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COTA preview: NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series

This weekend at Circuit of the Americas features the first twist and turns in the road for the 2023 NASCAR season – and everyone will be there.


The 3.41-mile Austin, Texas road course is the first of six for the NASCAR Cup Series, first of eight for Xfinity and first of two for Trucks in this year.

The race lengths are as follows:

  • NASCAR Cup Series (Sunday): 68 laps (15/30/68, stage ends)
  • NASCAR Xfinity Series (Saturday): 46 laps (14/28/46, stage ends)
  • NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (Saturday): 42 laps (12/26/42, stage ends)

MORE: NASCAR Craftsman Trucks at Circuit of the Americas preview: Info, storylines

The Cup Series lineup will feature 13 former road course winners. Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch lead active Cup drivers with four road course wins apiece.

A.J. Allmendinger leads all active Xfinity drivers with 10 road course wins. In Trucks, Ben Rhodes, Zane Smith, Kyle Busch and Parker Kligerman are tied with one road course win apiece.

This weekend is the first time since 2017, when NASCAR introduced stages, where all three series will not have designated caution flag periods.

On each of those laps, the top-10 drivers will earn stage points and the leader will earn one playoff point.

“I’m not saying that the best cars didn’t win races last year, but I think with eliminating the breaks and the ability for us to run green flags pretty organically – probably more traditionally – it really changes the opportunity for strategy depending on cautions and potentially fuel mileage,” Austin Cindric said of the changes for the road courses.

Sunday’s race is the second time in 2023 when the Cup Series will utilize a 2-inch spoiler. In late February, NASCAR announced rules changes for the Cup Series races held at road courses and all tracks “1.058 mile or less” besides Dover and Bristol.

The sanctioning body said the changes were designed “to strengthen the racing on short tracks and road courses.”

“The cars will probably move around a little bit more and maybe not be as easy to drive, but I really don’t think it’s gonna be a pendulum swinger of what you’re gonna see as far as an overall race or different teams or different drivers excel now on the road course because there’s less downforce,” Michael McDowell said, regarding what to expect at COTA.

“I don’t think it’s gonna move the needle a whole lot, but there’s a lot more to all of that than everybody probably thinks about.”

Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE


Jordan Taylor, a past NASCAR Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series champion and three-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar champion, will make his Cup Series debut this Sunday. 

Taylor will pilot Chase Elliott’s No. 9 for Hendrick Motorsports.

Jordan Taylor (left) and Jeff Gordon (right) talk in the garage area at Daytona International Speedway. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media.

“He’s very talented,” said Jeff Gordon, the Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, who has raced against Taylor. “He’s been in our Garage 56 car, showing a lot of speed. Just the right timing, place to be able to pull that off.”

Elliott, a seven-time road course winner, is recovering from a leg injury sustained earlier this month.

Sunday’s field will also feature two former Formula One champions.

2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button will make his series debut in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 15 Ford, while 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen will drive Trackhouse Racing’s No. 91 Chevrolet in his second race for them.

Conor Daly returns and will race The Money Team’ s No. 50 Chevrolet for the second time this year.

Also on the entry list is Legacy Motor Club’s No. 84 Chevrolet for seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. COTA will be the second start for both the No. 84 team and Johnson in 2023.

“I think it just showcases how diverse our sport is and how diverse this car has allowed our sport to be, it’s neat,” Kyle Larson said of the variety of drivers on the entry list this weekend.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rising star Carson Hocevar will make his Xfinity Series debut, driving SS Greenlight Racing’s No. 07 entry.

Aric Almirola will pilot the other SS Greenlight entry, the No. 08, in his first series start in 2018.

Road course racing ace A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing entry in his return to the Xfinity Series.

William Byron, the 2017 series champion, will attempt to make the race in Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 17 entry.

2022 Xfinity Series champion Ty Gibbs, who is now racing full-time in the Cup Series, will return to the series piloting Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota.

Sportscar racer Cameron Lawrence will attempt to make his series debut piloting MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 entry.

Argentinian Baltazar Leguizamon will also attempt to make his series debut driving CHK Racing’s No. 74 entry.

Miguel Paludo will pilot JR Motorsports’ No. 88 entry, while Alex Labbe will fill-in for Josh Williams in DGM Racing’s No. 92 entry.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix is scheduled for Sunday, March 26, at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

After the race in Austin, the remaining road course races for the Cup Series will be run at Sonoma (June 11), Chicago (July 2), Indianapolis (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20), and Charlotte (Oct. 8).

The NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Pit Boss 250 presented by USA Today is scheduled for Saturday, March 25, at 5 p.m. ET on FS1.

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