NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Circuit of The Americas

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix
The Place: Circuit of The Americas
The Date: Sunday, March 26
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $9,294,829
TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 231.88 miles (68 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 15),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 30), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 68)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Pit Boss 250 presented by USA Today
The Place: Circuit of The Americas
The Date: Saturday, March 25
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,695,270
TV: FS1, 4 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 156.86 miles (46 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 14),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 30), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 46)

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series
Next Race: XPEL 225
The Place: Circuit of The Americas
The Date: Saturday, March 25
The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $740,517
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 143.22 miles (42 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 12),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 26), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 42)

NASCAR Cup Series

Circuit of The Americas sets the stage for the NASCAR Cup Series

Crank up the lights and focus-in the cameras, because the stage is set for the NASCAR Cup Series to return to one of the country’s premiere tracks, the Circuit of The Americas (COTA), for the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix this Sunday, March 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This week the NASCAR Cup Series teams are preparing for the first of six road & street courses on the 2023 schedule – Circuit of The Americas (Mar. 26), Sonoma Raceway (June 11), Chicago Street Course (July 2), Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen International (Aug. 20) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 8).

On 1,500 acres of land just outside of Austin, Texas construction began in 2010 on what is now known as the Circuit of The Americas. The 20-turn, 3.41-mile, multi-elevational counterclockwise circuit takes advantage of the naturally rolling landscape, including a 133-foot hill at Turn 1. The track also has an amphitheater, the largest permanent outdoor amphitheater in Central Texas, and a 251-foot observation tower.

The sprawling Circuit of The Americas road course has hosted two NASCAR Cup Series races (2021, 2022). The inaugural event was held on May 23, 2021, but was shortened from its scheduled 68 laps to 54 due to inclement weather. The race produced 11 lead changes among 10 different leaders, but it was Hendrick Motorsports driver and 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott who won the inaugural event under caution.

The series returned to 3.41-mile track in 2022 and this time ran the full scheduled length (68 laps) producing 13 lead changes among nine different leaders. The final lead change of the NASCAR Cup Series March 27, 2022 race took place with two laps to go – Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain passed Tyler Reddick for the lead – and went on to win his first career Cup Series race.

Last season’s race was also the premiere of the Next Gen car on a road course, and it didn’t disappoint. Circuit of The Americas produced a NASCAR Cup Series record for green flag passes for the lead on road course tracks with 30 green flag passes for the lead. The previous record was held by Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course with 22 green flag passes for the lead in 2021.

This weekend’s on-track activity for the NASCAR Cup Series begins with practice on Friday, March 24 at 2 p.m. ET followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday, March 25 at 12:30 p.m. ET. Both events will be televised on FS1.

NASCAR introduces new package for short tracks and road courses

NASCAR has announced this season updates to the components of the NASCAR Cup Series car for races held at road courses and short tracks (excluding Bristol and Dover). The Road Course and Selected Short Track Package will consist of the following:

2” Spoiler

Remove Engine Panel Strakes

Remove Center and Inner Diffuser Strakes. Only the Outer Diffuser Strakes will remain installed. Spacers will be installed between the diffuser flap and diffuser due to removing the inner diffuser strakes.

Remove Diffuser Fences and Replace with Baseline Fences.

Splitter stuffers will remain unchanged from the current components.

The rules are in place at the following tracks: Charlotte Roval, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of The Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix, Richmond, Sonoma and Watkins Glen.

So that teams and drivers can have additional track time to adjust to these new components, NASCAR has made Circuit of The Americas an ‘extended practice’ weekend. A 50-minute practice is scheduled for Friday from 1:05 p.m. to 1:55 p.m. local time.

Standings leader Joey Logano dominated Atlanta, looks to keep success rolling at COTA

After a prevailing performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend, that saw Team Penske’s Joey Logano lead 130 of the 260 laps and pass RFK Racing driver Brad Keselowski to win, has leaped to the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead by one point over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell in second place.

Holding the points standings lead for the second-time already this season, Logano’s win has also etched his name on the list of 2023 Playoff drivers to secure their spot; joining Ricky Stenhouse Jr., William Byron and Kyle Busch. He has also earned his spot in this year’s NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race which will be held at the newly renovated North Wilkesboro Speedway (May 21). Now, the 32-year-old will look to extend his points lead and get his first series career win at Circuit of the Americas this weekend.

