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Full NASCAR guide: Circuit of The Americas 2022

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s twists and turns in Texas, the sixth regular-season NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2022 campaign. 

Race-day info 📝

Where: Austin, Texas
Approximate start time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV/Radio: FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Grand Marshal: Michael Waltrip
Pace-car driver: The Undertaker, WWE superstar
Forecast: Sunny, with a high near 86 degrees, according to NOAA.gov
Race distance: 68 laps | 231.88 miles
Stages: 15 | 30 | 68
Pit-road speed: 40 mph
Caution car speed: 50
The Purse: $8,799,709
COTA 101: Get the full lowdown | Weekend schedule
Starting lineup: How drivers stack up Sunday

Pit stalls: Assignments for Sunday | Expert pit analysis

Key things to watch 🔑

Practice and qualifying notes: Ryan Blaney bounced back after an early practice incident, blazing his way to his second Busch Light Pole Award of the season. While names like Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and AJ Allmendinger have dominated road courses as of late, a mix of new faces atop the leaderboards raised eyebrows and surely shuffled around favorites for Sunday’s race. Trackhouse Racing continued to flash its early-season strength with Daniel Suárez missing out on the pole by just .026 seconds.

Cole Custer also made an early statement. His name was toward the top of the practice and qualifying leaderboards throughout the morning, and he emerged as a serious contender for Sunday. He will start third. We’ve seen plenty of parity on ovals to start the Next Gen era. And from an early assessment, it looks like it will translate to road courses, as well. | Practice, qualifying recap

Big story line: Chase Elliott hasn’t had a terrible start to the season, like some drivers with high pre-season expectations. After his best finish of the season — sixth — at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Elliott took the lead over Joey Logano in the Cup Series points standings. Yet six races into the season and after each of his teammates has already reached Victory Lane in 2022, questions along the lines of ‘When will it be the No. 9’s turn?’ have begun to roll in. Circuit of The Americas, a 20-turn, elevation-changing gauntlet, could not have come at a better time for the road-course ace. The No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports wheelman won this race a year ago and has finished first in six of the last 11 races with left-and-right turns. In those last 11 road-course races, he’s only finished outside of the top four twice. Even though he’s winless so far this season, he’s arguably been the most consistent driver to this point. And Elliott remains one of the key drivers to beat Sunday in Texas. | BSD: Does Elliott need to win at COTA?

Who’s hot? Who’s not?: Is there a driver on the planet as in-form as Ross Chastain is right now? He’s finished top three in the last trio of races, including a pair of runner-ups. And while he’s yet to cross the finish line first, his consistency makes him a threat to win every week. While he doesn’t have the strongest history at road courses, he did finish fourth here last season. Chastain is a serious contender and is on pace for the best season of his entire racing career. A driver trending in the opposite direction is Austin Cindric. Cindric opened the season with an electrifying win in the Daytona 500 but has been relatively quiet since. Four straight finishes of 12th or worse leaves you scratching your head a bit. But the young, talented, multifaceted racer should return to form on a familiar road course where he placed fifth in the Xfinity Series race in 2021. | See where each driver ranks so far

Driving under the radar: One of the most impressive drivers this season has been Kurt Busch. The veteran has had a very strong start with his new, young 23XI Racing team. Busch leads the series with a 9.6 average finish compared to his 21.6 average start. That means he’s getting much of his work done in the race even when he doesn’t qualify well. The No. 45 team still hasn’t flashed race-winning speed and they’ve only led eight laps this season. But with back-to-back top fives and a strong start to another title-seeking campaign, Busch should have a lot of confidence heading into COTA. | Cup Series standings

 

Joey Logano speeds down a straight during last year’s race. | Getty Images

Race-day staples ✅

Hero Cota 2022 Copy

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Power Rankings: Chase Elliott set to complete Hendrick playoff bids? | See which drivers are rising 
• Paint Scheme Preview:
Awesome schemes for Austin | Pick a favorite
• Fantasy Fastlane:
The weekend of the underdogs at COTA | Top sleepers to include
• NASCAR betting:
Cup Series odds for Circuit of The Americas | Solid bets, longshots

