Kevin Harvick leaves mark as behind-the-scenes mentor for ‘my kids’ in NASCAR


The longtime persona of Kevin Harvick was a NASCAR champion who made a career of making his opponents miserable.

There are endless examples of destabilization by the former high school wrestler from Bakersfield who devilishly played withering mind games during title battles, gleefully shoved the competition into brawls and ruthlessly put himself and his team first at all costs.

But as the 47-year-old nicknamed “Happy” (a moniker with sarcastic origins) enters his final season in the Cup Series, the next generation of drivers is happy to destroy the façade of Harvick as a selfish superstar.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver they know has been a fount of good advice and emotional support. A veteran who proactively has offered a hand even when many were unaware they needed it. An available and wizened ear to bend on virtually any topic – and with virtually any driver, regardless of their history with the mercurial star.

LONG: Kevin Harvick has provided a spark for NASCAR over the years

Though Chase Elliott and Harvick engaged in one of NASCAR’s most memorable recent feuds in 2021, the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he and Harvick still “have a good relationship” that dates back nearly a decade. When Elliott was entering his rookie Xfinity Series season with JR Motorsports in 2014, it was Harvick (who was running his first part-time year with JRM) who became his biggest sounding board.

“Kevin was really the veteran there in the building that was willing to help me and willing to allow me to ask questions, and I asked a ton of questions,” Elliott told NBC Sports. “We talked quite a lot there early on, and I’m grateful for that. It’s not often you have a veteran guy who is willing to lend a hand to a young racer who really had very little experience, especially coming to a lot of these tracks for the first time. And he recognized that and was willing to help. So I’ve always had a lot of respect for him in many regards. Obviously, he’s a very good driver, but just that period of time and him being willing to help me, I’ll always really appreciate that. Those are important moments in a young driver’s career.”

Bubba Wallace recalls getting an unsolicited dinner invitation from Harvick just as he was making his first Cup starts several years ago. Wallace shared the meal with Harvick and his wife, DeLana, and “just was able to chat and talk about life.

“I’ll always remember that moment of him just wanting to help,” Wallace told NBC Sports. “Just knowing that ‘Happy’ has an actual nice side to him was pretty cool to see, and from the moments that we’ve had our run-ins on track, we still race each other with respect and treat each other with respect. So I’ll always remember that moment.”

NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum - Day 2
Kevin Harvick says the renewed focus on safety issues in last year’s debut of the Next Gen car resulted in him taking a more vocal leadership role (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

Harvick wants to leave that impression but would prefer “to keep it as private as possible because I don’t want them to ever think it’s so that I can talk to (the media) about it.” It’s notable that the details of these meetings have emerged years later (and only by prompting the younger set).

“When they speak about it, I’m OK with it, but I just have a real interest in trying to share the things that I’ve been able to experience and make mistakes,” Harvick said. “There’s so few guys that drive these cars, that you can really have more conversations with them and just reach out. Some of them you reach out and don’t really hear much from them. Some of them you reach out to and wind up at dinner with you or at your house having dinner.

“They need to know that you’re there. Some of them can’t believe that you reached out, because they’re trying to figure out why you reached out to them. Or understand why you’re taking an interest in things that they’re doing. And really, it’s just trying to set an example, because in the generation before me, those guys all communicated and helped each other and knew each other and I think it’s important for our group of drivers. We’ve kind of gotten away from that. Some of that may be my fault for not trying to tie that together a little bit better, but we’ve worked hard on that over the last year and a half with all the safety stuff and things that we’ve had going on and trying to have everybody sit down a little bit more.”

Harvick left the first iteration of the Drivers Council five years ago after growing frustrated with its lack of impact. But with the safety issues raised by the Next Gen debut last year, he re-emerged as an outspoken force who was adamant about advocating for his younger peers. Before the 2022 season finale at Phoenix, the father of two explained why he had been leading more publicly.

“I want to keep my colleagues informed and educated, and I’m good with doing that,” he said. “It’s just an interesting time, and something that worked out that way. I feel like most of (the younger drivers) are my kids. I don’t feel obligated, but I think the timing of it is just what it is. You do the things you think will help everybody. And try to do the right thing and balance that with what’s right for the sport.”

After being thrust into a virtually untenable situation in filling the ride vacated by the death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, Harvick got sideways with NASCAR and other stars often in his early years. He was parked for a Cup race after several incidents in a 2002 truck race at Martinsville Speedway (where he also had been in a spat with Bobby Hamilton in 2001).