Logano is already an established road course racer in the series, taking the win at Watkins Glen International in 2015. In his two series starts at Circuit of The Americas he has put up one top-five finish (third) and an average finish of 17.0. Last season at COTA, he started sixth and ran well but was caught in a late race incident that relegated him to a 31st-place finish.

NASCAR road course aces to watch this Sunday

Heading into this weekend at the Circuit of The Americas, the NASCAR Cup Series has 12 former road course winners entered in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix this Sunday, March 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and 11 of them are looking for their first win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season (all except Kyle Busch and Joey Logano).

Three new drivers were added to the NASCAR Cup Series road course winners list last season; including Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain, who won his first career Cup Series race at Circuit of The Americas, and Daniel Suárez, who earned his first career Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway, and not to mention, 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who earned two road course wins last season driving for Richard Childress Racing at Road America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

“When I look back at our first win, I think of all of the people who helped me get here,” said Chastain. “My family, sponsors, team owners, all of the men and women who have spent time trying to help me put everything together so I could race. It would’ve been so easy for me to give up and go back and work at the farm. Instead, I kept working at it, and kept trying and so many people were there to help me.”

Of the three (Chastain, Suarez and Reddick) the pre-race loop data stats are pointing to Ross Chastain as the one to watch for this weekend at COTA. In his two starts at 3.42-mile course, he has posted one win and two top fives. He leads the series in average finish with a 2.5, average running position with a 6.785, driver rating with a 125.8, fastest laps run (20) and laps in the top 15 (112 laps, 91.1%).

Active Road Course Winners (12)Total WinsSonomaWGICharlotteDaytonaIndyCOTARoad America
Kyle Busch42200000
Martin Truex Jr43100000
Kyle Larson41210000
Kevin Harvick21100000
AJ Allmendinger20100100
Christopher Bell20011000
Tyler Reddick20000101
Joey Logano10100000
Ryan Blaney10010000
Denny Hamlin10100000
Daniel Suárez11000000
Jimmie Johnson11000000
Ross Chastain10000010

With current active Cup Series road course wins leader, Chase Elliott (with seven road course wins), sidelined with a broken leg, which leaves three drivers assuming the role this weekend at the Circuit of The Americas – Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson – each with four road course victories in their careers and none have come at COTA.

But of the active road course wins leaders – Busch, Truex and Larson – the pre-race loop data stats are pointing to Kyle Busch as having the most success this weekend at Circuit of The Americas. He ranks in the top five in nearly every category: average running position (9.065), second-best; driver rating (92.4), ninth-best; fastest laps run (9), third-best; laps in the top 15 (102 laps, 82.9%), second-most; and quality passes (80), second-most.

Probably, the hungriest to revisit Victory Lane of the three active road course wins leaders is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., who hasn’t won a points-paying NASCAR Cup Series race since Richmond on Sept. 11, 2021 – 49 races ago. Three of Truex’s four road course wins have come at Sonoma Raceway (2013, 2018, 2019) and he earned his fourth at Watkins Glen (2017). The veteran from New Jersey ran well at COTA last season posting a seventh-place finish after starting 17th.

Button, Räikkönen and Taylor join the Cup Series at COTA

With the announcements of Formula One champions Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen and IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car champion Jordan Taylor joining the NASCAR Cup Series to compete in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas on March 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the level of road racing competition in the series was officially raised.

Rick Ware Racing and Mobil 1 have worked in conjunction to bring the 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button to NASCAR to compete in three races this season – Circuit of The Americas (March 26), Chicago Street Course (July 2) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (Aug. 13). This weekend, Button, native of Frome, England, will attempt to make his series debut piloting the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet with crew chief Billy Plourde on top of the pit box.

“Obviously, racing a Cup car is very different than what I’m used to,” Button said. “But I just get excited about that new challenge, and when I throw myself into something, I am 100% in.”

The 43-year-old driver has won 15 races in 306 career Formula One starts. His final start came in 2017, and his last full-time F1 season was in 2016.

Returning to the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend, after making his career debut at Watkins Glen International last season, is the 2007 Formula One world champion Kimi Räikkönen. The driver from Espoo, Finland will be back in the Trackhouse Project No. 91 Chevrolet with crew chief Darian Grubb on the pit box.

