ECHOPARK AUTOMOTIVE TEXAS GRAND PRIX: “WHAT THEY ARE SAYING” ABOUT CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS

AUSTIN, Texas (May 13, 2021) – As NASCAR prepares for the debut of all three of its national series next weekend at Circuit of The Americas, the following is a collection of quotes regarding the facility, track layout, anticipated racing and more. The quote board features the three NASCAR Cup Series champions – Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski – who participated in a Goodyear tire test March 2 on the 3.41-mile permanent road course in Austin, Texas.

The Xfinity Series Pit Boss 250 and Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 225 will both run on Saturday, with the NASCAR tripleheader weekend culminating with Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix NASCAR Cup Series race. Please click here for the weekend schedule of events and a track map.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing): “Definitely quite a different road course from what we’ve been on here in NASCAR over the years. I actually didn’t get any time on the simulator or on iRacing or anything to learn the track, so coming here this morning (March 2), I’d only watched videos, so it was a big learning curve this morning. It was fun to make those first few runs, learn the track and get up to speed. Now we’re starting to get into some testing stuff – working on the cars and working on the tires. It’s been fun so far, and it’s been neat to learn a new track.”

NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing): “It’s definitely an interesting place. It’s a long course – a lot of corners, a lot of high-speed straightaways, heavy braking zones, so it’s definitely going to have its challenges for the drivers as well as the equipment.”

NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott (No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports): “It’s a super neat facility – super nice facility, number one. The track’s fun. It has a lot of character to it, I feel like. I’ve never been here, never seen it before in person before today and really haven’t watched a ton of races here, so it’s really been a pretty steep learning curve for me, trying to piece together all the different parts of the track and understand where you need to be good and how to make it flow.”

NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford Mustang for Team Penske): “There are a couple of really high-speed sections that were really like eye popping, the backstretch one, specifically. … The transition from the high-speed to the low-speed sections is dramatic. It’s not a bad thing; it’s probably a good thing since it can open up some passing opportunities. You’ll see different drivers taking advantage of that without braking so curious to see how that plays out a little bit. … Restarts are going to be super important and I can see the race being wildly unpredictable.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric (No. 18 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing): “I am blown away. You cannot fully appreciate COTA for itself until you actually come and have a chance to run a lap. We can all have simulation and look at film and do all kinds of stuff, but being on the racetrack, seeing all the elevation, seeing how fast some of the high-speed stuff is, how hard some of the braking zone are and how tight some of the switchback corners are, it’s going to be incredible to see how everybody, all of us – the whole field – can navigate that together. It’s going to be a challenge for these race teams, a challenge for the drivers, but I’m sure we’re up for it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

GENERAL LAYOUT
Keselowski: “It’s different than a lot of road courses we go to – very high-speed. This section over here, it’s about 185mph. Then you slow down to about 30, so – 185 to 30, you know that’s a heck of a ride; I know it would make my wife sick if she was riding with me. And you really have to finesse the cars down in the corners.”

Elliott: “Any time you go somewhere new, just to see a fresh road is refreshing for a race car driver. I’ve enjoyed the challenge. There are a lot of places on the track – I’ve not made a ton of laps, so really trying to understand ‘hey, is this the right way or is this the wrong way?’ When you’re new and you’re just trying to get going, you might hit the first part of the track pretty good but miss two spots back here. Your lap time doesn’t tell the whole story, so you really have to piece that together to understand what you did good and what you didn’t, and then go put the pieces of the puzzle together and try to put the whole thing in the works. It’s been fun, and I look forward to the rest of the day.”

NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones (No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Petty Motorsports): “I think it is just technical as far as COTA is concerned. From what I’ve done on the simulator, there’s just a lot of technical portions of the race track. A lot of slow-speed stuff and a lot of really tight hairpin corners. It’s a matter of taking your time and being easy with it. Our cars are really heavy and got a lot of power and not a lot of grip so you just have to be easy with the race car and get it to do its work and not really force it to do anything.”

Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith: “We’re really, really looking forward to an amazing inaugural weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing these pros hit the track, and I know it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. It’s high speed, it’s technical and I think it’s a little bit deceiving at how fast this track is, but we’ll find out soon enough.”