But Harvick managed to stick around through the guidance of some NASCAR veterans (along with late PR rep Jim Hunter). He credits Hamilton, Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett as “guys that reached out when I was in trouble and always give you advice.” Later in his career, it became teammate Tony Stewart, who would “compare notes” on his past missteps and how he handled them.

In guiding his son Keelan’s burgeoning career, Harvick has seen how young stars need “somebody outside of their circle that they can trust and ask questions to and really talk to about certain situations and know that it’s not going to go anywhere but between the two of you.

“I guess being a father has given (me) some sort of idea of what is happening with some of the kids and what they’re up against and trying to understand that. So I think as you try to understand the kids – because they are kids, and they are young – there are so many sharks in the water in this particular sport that a lot of them just don’t understand how to manage their time and all the things that are asked of them. You can’t say yes to everything at this particular level, but they’ll try for a while until they’re in trouble from their job perspective because they’re not focused on the racing side of it. But really the safety stuff brought all this into play as far as being closer to understanding who all the competitors are and the drivers.”

The bridges have gotten firmer with some younger but established drivers, too. Joey Logano’s history with Harvick is well-documented, but the two-time Cup champion said they get along really well now.

Kevin Harvick NASCAR
Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick share a moment before the Clash at the Coliseum last week (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images).

“Yeah, we didn’t take off on the best note — some of my own doings, some of maybe his doings — we’ve had the conversations, and honestly, now I probably have a better relationship with Kevin than I do 90% of the drivers out there,” Logano told NBC Sports. “I think we can relate on a lot of different levels.

“I think one of my favorite moments for Kevin is we were flying back from Vegas (after a race)  last year. We were just BS-ing and back and forth. And we were talking about kids and the mistakes that we made and how they all live on YouTube. A lot of those videos, we’re laughing about it, which is great we can laugh about it. You know that that part’s pretty cool. Now that we have a friendship, it’s kind of funny because, gosh, if you said to me 10 years ago that I would get along Kevin Harvick, I’d say you’re nuts. No way.

“But I think now like we both have changed so much that we really get along well.”

NBC Sports asked several Cup drivers for their best memories and stories of Harvick. Here’s what many said:

Corey LaJoie: While racing in the K&N Series as a teenager, the Spire Motorsports driver was assembling a car for a 2010 race at Iowa Speedway with his father, Randy, who had DeLana Harvick as a PR rep while racing in NASCAR more than 20 years ago. “It was a Penske car. We couldn’t find parts. We couldn’t find pieces. I was having a hard time getting this car together for the race. Dad called DeLana and asked, ‘Hey, my son’s having a hard time building his car. He’s not going to get ready for the race. Next thing I know, my dad (is on) the intercom at the shop. ‘Hey, Corey got a call on. Pick it up.’ ‘Hey, Corey, I hear you’re having a hard time getting this car together.’ ‘Like, yes. Who is this? Santa Claus? Who is this?’ ‘It’s (Kevin) Harvick.  ‘Well, I’ve got a machine shop and I got a couple of guys that are familiar with that car. If you want to just bring it up here to KHI we’ll get that thing together.’ And I was like, ‘Sweet.’ I couldn’t get that thing loaded up fast enough. Booked it up to Kernersville and dropped it off.

“He put Bruce Cook Jr. and four or five guys on this car. They made suspension pieces and spindles and this and that. They got the car ready to go. Because they had way more expertise at it than I did. And we showed up, and we (finished fourth). So Harvick went out on a limb and helped a brother out and pretty much got my car together. He put his people on it and that’s just how Harvick gives me (help) behind the scenes. He does a lot for people that you wouldn’t know.”

Chase Briscoe: A Cup teammate at SHR for the past two seasons, Briscoe introduced himself to Harvick for the first time before his Xfinity debut for Roush Fenway Racing in 2018 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “He was driving the 98 car kind of part-time. I was going to run the 98 car for Stewart-Haas later that year, a couple of races. And I remember going over to Kevin at Atlanta, he had no idea who I was, and I just started asking him questions. And really from that day on, we’ve had a really good friendship and he’s just been such a mentor to me on and off the racetrack. Whether it’s on the racetrack, asking him for advice of what to do and off the racetrack asking him for advice in business or things like that.