This will be Räikkönen’s second stint in the Project 91 car, he helped introduce the program last season at Watkins Glen International. The 43-year-old driver started the race at The Glen in 27th but was caught in an incident exiting the bus stop that relegated him to a 37th-place finish.

“Last year was a great experience,” said Räikkönen. “Unfortunately, the result wasn’t what we were looking for because we got caught up in a wreck, but that’s part of racing. I am excited to have another go and hopefully we will stay out of any big issues. This will be tricky for sure, but the further we go in the weekend the easier it gets. At least I have an idea of how we can approach the weekend. I think we did a good job last year. Is the car going to give us a better result? I don’t know, I hope so.”

Joining Button in making his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at the Circuit of The Americas will be IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car champion Jordan Taylor, who has been selected to replace an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on road courses until Elliott is healthy enough to return. Taylor will be working with crew chief Tom Gray this weekend.

Taylor, from Orlando, Florida, has also been tapped as the fourth driver in the NASCAR Garage 56 project that will have an adapted NASCAR Next Gen car compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year.

“Jordan is a world-class road racer and has recently been working with our Garage 56 team preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “He’ll be able to step in and do a great job at COTA.”

Jimmie Johnson will check off a ‘bucket-list’ item this weekend at COTA

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and current owner/driver at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB, Jimmie Johnson, will be returning to the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend at the Circuit of The Americas – his second start of his 10-race part-time 2023 schedule.

“COTA has been on my racing ‘bucket list’ for a very long time,” said Johnson. “But my timing was off by a year or so. I was hoping it was going to be on the INDYCAR schedule – and it wasn’t – and then they added it to the NASCAR schedule after I left. I’m excited to finally be able to check this one off the list and thankful to Club Wyndham for making it happen. From everything I’ve heard, NASCAR drivers have had a lot of fun racing at COTA, so to say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement.”

Johnson made his return to the series in the season opening DAYTONA 500, where he started 39th and finished 31st.

Throughout Johnson’s NASCAR Cup Series career, he has made 40 starts on road courses posting one win (Sonoma, 2010), nine top fives and 20 top 10s. His most recent NASCAR Cup Series start on a road course was on Oct. 11, 2020 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval; where he started 30th and raced his way up to a 13th-place finish.

Top performers in the Next Gen last season on road courses

Last season the NASCAR Cup Series competed on six road courses in the newly introduced NASCAR Next Gen car. Now, the series is about to embark on the first of six different road courses this season, but before they do lets take a look at the top performers on road courses last season in the new car.

Wins – Five different drivers won on road courses in the Next Gen car last season, led by Tyler Reddick who scored two victories in 2022 at Road America and the Indianapolis Road Course. The other four winners were Ross Chastain (COTA), Daniel Suarez (Sonoma), Kyle Larson (WGI) and Christopher Bell (Charlotte Roval).

Runner-Up Finishes – Six different drivers finished runner-up in the six road course Cup Series races last season: Alex Bowman (COTA), Chris Buescher (Sonoma), Chase Elliott (Road America), Austin Cindric (Indianapolis RC), AJ Allmendinger (WGI) and Kevin Harvick (Charlotte Roval).

Top Fives – A total of 18 different drivers scored top-five finishes in the six road course races run last season, led by Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez and Tyler Reddick with three top fives each.

Top 10s – A total of 26 different drivers posted a top-10 finish in the six road course races run last season, led by Chris Buescher and Tyler Reddick with five top 10s each.

Average Finishes – A total of five different drivers had an average finish of 10th or better in the six Cup road course races last season – Chase Elliott (9.0), Chris Buescher (9.0), Austin Cindric (9.3), Tyler Reddick (9.5) and Michael McDowell (10.8).

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Honorary Starter Darius Rucker will perform pre-race concert at COTA – Three-time GRAMMY® Award-winner Darius Rucker will perform his chart-topping hits during a one-hour pre-race concert prior to the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix NASCAR Cup Series race this Sunday, March 26 at 12:45 p.m. CT. Rucker has been named the Honorary Starter for the event.

Darius Rucker first achieved multi-Platinum status in the music industry as lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the GRAMMY Award-winning band Hootie & the Blowfish, who have sold more than 25 million albums worldwide including their Diamond-certified debut Cracked Rear View, which remains among the Top 10 best-selling studio albums of all time. Since releasing his first Country album in 2008, Rucker has earned a whole new legion of fans with four No. 1 albums on the Billboard Country chart, including RIAA Platinum-certified Learn to Live and True Believers, plus 10 No. 1 singles at Country radio and 11 Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum certified hits. Rucker was inducted as a Grand Ole Opry member in 2012 and in 2014 he won his third career GRAMMY Award for Best Solo Country Performance with his 9x Platinum version of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel,” one of the top five best-selling Country songs of all time.

