The annual home of F1’s United States Grand Prix hosts the NASCAR Cup Series’ inaugural event at the course of Circuit of the Americas Sunday afternoon. The weekend also marked a return to the normal, full-weekend slate as NASCAR held practice and qualifying for all three series.
Just hours before the actual race, Tyler Reddick earned his first pole in the Cup Series. It marked Richard Childress Racing’s first pole on a road course since Dale Earnhardt did it at Watkins Glen International in 1996.
Kyle Larson joins Reddick on the front row and seeks to finish the job he couldn’t at Dover last Sunday where he led the most laps.
Only 10 drivers in the Cup Series field Sunday have won on a road course. Of those 10, only four have done it on multiple occasions (Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick).
Elliott has the opportunity to join an elite group as he can become just the seventh driver to win six or more road-course victories. Tony Stewart, Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace, Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison are the legends who have accomplished this feat. Elliott will start from the eighth position.
Points leader Denny Hamlin struggled with power steering in qualifying and will drop to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments.
Hamlin’s teammate in Christopher Bell won the only road-course event of the year so far as he outdueled Joey Logano in the closing laps at the Daytona RC. He was sixth-fastest in the lone practice and will start 10th.
William Byron has been the most consistent driver in 2021 with 11 consecutive top-10 finishes. Unless a big mistake happens, that number should increase to 12 as he was fastest in practice and starts Sunday in fifth.
Road-course kings in AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric will compete Sunday. They have a leg up over a majority of the field as they both ran the Xfinity Series race a day before and it showed in qualifying as they both landed top-10 starting spots.
NASCAR has told teams that the race will begin on rain tires with weather being unpredictable for the entire day.
The race will consist of 68 laps around the 20 turn, 3.426-mile course. Stages will end on lap 15, lap 32 and the finish 36 laps later.
Pit stall assignments:
Goodyear tire notes: https://www.jayski.com/2021/05/18/goodyear-fast-facts-cota/