“Kevin’s kind of just always been there for me. He’s always kind of had my back through everything. He’s always believed in me. Just being teammates with a guy that’s going to be a Hall of Famer has been huge for me to kind of see how he prepares for races, just how he even debriefs after the races. His leadership role in our company. It’s been really big for me just to be able to kind of see that behind the scenes. I know I’m going to miss Kevin when he’s gone for sure, just because he’s been such a huge asset in my career and just a guy that can I always call or text for anything. I definitely just can’t think of a better teammate to have than him.”

Kevin Harvick NASCAR
Kevin Harvick and Chase Briscoe are entering their third season as Stewart-Haas Racing teammates (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

Ryan Preece: Harvick’s newest Cup teammate said their friendship started after Harvick and his management company posted a weekly contingency bonus in 2018 at Stafford Motor Speedway, Preece’s local track. “I was racing those few Xfinity races and still racing pretty much full-time at the time at (Stafford). So he sponsored the program, I said thank you to him and happened to win Bristol not too long after that. He was the first one to come up to me and shake my hand. It’s little moments like that that are things that people like him do, specifically Kevin, that maybe they don’t realize the impact that they really have on a guy like me or some racers up in the Connecticut area. Through the past four years of getting to know Kevin and DeLana and Keelan and Piper, they’ve been great to my wife and I. He’s been somebody that, if I necessarily don’t know I should be doing something, he’ll shoot me a note and say, ‘Hey, I think you should you should do this,’ or, he helps you. He doesn’t necessarily give you the answer to success, but he helps you achieve it and find ways to do it.”

William Byron: “The thing that stands out with Kevin is my rookie year. A lot’s happening fast, and my second race in my career after the Daytona 500 (at Atlanta), I got lapped by him a few times that that day. And then ended up sitting down with him a couple of weeks later and having breakfast and just kind of picking his brain on racing stuff, career stuff, and just getting a better idea of kind of a direction. It really helped me throughout my rookie year, and just my career in general. Thankful for him to take that time and help a younger guy like me. He’s always followed up and ask questions, and it’s just been good to have that relationship. We’ve got a mutual friend through Max Papis. Max knows Kevin really well (and) kept urging me to kind of get together with Kevin and meet with him and ask questions. So yeah, that’s how we kind of got together. Honestly, I didn’t expect much. I was like, ‘Man, this guy’s super successful in the Cup series right now he’s winning seven to 10 races a year, probably doesn’t want to share a lot with me.’ So I wouldn’t really expect it if I were in his shoes, but he did. That’s what stood out. He didn’t mind being open and communicating.”

Ty Dillon: Though Harvick’s criticism of the Dillon brothers in a 2013 truck race at Martinsville made headlines, he grew close to them while racing for their grandfather, Richard Childress. “Kevin has had such an impact on my life, my family’s, the race team from the time he stepped in for Dale and immediately brought victory back to the company and really helped RCR get through a time that was really tough. He was the cornerstone of the race team as I was growing up. So a lot of times, he was there to talk to. I remember my first truck win at Atlanta (on Aug. 31, 2012), he called me that morning. It was like 8 or 9 in the morning, and he really walked me through the speedway at that time because he was very dominant at the racetrack on that surface. The things he told me I applied and went out and beat Kyle Busch (and) some of the top guys, and I’ll never forget that Kevin’s always been there for good advice.

“We’ve obviously had our moments later on in the truck series and, but also after the Martinsville situation, it wasn’t within a year later where we had talked about it and moved on. And you know, we have a great relationship now. He’s been very helpful and impactful to my career. Almost every year of my career. He’s been somebody that’s worth talking to and always offers the best advice, and I appreciate what not only what he’s done for me, but what he’s done for the sport and done for my family’s race team at RCR.”

AJ Allmendinger: “There’s a couple of memories that stand out on Kevin. So before I got to NASCAR — my favorite clip of all time, I watched it live — was him standing on the pit wall at Bristol, just waiting for Greg Biffle to finish the race, so he could just go spider monkey on his ass once the race got over. Which he did, which was awesome.