Actor Brendan Hunt named Grand Marshal of the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix – Two-time Emmy Award-winning actor, writer and producer Brendan Hunt, who co-stars in the Apple TV+ global phenomenon Ted Lasso, will serve as the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas (COTA).

Hunt will have the honor of providing the “Drivers, start your engines” command to the field prior to Sunday’s race.

Hunt is best known for his role as “Coach Beard” in Ted Lasso and has won consecutive Emmy Awards in 2021 and ’22 for “Outstanding Comedy Series” as the show’s producer. Hunt is a six-time Emmy Award nominee, including five with Ted Lasso. In 2021, he was a nominee for “Best Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series” as well as two nominations for “Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series.”

Cup Series driver milestone starts to watch for – Over the next few races several drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series will reach milestones starts if they continue to run fulltime in the series.

This weekend at Circuit of The Americas on March 26, Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger will be making his 400th career NASCAR Cup Series start.

Then at Richmond Raceway in two weeks on April 2, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric will be making his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series start.

And at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt on April 9, Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch will be making his 650th NASCAR Cup Series career start. Busch will become the 27th different NASCAR Cup Series driver all-time to make 650 or more starts.

Then at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will be making his 800th career NASCAR Cup Series career start. Harvick will become just the 10th different NASCAR Cup Series driver all-time to make 800 or more starts in the series.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Hometown boy Austin Hill wins again at Atlanta

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill has proven that he is the one to beat, having already snagged three wins in the first five races of the season. The last time a driver won three of the first five races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series was in 2016 with Kyle Busch.

The Winston, Georgia native, Hill, raced his way to the checkered flag from the third starting position. He led three times for a race-high 103 of 163 laps. This was his second win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his home track.

Hill will now prepare for the next race on the schedule – Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. Although he has yet to post a win on a road course in the Xfinity Series, this very well could be the weekend he accomplishes the feat. Last season on the Texas 3.41-mile road course, Hill posted a runner-up finish.

He also did well on other road courses last season, posting a third-place in Portland, a fourth-place finish at Road America, and a ninth-place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.

Getting rowdy in Texas: COTA up next

The NASCAR Xfinity Series just wrapped up its fifth race of the season last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and will now gear up for the first road course on the schedule – the Pit Boss 250 Presented by USA Today at Circuit of The Americas on Saturday, March 25 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio – the second race of a doubleheader Saturday at COTA joining the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race, the XPEL 225, at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The Circuit of The Americas road course is a relatively new track on the NASCAR circuit, having only produced two Xfinity Series races. There has been a different winner in Victory Lane in both years – Kyle Busch won the inaugural race in 2021 and A.J. Allmendinger snagged the checkered flag last season.

Busch, who won the 2021 race from the pole position, is not entered in this weekend’s Pit Boss 250 Presented by USA Today, but Allmendinger will be pulling double duty in the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing in hopes of pulling off a back-to-back win at COTA.

The road course ringer, Allmendinger, is not the only NASCAR Cup Series driver pulling double duty this weekend. Aric Almirola (No. 08 SS-Green Light Racing Chevrolet), William Byron (No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) and Ty Gibbs (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) will also join in on the fun.

Drivers will hit the track for practice on Friday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by qualifying at 7 p.m. streamed on FS1.

Circuit of The Americas bringing in drivers from all over the Americas

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will spice things up this weekend at COTA as two drivers from South America will attempt to qualify for the Pit Boss 250 Presented by USA Today.

One of the drivers is someone race fans have seen in a Xfinity Series race before – Miguel Paludo. The Brazilian driver has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts under his belt. He has made two starts at the Austin, Texas road course, placing a top-10 finish last year in the No. 88 Chevrolet with JR Motorsports.

Also joining NASCAR this weekend will be Baltazar Leguizamón, who will be racing in hopes of becoming the first Argentinian driver to post a start in a NASCAR national series race.

Leguizamón will make his qualifying attempt behind the wheel of the No. 74 Chevrolet for CHK Racing.