UPHILL START
Keselowski: “One of the things about this track here in Austin, it’s got a couple of key action spots. Turn one is designed as though a fan said, ‘how can I have the most calamity in that corner on the start?’ So, there’s a couple of things – first off, it’s uphill, which helps the car stop, so it encourages the driver to try to out-brake another driver, which is big on a restart or a start because all of the cars are already so close together. Second thing is, it’s really wide on entry, so it’s almost impossible to block because there’s just a lot more racetrack. And then, of course, the third part is it’s a super slow corner meaning you have to use a lot of brakes to get through there. So, like I said, almost like it was intentional – I’m sure it was intentional – to create some epic starts. I think you’ll see that here.”

Truex Jr. “I would say the start of this race, will probably be pretty cool. You’ve got that long, front straightaway and it’s very, very wide, then you go into a very, very slow corner. We have races at places like Pocono where we get five and six-wide down the frontstretch, and there’s potential for that to happen here as well, but you’ve got to turn around and go the other way, so, it could be pretty hairy.”

FAVORITE PORTIONS OF LAYOUT
Keselowski: “There are a couple of spots that certainly stand out as being a lot of fun. The esses are such a rhythm section. You feel like you’re doing a tango dance with your feet. You have to be really precise and hit everything perfectly. So, there’s a really strong rhythm section on the front half of the course, and then the back half of the course, kind of the ballsy place is the entry to this really high-speed corner section. Again, 185 mph down to 35 mph, you know it. You’re going at that corner really, really fast. You’re pushing it to the limit, and it really stands out.”

Truex Jr.: “Really all the turns for me this morning were like, ‘OK, this is pretty cool; this is going to take a lot of figuring out.’ Like I said earlier, my learning curve was really steep. I’ve had no practice. I’ve never seen this track before, never watched a race here before. I literally watched five minutes of in-car footage last night (in March), I think it was a Porsche going around this place, and I was like, ‘OK, this looks pretty straightforward.’ Then you get out here and you’ve got the elevation changes. You’ve got the blind corners. Those are the things that take time to learn because you’ve got to go off of instinct more than what you’re seeing. It’s all about markers and points on the track and when you turn in and what gear you’re in and how much speed you’re carrying and finding the brake points and all those things. It takes over two minutes to get around here, so if you make a mistake, you’ve got to wait two minutes to correct it, and you can’t forget it when you come back around. It was interesting to do that and a lot of fun to do that.”

COMPARISONS OF COTA TO OTHER ROAD COURSES
Keselowski: “This track reminds me a lot of Road America up in Wisconsin. A lot of similarities – really big straightaways, not as many esses at Road America, but tight chicanes. Big slowdowns. We’ll definitely take a lot of what we learn here up to Road America.”

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver John Hunter Nemechek (No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports): “All in all, this place is amazing. It brings a lot of different road courses together and kind of throws a lot of different components in to it and I think it’s going to be fast, it’s going to be technical, it’s going to be a mixture of a bunch of different road courses, and as a driver, I like to see that. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race will be the Toyota Tundra 225, so it’ll be neat supporting the Toyota Tundra driving it out here with their only manufacturing plant in the world only 90 minutes from here.”

Truex Jr.: “We’ve been going to Watkins Glen and Sonoma for years. They’re both purpose-built road courses, but completely opposites. I feel like this is kind of part Sonoma, part Watkins Glen. There are some fast sections, some slow sections. It’s got the older asphalt, wearing tires out more like Sonoma, but it’s got the really high-speed straights and the really hard braking zone like Watkins Glen going down the backstretch. It’s a mix of both. It’s got a little bit the blind corner, up-and-down elevation change like Sonoma. It’s a pretty unique place. It’s been pretty fun to learn so far and I look forward to shaving off some more time this afternoon and having some more fun.”

IMPORTANCE OF OPENING PRACTICE
Jones: “It’s going to be huge. Any time you go to a new track you need the practice time, that time to work out the bugs. The simulator is great and it does teach you a lot but there is really nothing matches getting on the race track and making those changes and feeling it in person.”