“The other thing is always being able to call him just with a question or anything that I had needed advice on. I could call him, and he’d never lie, or he made time for it. I always appreciated that. And then you just knew on the racetrack — and it’s probably gonna be worse this year since it’d be his last year – he’s aggressive. He don’t give a damn about you on the racetrack. And he makes sure he lets you knows that.
“(The advice) was always asking him about driving certain racetracks and how he went about it. You always knew that, Obviously, the race car was involved in that as well of how his car handled. Things like that. But to be quite honest, I asked him about what he felt like was right or wrong (for Allmendinger in 2023 when he returned to Cup full time after four years). So I asked him about what he thought the right course of direction was for me to have what I wanted to do in my life. What would be said, what wouldn’t be said about it and things like that. As tough is he is on the racetrack, you can call him and get advice, or you can ask him at the racetrack about certain things and, and he’s just as nice off the racetrack about that stuff. It meant a lot more to me than it probably really did to him taking the time out of his day to do that. That’s the type of person he is.”

Ross Chastain: Harvick was critical of Chastain after they collided while racing for the lead in an Xfinity race in 2018 at Darlington Raceway, but the Trackhouse Racing driver jokingly recalls being on the other side long before that. “I have to back up to before my career in NASCAR, I was at his first Cup win in Atlanta. Really. to be honest, I was rooting for the 24 car (of Jeff Gordon). So I was bummed. We were in a suite, and the entire group I was with was cheering when Kevin won. I was the only one that was mad. I was convinced that the 24 won. He did not.

“So that’s a cool memory to have. But now once I got into the sport, my first time racing a competitive funded car was Darlington in 2018 with Chip Ganassi Racing in their 42 Xfinity car and race for the win with Kevin and Brad (Keselowski). And to be racing that that time with two champions of our sport, it was under caution, I was looking in my mirror at one of them at one point and looking at Kevin in front of me. So that was really an awesome experience. Only the both of us forced the issue off Turn 2, three wide under a lapped car, got together and hit the wall. Neither one of us had a chance to win.

“So as much as I’ve looked up to him in my career, I can honestly say that I’ve never been more happy for a guy to be wrong based on what he said after that race. It has worked out pretty well for us. So he’s a hero of mine, and I’m just happy I’ve gotten to race with him. He’s helped me actually a lot. I’ve talked to him at times for advice. He’s helped me more than anybody even knows.”

Dustin Long contributed to this story

Kevin Harvick NASCAR
Kevin Harvick announced ahead of the 2023 Clash at the Coliseum that he would move to the Fox Sports booth in 2024 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

Dr. Diandra: With Chase Elliott out, these are the best Next Gen road racers


The Next Gen racecar is the ideal vehicle for road course racers. With none of the asymmetry of previous car generations — vehicles optimized for only turning left — the new car upended the road course pecking order.

Road course ace Chase Elliott will watch this season’s first road course race from the sideline while recovering from a fractured left leg.

Elliott has won seven of the 25 Cup Series road courses races he’s run, giving him a win rate of 28.0%. That’s a little more than one win in every four races. He posts top-10 finishes 68.0% of the time.

In 2022, Elliott:

  • led the most laps (121) at road courses
  • led four of the six road course races
  • led the most laps at three of the six road course races

But he didn’t win any of them.

Tyler Reddick won on two road courses, including his first Cup Series win on the way to a three-win season. Ross Chastain, Daniel Suárez, Kyle Larson, and Christopher Bell each won one race.

Winning isn’t everything… but it’s a start

The unusually high number of spins and tire/wheel issues last year means that finishes don’t always reflect how well a driver ran.

For example: Elliott led most of the first two stages at Sonoma but had to back up during a mid-race pit stop to retighten a wheel. His average running position was 2.2 before the glitch and 15.9 after. He finished eighth.

Despite not winning in 2022, Elliott still tied for the best average finishing position on road courses. The graph below shows all drivers with average finishing positions below 12 in 2022.

A vertical bar chart showing the most consistent Next Gen road course racers

Of last year’s road course winners, only Reddick and Bell make the graph.

  • Three finishes outside the top 20 drop Chastain’s average finish to 16.7.
  • Sonoma winner Suárez had three top-five finishes and three finishes of 24th and worse for an average finish of 16.5.
  • Although Larson finished third at Road America and won Watkins Glen, his other four finishes were 29th or worse. That averages out to 19.7.

That’s not to say these drivers aren’t contenders for a win at any road course race. But I’m more interested in the most consistent Next Gen road course racers.

Only four drivers have average finishing positions under 10: Elliott, Reddick, Chris Buescher and Austin Cindric. Michael McDowell is fifth on the list, 1.3 positions back from Reddick. Bell is 0.7 positions behind McDowell.

Going beyond averages

To gain insight, I examined driver finishes by track, as shown in the graph below. Average positions are represented by gray bars, with symbols showing individual race finishes.