Although the 22-year-old has yet to run some laps in a Xfinity Series car, he has plenty of experience on road courses. He won the 2018 Atlantic Championship Series title and earned a runner-up championship finish in the inaugural season of F3 Americas.

“I am really proud to be the first Argentinean with a NASCAR national series license. It’s been a long way on my career living my dream in international motorsports. All the hard work is paying off right now, said Leguizamón. “This is huge for us, for my country, and for South America. It’s my childhood dream beginning to come true.”

Dash 4 Cash program returns in 2023 starting at COTA

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program was designed to add elements of unpredictability and drama leading up to and during four designated races, increase on-track competition, engage fans and reward / recognize NASCAR Xfinity Series regular competitors.

Eligible Xfinity Series regulars who are the top finishers at those designated events will pocket cash bonuses. This weekend’s race at COTA will act as a qualifying race to determine the four eligible drivers with the first crack at the extra money.

The four events in the 2023 Dash 4 Cash initiative are:

Richmond Raceway (April 1)
Martinsville Speedway (April 15)
Talladega Superspeedway (April 22)
Dover Motor Speedway (April 29)

The top four eligible Xfinity Series regulars from each event will form the field for the next race’s bonus.

Eligibility requirements for this year will be similar to the 2022 structure. Drivers who have not declared to collect Xfinity Series points may not participate in the series’ Playoffs, elimination events, or Dash 4 Cash races. That list of restricted events also includes the Chicago Street Race on July 1.

Top performers on road courses in the Xfinity Series

The first NASCAR Xfinity Series race on a road course took place in 1986 at Road Atlanta and the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip – the only road course on the schedule that season. Fast forward to this season, and the Xfinity Series will take on seven road courses – this weekend’s Circuit of The Americas, Portland International Raceway (June 3) Sonoma Raceway (June 10), Road America (July 29), Indianapolis Road Course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen International (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7). But before the competitors take to the track this weekend, here is a look at some of the top road course performers in the series.

In total, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has run 74 road course races all-time (1982-Present) producing 37 different winners, led by Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger with 10 road course wins. Four road course winners in the Xfinity Series are active this weekend – A.J. Allmendinger (10 wins), Justin Allgaier (three wins), Ty Gibbs (three wins) and Jeremy Clements (one win).

Last season, a total of eight different drivers had an average finish of 15th or better in the six Xfinity Series road course races – A.J. Allmendinger (2.0), Noah Gragson (6.3), Ty Gibbs (10.0), Josh Berry (10.8), Austin Hill (12.8), Brandon Jones (13.3), Ryan Sieg (14.3) and Sam Mayer (14.5).

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Derek Kraus to make Xfinity Series debut – A familiar face at NASCAR, Derek Kraus, will be joining Kaulig Racing next weekend at Richmond Raceway behind the wheel of the No. 10 Chevrolet to make his Xfinity Series debut.

Kraus has been racing in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series since 2018 and has run three full-time seasons (2020-2022). In his 74 starts, he’s posted four top fives, 26 top 10s and has a best standings finish of 11th (2020, 2022).

Hocevar is taking his signature ‘fancy hats’ to the Xfinity Series – Rising NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series star Carson Hocevar will be seen this weekend attempting to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the first time in his career. The Portage, Michigan native, who has been seen around the tracks wearing his signature hats has been tapped to pilot the No. 07 SS-Greenlight Racing Chevrolet with crew chief Mike Hillman in the Xfinity Series race.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series

Truckin’ in the great state of Texas

The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series just wrapped up race number three at Atlanta Motor Speedway and now heads to Austin, Texas for the fourth race of the season, the XPEL 225 on Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at Circuit of The Americas (COTA). The race will be the first of a double-header Saturday that features the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 5 p.m. ET.

The No. 38 Ford seems to be a lucky truck at the 3.41-mile road course as Todd Gilliland drove No. 38 to Victory Lane in the inaugural COTA race in 2021 and Zane Smith accomplished the same feat in 2022 once he got behind the wheel.

Smith will now have the chance to go back-to-back at the Texas road course and once again bring the No. 38 Ford to Victory Lane. The 2022 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champ already has one win under his belt this season (Daytona), two top fives and two top 10s.

Stats and figures: Texas edition

The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series is heading to Circuit of The Americas for the third time in its history. The previous two races have produced a different race winner and different pole winner each time.

