May 20, 2021
NASCAR Echopark Texas Grand Prix Analysis
The 14th race of the NASCAR Cup Series season takes us to Austin, Texas for the Echopark Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the first time ever. It’s kind of a big deal and I’m intrigued about the 20-turn 3.426-mile layout.
“They’ve had a little bit of history there with Formula One, IndyCar, and other racing series there, but obviously the first time for NASCAR Cup Series cars there this weekend,” said Kyle Busch who is 14-to-1 to win Sunday at William Hill sportsbooks.
Formula-1 and IndyCar have sleek streamlined designs on light frames and weigh half the amount of NASCAR’s big bulky frames. It’s going to be one heck of a challenge for all the drivers learning a new track with 20 turns.
“There are a lot of flat turns on that circuit and a little bit of elevation change, which could make for some interesting moments,” Busch said. “Our big heavy stock cars with not a lot of downforce running around that road course is going to take a lot. We’ll see how it goes. There’s some experience like that with the NASCAR Xfinity Series guys running Road America, with its long road course, as well. Some of the young guys in our series who have run at Road America will have a little bit of an advantage there, and also when we go to Road America in the summer.
Echopark Texas Grand Prix Betting Resources
Three of the best road racers in the Cup Series took a Goodyear tire test on March 2 to help determine what tire would be used for this weekend. Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski all took part in the test session and learned the track as much as they possibly could in such a short amount of time, but others have been on the track as well through other ways.
“I was able to visit a couple of times in April, it was even in the same week,” Busch said. “We went there for a Toyota media event and announcement and then I was back there in another type of car just trying to learn the circuit and what it takes to get around there. We’ve also had plenty of simulator time, too, so hopefully, we can be on top of things when we arrive there this weekend.”
In addition to his recent visits, Busch will have an advantage on Sunday from not only getting practice laps on Friday and qualifying on Saturday but also running the Xfinity Series race on Saturday. Cup regulars Kevin Harvick, Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, and Austin Dillon will also participate in the Xfinity Series race Saturday.
As for Busch, he has four road course wins and also won the Busch Clash road race to kick off Daytona speedweeks. He’s with JGR and got one of those fast Toyotas every week.
It’s within those fast Gibbs Toyotas and Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets that I am considering the most this week. It’s the 750 HP package that was used last week at Dover that led to a 1-2-3-4 finish for Hendrick. It was Bowman winning his second race in three races using it. Truex has three wins using it and Christopher Bell won with it in the Daytona road race following the Daytona 500.
That’s six winners in seven races using it between three drivers and two teams.
Alex Bowman's victory on Sunday marked his second win over his last five races, along with his third Top 3 finish over his last eight races. (AP)
Echopark Texas Grand Prix Contenders
Denny Hamlin hasn’t won yet in 2021 after seven wins last season, but he’s been seventh or better in all seven races (six top-fives) using the 750 HP package. He also finished third at the Daytona road course, has a 2016 Watkins Glen win and 10 top-fives among his road racing resume. He’s going to be swimming in new waters this week.
“I’ve never raced there, so there are a lot of unknowns,” said Hamlin who is 10-to-1 to win Sunday. “But it’s a first-class facility, and it’s in a great market. It checks all the boxes for a new venue.
“Road courses are tricky, and this one specifically I’ve never raced on,” he continued. “I know our team is going to bring a fast car again this week. From there, it’s all about execution and making the least amount of mistakes.”
The favorite among the Gibbs drivers is four-time road course winner Truex Jr. at 7-to-2 odds. His first road win was Sonoma in 2013 then it was Watkins Glen in 2017, Sonoma in 2018 and 2019. He is one of the best, but Elliott has been just a notch better recently. Truex was 12th in the Daytona road race.
Elliott is the 8-to-5 favorite this week mostly due to his 9.8 average finish in 13 Cup road course races is the best among all actives, as are his five wins. When he led a race-high 44 laps in the February Daytona road race but finished 21st, it was a shock because he had won the previous four road races over a two-year period. He’s led laps in the last six road races. But 8-to-5 odds just don’t get me excited. I need more. I need better odds on someone capable of winning or on someone like Elliott who hasn’t won after 13 races.
Handicapping NASCAR at Austin
That’s where Elliott’s Hendrick teammates come in, more specifically Bowman and William Byron who have shown gains and benefitted from sharing equipment and set-up notes with Elliott.
Alex Bowman (20/1) is getting better with each race he runs on the roads and should breakthrough in a year like 2021 when there are seven of them on the schedule. He was 10th at the Daytona road course and runner-up at the Charlotte Roval in 2019 and fourth there in 2018.
William Byron (20/1) is accomplished on the roads, but he was 33rd in the Daytona road race. He won the next race at Homestead to start a run of 11 consecutive top-10 finishes that is still active. He was fourth in his last two races using the 750 HP package that will be used this week.
Kevin Harvick (20/1) still hasn’t won in 2021 after a series-leading nine wins last season, but you can smell the revival coming. Things are looking up with four straight finishes of sixth or better, using three different race packages. A win is coming soon and this longer layout of the track may be beneficial to him, and he’s racing Xfinity on Saturday to help familiarity of the layout. Harvick has two Cup wins on the roads.
Joey Logano (18/1) has the fortune of racing in the 750 HP package which has been his best this season which includes a wild Bristol Dirt Race win and fifth-place last week at Dover. He has a 13.9 average finish in 27 road course starts with a win (2015 Watkins Glen) and seven top-fives. He was runner-up in the Daytona road race this season.
Echopark Texas Grand Prix