NASCAR at COTA to use full course

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Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

When the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series visit Circuit of the Americas for the first time next May, they will do so on the main course. On Friday, the track announced the stock cars will hit the 20-turn, 3.41-mile track used by Formula One and MotoGP.

“We took a hard look at both the 3.41-mile long course and the newly reconfigured 2.2-mile short course,” said Speedway Motorsports Incorporated head Marcus Smith. SMI, which operates numerous tracks on the NASCAR schedule including Texas Motor Speedway, which gave up one of its two Cup dates to COTA. “There’s no doubt the long course will be the most entertaining for the fans. There are more sight lines and opportunities for hillside viewing, plus we’ll have additional options for trackside camping.

“Every NASCAR driver will be challenged by the same 20-turn, counterclockwise circuit designed for Formula One racers.”

Since its opening in 2012, COTA has hosted the F1 United States Grand Prix on the full course layout. MotoGP followed suit with the Grand Prix of the Americas since 2013, and the IndyCar Series utilised it for the 2019 IndyCar Challenge. While 2021 will be NASCAR’s first action in Austin, various NASCAR drivers have also run the full track in their stock cars, including Kurt Busch in 2013 as part of a seat swap with James Courtney of the Supercars Championship, and Tony Stewart in 2019 when he conducted a demonstration alongside Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

However, COTA also has a shorter, 2.2-mile configuration that bypasses turns seven to eleven. This layout was most notably used by the Supercars during their lone stop in America in 2013. It has seen occasional returns for national racing series such as the Stadium Super Trucks while they were supporting IndyCar in 2019. SST and the Global RallyCross Championship also raced on a multi-surface track for the Summer X Games in 2014 to 2015, but it goes without saying that such a layout will not be used.

“The Circuit of The Americas is already a world-class, world-renowned facility,” Smith added. “Along with NASCAR, we now have to make a few safety and competition enhancements to accommodate the Camping World Trucks, Xfinity and Cup Series. Every effort will be made to make the first NASCAR weekend an experience like no other for both fans and competitors.”

Credit: Circuit of the Americas

Specifics such as race distance and stage lengths were not revealed, though some have expressed concern about potentially long full-course caution periods akin to Road America, also a new addition to the Cup Series for 2021. However, potential solutions may include the use of local yellows or being more forgiving for off-track incidents due to the far greater number of asphalt run-off locations at COTA. The track will also consider adding “turtle” kerbs similar to those used for the Charlotte and Daytona road course races to deter drivers from capitalising too much on the run-offs to the point of unfair track extending.

Other planned changes include tyre walls for “potentially high-impact areas”, a longer pit wall, and additional caution lights as NASCAR fields are far larger than any other series that have raced in Austin. IMSA’s Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Series will serve as a support class.

“Turn 12 grandstand seating is gonna be lit with that braking zone,” tweeted NASCAR driver and 2014 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Rookie of the Year Cody Ware.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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