NASCAR COMPARISON TO OTHER FORMS OF RACING AT COTA
Elliott: “I hope people will come out and give it a chance. It’s just a different type of racing. We’re not going near as fast as those cars do, but I feel like the product and the competitiveness on track and us being able to race around each other is much more feasible with the speeds we’re going and how big and heavy these cars are. No, it’s not the ooohhhs and aaahhhs of going through the esses at however fast those guys go, but I do think the racing’s better to watch, and I think that’s what’s made NASCAR popular over the years, and I’m not sure why that would be any different here.”

Truex Jr.: “As far as selling our sport, I think it sells itself. We’ve got great racing every single weekend – a lot of surprises, obviously this year already a couple of young guys winning is big. That’s just the kind of thing we see in NASCAR. The parody is incredible. We always talk about just how close the field is and how the tiniest little things make a huge difference in winning or losing and we see that everywhere we go. I expect it to be no different here.”

IMPORTANCE OF BRAKE CARE ON ROAD COURSES
Elliott: “The brakes are, for us, it’s just keeping them as cool as you can, and that’s a hard thing to do. Over the years, it’s honestly impressive watching how these teams have figured out how to keep these brakes cool. When I ran my first Cup race, I was like, ‘there’s no way the brakes are going to last on this thing,’ and guys would just be burying it in the corner and push all day. So, it’s really just a matter of keeping them as cool as you can and giving the driver the ability to continue to attack the corner, I think is important.”

KEY TO SUCCESS ON ROAD COURSES
Elliott: “Good people, like anything else. Just good people and fell into a good situation. They’ve had fast cars to drive, so the only way to continue that is to just keep pushing forward and keep doing better – everybody on our team to keep pushing each other, me doing better behind the wheel, find that extra little bit in the car and try to take it to the next level. That’s all you can do. You like, like everything else, good people and a good situation.”

NEW MARKET FOR NASCAR
Truex Jr.: “It’s huge. Anytime we can go somewhere new, it’s cool – get some local fans to maybe come to their first race. A lot of fans travel to the races. They don’t mind traveling. If we can get some new folks interested, especially with it being a road course — there’s no road course anywhere close to here that we’ve ever raced at – that could have the potential to bring in some interest of some new people, some sports car guys and F1 guys, MotoGP guys that come here and like this stuff and understand this place. This is a unique facility. It’s an honor to get to come here and get to run on the track. I suppose it will be a special day when we get to come here and run on this track for race weekend.”

Keselowski: “I think it is super important to rotate the tracks around – different venues, different towns. I think it is critical to the success of our sport and make our way to new fan bases. I like the opportunity for our sport, glad it was able to come together … I know there was a lot of different things behind the scenes to make it possible and I’d just like to say, ‘thank you’ to those who made it come together and in advance to the media and fans that come out to support it.”

DIVERSE 2021 SCHEDULE
Keselowski: “We get joked at all the time for only making left-hand turns, so you all here are proof that we do more than that. It’s a nice challenge. When you look at what it takes to win and to be successful as a NASCAR driver, it’s really unique compared to all other forms of motorsports because you have to really excel at multiple forms and disciplines of racing, whether it’s the superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega, the short tracks like Bristol and Martinsville or intermediate tracks like Texas or Charlotte or places like that, Atlanta coming up and Vegas as well. All of those tracks, I always joke, are like playing a different position on the football field. It’s the same game, but the way you play it is much different. You have to be good at all of them to win a championship. You look at our playoffs, it’s one of every type of track, road courses, of course, being the fourth type of track. I like to joke, it’s like saying to take somebody who’s a great quarterback and say you’re going to play wide receiver next week. You’re going to play tight end and then running back the week after that. It’s still the same field. It’s still the same football field. It’s still the same objective, but the way you do it is so much different week to week.”

Martin Truex Jr. is the only NASCAR Cup Series driver with multiple victories this season as the series heads to the EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. Truex Jr. has three victories at the controls of his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota and says the COTA course is “fun but will take some figuring out.”

Although he hasn’t won a race so far this season, defending NASCAR Cup Series champ Chase Elliott is one of the pre-race favorites at the EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix based on his recent success on road courses. The second-generation Georgia driver has earned five career road course wins and has won four of the last five road course starts in the series in his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.

Brad Keselowski participated in a Goodyear Tire Test at Circuit of The Americas earlier this month and the Team Penske driver of the No. 2 Ford said he enjoys the challenge that NASCAR is presenting the Cup Series drivers this season with so much diversity of race venues in the schedule.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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