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Over the past several years, more and more emphasis has been placed on road racing in NASCAR, with the amount of road courses on the schedule expanded from two to three in 2018 and then doubled for 2021 and beyond. This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Austin, Texas for the first road course race of the 2022 season, the Echopark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.

Having held its inaugural race last year, Circuit of the Americas' 3.5-mile, 20-turn layout remains a novelty to NASCAR that many drivers have yet to truly become accustomed to. The track's combination of multiple high speed straightaways with low-speed, technical corners make for a circuit that challenges car and driver alike, with NASCAR becoming the latest racing discipline the track has hosted alongside Formula 1, MotoGP, and other international touring series.

How to watch the NASCAR Cup Series at Circuit of the Americas

  • Date: March 27
  • Location: Circuit of the Americas -- Austin, Texas
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: Fox
  • Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

What to Watch

  • This is the second time that NASCAR has raced at Circuit of the Americas since the track first opened in 2012. However, last year's circumstances compared to what is expected this year almost makes it like the first trip for NASCAR all over again.

    Last year, the inaugural Echopark Texas Grand Prix took place in heavy rain, which caused one red flag after pooling water and blinding spray led to dangerous conditions before the race was eventually stopped 14 laps short of the finish. Wet weather conditions are not expected this weekend, which will prompt a more conventional road racing skillset and approach to the weekend compared to last year's test of racing in the rain.

    In addition, parts of the track have also been changed since the last time NASCAR raced at COTA. After drivers in MotoGP complained about bumps in certain sections of the course, Circuit of the Americas repaved between turns 12 and 16 while also adding concrete to smooth bumps in turns 2 and 10. The repaved section of the course will be a major question mark, particularly as it pertains to how it affects tire wear.

  • Chase Elliott is the defending winner at COTA, and this weekend on paper presents a great opportunity for him to join his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates in having won in 2022. However, Elliott's grip on NASCAR's "king of the road courses" crown has been slipping as of late.

    Although he won at COTA and Road America last year, Elliott was not quite as dominant on road courses as he had been in years' past, missing out on Victory Lane in the final three road course races of the year at Watkins Glen, Indianapolis, and the Charlotte Roval. Two of those three races were claimed by Kyle Larson, while A.J. Allmendinger pulled off the upset in a bizarre conclusion to the Indianapolis Road Course race.

  • In the past, road course races in the Cup Series were generally decided between the series regulars who had a handle on road racing and "road course ringers", specialist drivers from other divisions who jumped in for one-off appearances to compete for the victory. As NASCAR drivers have placed more emphasis on road racing, the advantage that road course ringers once had has largely faded -- but it hasn't kept them away.

    The field this weekend features several road course specialists who will mix it up with Cup Series regulars. Joey Hand, whose resume includes wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and 12 Hours at Sebring, will run his first of six races in Rick Ware Racing's No. 15. Longtime road ringer and fan favorite Boris Said makes his return to NASCAR in MBM Motorsports' No. 66, and 2011 Cup Series Rookie of the Year Andy Lally will drive the No. 78 for Live Fast Motorsports.

Pick to Win

(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

Ross Chastain (+4000): Chastain is the hottest driver in NASCAR, having led 125 laps over the last three weeks with finishes of third, second, and second. While conventional wisdom states that Chastain's first Cup Series win shouldn't come on a road course, that doesn't account for how strong Chastain was at Circuit of the Americas a season ago.

Last year, Chastain led four laps on his way to a fourth-place finish, which marked the first top 5 of his Cup career and the first of several races where he has contended for the win over the past year. With Chastain's history at COTA and his current hot streak considered, it should also be noted that it's far from unheard of for a driver to earn their first career win on a road course. Current drivers to have done so include Chase Elliott and Christopher Bell, as well as notables throughout NASCAR history like Darel Dieringer, Tim Richmond, Ricky Rudd, Bill Elliott, Steve Park, and A.J. Allmendinger among others.