This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series heads south to Austin, Texas for the inaugural EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at COTA. No driver in the field has ever run the Formula 1 designed course, setting things up for an interesting weekend. Since nobody in the field has ever raced this track before, this weekend’s event is one of the few with practice and qualifying in 2021.
Sunday’s race is scheduled for 68 laps/231 miles around the 20-turn, 3.4-mile road course. Here are three drivers to watch in the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix:
Chase Elliott (+240)
You can’t go to a road course without throwing Chase Elliott’s name into contention. 5 of his 11 victories have come on road courses, including back-to-back wins at Watkins Glen in 2018 and 2019 as well as back-to-back wins at the Charlotte Roval in 2019 and 2020. Elliott also won last summer at the Daytona Road Course, showing he can adapt to new tracks on the NASCAR schedule.
Although he hasn’t scored a victory in 2021, Elliott’s seven top-10 finishes have placed him seventh in the Cup Series standings. He finished third last weekend in Dover, contributing to Hendrick’s 1-2-3-4 finish. Elliott is a massive favorite this weekend, so expect him to be in a position to secure his first victory of the season.
AJ Allmendinger (+2800)
AJ Allmendinger, making his second Cup Series start for Kaulig Racing, is also a major road course favorite. He has a ton of experience in both IndyCar and IMSA, making him out as one of the best road course racers in the field. Allmendinger’s lone NASCAR Cup Series win came at Watkins Glen in 2014, and he also has four Xfinity Series victories on road courses.
Although he’s only running a part-time Cup Series schedule, Allmendinger is actually running a full-time Xfinity Series schedule. He has a win and six top-5s in 10 races this season, putting his name well into Xfinity Series title contention. Expect Allmendinger to have a chance to pull off an upset on Sunday.
Denny Hamlin (+900(
Denny Hamlin’s having one of the best yet one of the weirdest seasons we’ve seen in a long time. Despite failing to pick up a win through 13 races, Hamlin leads the standings by over 100 points. He has nine top-10s and five stage victories to help maintain his high points position.
Although he isn’t known as one of the best road course racers, Hamlin knows how to race them well. He won at Watkins Glen in 2016 and has seven top-10s on the circuit. Hamlin also has six top-10s at Sonoma Raceway in California. Sunday would be a great opportunity for Denny Hamlin to pick up his first win of 2021.