A scatter plot showing 2022 road course finishes by race for 2022's best Next Gen road racers
Symbols overlaps when a driver had two finishes in the same place. For example, Tyler Reddick won twice, so the two symbols are overlaid.

This graph shows, for example, that Elliott had four top 10s and two finishes out of the top 15. Buescher had the same average finishing position but had five top 10s and one 21st-place finish.

Given the issues the new car introduced, this graph suggested that I give each driver a mulligan. So I also calculated the average of each driver’s best five road course races and summarized them in the table below.

A table comparing average finishes for 2022's best next-gen road course racers

Let’s look a little deeper into three of these drivers.

Chris Buescher

Buescher won the fall Bristol race and his name always comes up when talking superspeedways.

But the Next Gen car improved Buescher’s average road course finish by 3.1 positions relative to 2021. Buescher not only matches Chase Elliott’s average finish but beats Elliott in number of top-10 finishes.

If we throw out both drivers’ worst finishes — a 21st-place at COTA for Buescher and Elliott’s P20 at the Roval — Buescher beats Elliott in average finish position.

Austin Cindric

Cindric won four road courses in the Xfinity Series and posted the third-best average finish at road courses in his first Cup Series season. His 2022 performance included four top-10 finishes on the first four road courses of the season.

But even excluding his 21st-place finish at the Roval, Cindric remains ranked behind Elliott and Buescher.

Like Buescher, Cindric’s average running position is significantly higher than his average finishing position. That raises the interesting question of whether drivers advancing last year did so because they were better in the Next Gen car, or because other drivers had trouble.

Tyler Reddick

Reddick finished 35th at Sonoma last year, 13 laps down. He had been running consistently in the top six before requiring a brake repair.

But Sonoma was Reddick’s only misstep. His other five road course finishes were all top 10s, including two wins. Excluding the Sonoma finish gives Reddick a 4.4 average finishing position for 2022 road courses — the best of any driver.

Reddick’s move from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI raises some questions about how his 2023 road course performance will compare with 2022. Excepting last week at Atlanta where an ailing Reddick finished fifth, Reddick has finished the same or worse than last year. And that’s with an additional year of experience in the Next Gen car.

It’s just as hard to predict winners this year as it was last year. But if you’re looking for drivers who can reliably finish in the top 10, these are the best choices.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Circuit of the Americas


NASCAR’s three major series return to the road this weekend with races scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series races are Saturday, and the Cup Series is scheduled to race Sunday afternoon.

MORE: Drivers expect North Wilkesboro surface to be challenging

Joey Logano, winner of last Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, has led laps in both COTA races and will be among the favorites Sunday.

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)

Weekend weather

Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning, sun later in the day. High of 86. 80% chance of rain.

Saturday: Sunny. High of 83.

Sunday: Partly cloudy. Temperature of 81 degrees with a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

Friday, March 24

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 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

Track activity

  • 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)

Saturday, March 25

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 2 – 10:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 26

Garage open

  • 12:30 – 10 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (68 laps, 231.88 miles; Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)




North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will prove challenging to drivers


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.

Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick took part in a Goodyear tire test Tuesday. That test was to continue Wednesday.

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.”

Chris Buescher runs laps during a Goodyear tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway, while Austin Dillon is on pit road. (Photo: Dustin Long)

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.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup race at COTA


Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has attracted an entry list that includes talent beyond that of the tour regulars.

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.

MORE: NBC Driver Rankings: Christopher Bell is No. 1

Jenson Button won the Formula One championship in 2009 and has five F1 starts at COTA. He is scheduled to be a driver for the NASCAR entry in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kimi Raikkonen, entered by Trackhouse Racing as part of its Project 91 program, won the 2007 F1 championship and has eight F1 starts at the Austin track.

They will draw attention at COTA this weekend, along with these other drivers to watch:


Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 5th
  • Best seasonal finish: 2nd (Atlanta I)
  • Past at COTA: 19th and 14th in two career starts

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.

AJ Allmendinger

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 5th and 33rd in two starts

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.

Ross Chastain

  • 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.


Chris Buescher

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 13th and 21st in two starts

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.

Alex Bowman

  • 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.

William Byron

  • Points position: 28th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I)
  • Past at COTA: 11th and 12th in two starts

Involvement in an accident at Atlanta ended Byron’s two-race winning streak. He’ll be looking to lead a lap at COTA for the first time.