In the inaugural race in 2021, Tyler Ankrum won the pole with a speed of 75.041 mph, while Todd Gilliland went on to win the race.

In last season’s COTA Truck race, Sheldon Creed had the fastest truck in qualifying with a speed of 90.985 mph and Zane Smith ultimately took the checkered flag.

This year’s XPEL 225 winner will look to take the COTA race record from Todd Gilliland, a record he secured with a speed of 70.79 mph.

The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series will kick off the triple-header weekend with practice on Friday, March 24 at 4:30 p.m. ET followed by qualifying at 5 p.m. ET.

Several competitors pulling double duty action this weekend

Circuit of The Americas seems to be a popular track amongst drivers as many will be pulling double duty this weekend. Cup series regulars Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman, and Xfinity Series driver Kaz Grala will kick off their COTA weekends with the XPEL 225.

This weekend’s Truck race will be Busch’s second start of the season. He made his first 2023 CRAFTSMAN Truck series start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he won the race from the pole position. This will be Busch’s second time behind the wheel of his No. 51 KBM Chevrolet at the 3.41-mile Austin road course. In last year’s race, he posted a third-place finish.

Like Busch, Chastain has also made one Truck Series start this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but this will be his first NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series start at COTA. He will be driving the No. 41 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet. Although he hasn’t ran COTA in a truck, he did get behind the wheel of a truck at Sonoma’s 1.99-mile road course last season and finished fourth. Plus, he won the NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA last season.

Bowman will be piloting the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet and posting his first CRAFTSMAN Truck Series start of the season this weekend. Last season, he made a Truck Series start at COTA and ultimately finished in the 25th position.

Grala will be behind the wheel of the No. 1 TRICON Garage Toyota this weekend. He has made one Truck Series start this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He enters this weekend’s XPEL 225 having made two Truck Series starts at COTA. In the 2021 inaugural race, he posted a runner-up finish and last season, he finished 14th.

Top performers on road courses in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series

The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series has competed on road courses throughout its history, including the inaugural season in 1995. This season, the series will take on two road courses – this weekend’s Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 8. But before the trucks take to the track this weekend, here is a look at some of the top road course performers in the series.

In total, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series has run 30 road course races all-time (1995-Present) producing 24 different winners, led by Joe Ruttman and NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. with three road course wins each. Four road course winners in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series are active this weekend – Ben Rhodes (Daytona RC, 2021), Zane Smith (COTA, 2022), Parker Kligerman (Mid-Ohio, 2022) and Kyle Busch (Sonoma, 2022).

Last season, a total of five different drivers had an average finish of 10th or better in the three CRAFTSMAN Truck Series road course races – Zane Smith (1.7), Chandler Smith (5.3), Carson Hocevar (5.7), Parker Kligerman (9.0) and Grant Enfinger (10.6).

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, Etc.

“Tyler Ankrum Day” in Austin, Texas – Tyler Ankrum, who won the inaugural pole at COTA in 2021 and went on to finish third in the race, will have the honor of saying that March 25, 2023 is officially “Tyler Ankrum Day” in the city of Austin, Texas.

The mayor of Austin, Kirk Watson, will officially proclaim “Tyler Ankrum Day” on March 25 at 9:50 a.m. CT at the No. 16 hauler in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series garage.

“This is really special,” Ankrum said. “To have my very own day in Austin for the second consecutive year, is crazy, but it’s truly an honor to be recognized and represent not only the city of Austin, but the more than 500,000 LiUNA! members and all the NASCAR fans out there.”

Truck Series drivers run a tire test at North Wilkesboro – Truck Series drivers Zane Smith, Corey Heim and Carson Hocevar spent some time at North Wilkesboro Speedway on Monday ahead of the much-anticipated race in May.

Monday’s test ran seven-plus hours as a prelude to three NASCAR Cup Series teams scheduled for their own Goodyear session Tuesday.

“Rarely do you have a test where you are smiling the whole time you are out there going around the track,” Hocevar said. “It was a lot of fun to be out there today slipping and sliding around on this historic track. It sounds silly, but this is our ‘Field of Dreams.’ I’m not a baseball fan, but it was super cool to see that. This is just like that. This is our deal. Everyone has high expectations and hopefully we meet (them). It felt like I was walking into a track where we weren’t supposed to be. I’m just really glad that NASCAR, Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and the CARS Tour kept picking at it.”

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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