of seventh at Sonoma and Road America and 12th at Watkins Glen.

AJ Allmendinger

  • Points position: N/A
  • Last Cup race: 20th — Phoenix
  • Recent at COTA: Finished fifth in May 2021

Last summer, Allmendinger proved loud and clear that he’s still capable of winning in the Cup Series with his triumph at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

COTA was no exception either. With a top five in his inaugural run at the 3.41-mile course, Allmendinger was in contention through much of the event.

Allmendinger has two career Cup wins on road courses and six in Xfinity (three at the Charlotte Roval, two at Mid-Ohio and one at Road America). The No. 16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing will be toward the front again this weekend in Austin.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 12th
  • Last three races: Second — Las Vegas; 34th — Phoenix; 30th — Atlanta
  • Recent at COTA: Finished second in May 2021

Depending on your perspective, Larson’s season has either been phenomenal or disconcerting. The defending champion celebrated a win at Auto Club Speedway and followed that with a runner-up finish at Las Vegas the next week.

But the three races surrounding those have resulted in finishes outside the top 30 — two due to crashes and one due to an engine failure.

The good news for the No. 5 team is that Larson won three road races a season ago (Sonoma, Watkins Glen and the Roval) and was hunting Elliott for the win at COTA before the race was cut 14 laps short for rain. Larson, his team and fans should hope this weekend goes the way of Auto Club rather than Atlanta.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: Seventh — Las Vegas; Third — Phoenix; 28th — Atlanta
  • Recent at COTA: Finished ninth in May 2021

For weeks, the conversation surrounding Tyler Reddick has centered around one idea: He will win at some point this season. The question remains when.

Reddick was leading in Atlanta when a right rear tire went flat in front of the field and triggered a multi-car crash. Reddick has proven to be a decent road course racer with one top five and four top 10s in nine such starts.

One of those top 10s came last season at COTA, where he earned the pole position and overcame a spin at Lap 40 to rally back to ninth place. Perhaps the dry conditions expected this weekend will play into the No. 8 team’s hands.

Austin Cindric

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 19th — Las Vegas; 24th — Phoenix; 32nd — Atlanta
  • Recent at COTA: Finished 25th in May 2021

If any of Cindric’s seven Cup starts in 2021 signified he was ready to compete with the sport’s best, Circuit of the Americas was the one.

After qualifying third, Cindric started the race on slick tires and quickly charged to the lead. While others quickly opted for rain tires, Cindric pulled away to a 6½-second lead over the first five laps in wet conditions, muscling the No. 33 Ford through the 20-turn course before finally pitting.

His 25th-place finish wasn’t indicative of his performance — Cindric averaged a sixth-best 10.37 running position that day — but his fellow competitors knew he was there.

Cindric’s hot start, highlighted by winning the Daytona 500 and Auto Club pole, has cooled considerably with three straight finishes outside the top 15. A road course may be his best threat to get back on track.

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.”