Catch the pack 💨

Read up on the top headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Back at COTA: Kyle Busch out to build on ‘decent speed’ so far in COTA return | See Busch’s take
• The legend himself:
WWE’s Undertaker set to drive pace car | Learn more
• Hold your horses:
No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports team will serve penalty | Inspection report
• Early reps:
Blaney tops qualifying, Busch tops practice | Read full recap
• Technical analysis:
How Next Gen’s new features impact flexibility at road courses | Expert insight
• Hammer down:
RFK Racing penalized 100 points, fined $100,000 | Team will appeal | More details | Video breakdown
• Women’s History Month Spotlight:
Terrin Waack | Read more about award-winning journalist
• Watching Wallace:
Bubba Wallace to run Xfinity Series race at COTA with JGR | Full story
• Start your engines:
Waltrip named Grand Marshal for Sunday’s race | Read more
• At-track photos:
First look at NASCAR action at COTA, updated throughout the weekend | See photos

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

NASCAR Fantasy Live
NASCAR Creative Design

• Play it LIVE: Full guide to 2022 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ
• Placing your picks:
Ringers, Allmendinger and bad bets at COTA | Top tips for Sunday
• Backseat Bets:
Who wins head-to-head matchups at COTA? | Hear what the experts said
• BetMGM:
Elliott, Allmendinger headline this week’s matchups | Who’s your pick?
• The Action Network:
See which prop bet to jump on | Find out here
• Weekly props:
Boris Said or the regular ringers? | Make your picks
• Going all the way:
NASCAR betting: 2022 Cup Series championship odds | See them here

Another chance at COTA 🤠

Sunday marks the second-ever NASCAR race at this Texas track. Take a look back at some important details. 

• Ride along: Turn-by-turn analysis | Learn about all 20 turns
• Youth movement:
Drivers under 30 have been dominating road courses | See the last 11 winners
• Not one, not two:
NASCAR’s all-time winners on road courses | Who has the most?
• Memory lane:
Some of our favorite recent road-course moments | Which ones do you remember?
• Inaugural race:
Chase Elliott flexed his road-course muscle, yet again | Full 2021 race recap

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Chevrolet has won 10 of the last 11 road course races and only one has been won by a driver over 30 (AJ Allmendinger).
The final green-flag stretch was 10 laps or fewer in eight of the last 10 road-course races.
COTA is the first of six road-course races on the 2022 Cup Series schedule. Last season’s race here was the inaugural NASCAR event at the track. 
• Ross Chastain
is the first driver without a Cup Series win to finish top three in three straight races since Alex Bowman in 2019.
COTA is the fourth different track where the Cup series has competed in the state of Texas: Texas World Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Meyer Speedway in Houston.

Say what? 🎙

Getty Images
Getty Images

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“We’re excited to go back to COTA. We did not run well there last year at all, so I feel like we want to show that we’re better than we were running even before the crash knocked us out of the race. There’s no rain in the forecast this weekend, so we should be able to put on a much better show than what we had there last season with all the rain and visibility issues. I’m looking forward to it. I think it should be a fun race.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

“I think it gives me a lot of confidence, especially since we talk about the Next Gen car being an equalizer, and then COTA also.  Everyone has only been there one time and I didn’t realize talking to my teammate Michael McDowell that they only ran like one lap in the dry all weekend, which was for qualifying I believe. We were able to practice in the dry the day before and even that I feel like I have more laps in the dry than anyone there, so I’m just really looking forward to it. It’s a beautiful race track. I love road course racing in general. It’s a lot of fun. It seems like you’re always busy inside the car, so, overall, I’d say I have a lot of confidence going to COTA and I’m just super excited about it in general.” — Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford on the confidence from winning at COTA last year in the Truck Series.