Monday, May 23, 2022
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Extra Track Time Viewed as Major Asset in COTA’s First Completely Dry Race Weekend

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AUSTIN, TEXAS – MAY 23: Josh Bilicki, driver of the #52 Junction Fuels Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on May 23, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Author’s Note: NASCAR National Series Double-Dippers Cheat Sheet at Bottom of Story

After NASCAR’s rather soggy introduction to competition at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) last season, many drivers are relieved to see that no precipitation is forecasted for this weekend in Austin, Texas.

With a shortage of ‘normal’ laps in last season’s events, there are a number of NASCAR Cup Series drivers that are looking to take full advantage of companion events at the 3.41-mile road course, to gain experience for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix.

To put into perspective how important track time is to these drivers, they’ll be competing in an entry that has totally different specifications than NASCAR’s Next Gen cars, which would prove to be a difficult transition for drivers come Sunday.

Kyle Busch and Alex Bowman are the two full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers that have elected to compete in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Circuit of The Americas.

Busch, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, will drive the No. 51 Safelite Toyota Tundra TRD Pro for Kyle Busch Motorsports, in the second of five scheduled events in the series for 2022.

On the other hand, Bowman, a seven-time winner at NASCAR’s top-level, will look to gain experience on the Austin, Texas road course, driving the No. 7 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Silverado for Spire Motorsports.

“I had a good run in the Ally Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports last year and being able to race Spire Motorsports’ Chevy Silverado this year will be a great help as we get ready for Sunday. The more laps the better at a place like COTA,” Bowman said in a team release.

Should Bowman qualify for the event, Saturday’s XPEL 225 will mark the second start for the organization’s Truck Series program, after debuting at Daytona with Austin Hill.

Kaz Grala will also be competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event on Saturday, driving the No. 02 for Young’s Motorsports, the second of 11 scheduled races for the Boston, Massachusetts-native.

The 23-year-old, much like Busch and Bowman, will compete in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series event, driving the No. 50 Chevrolet Camaro for The Money Team Racing. Sunday will mark Grala’s second Cup start on a road course, after leading laps and scoring a top-10 on debut for Richard Childres Racing, subbing for Austin Dillon.

Following Saturday’s XPEL 225, the racing action won’t be finished, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will contest their sixth event of the 2022 season, and the first on a road course. Of the drivers entered in the Pit Boss 250, five of them will compete in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

AJ Allmendinger, runner up to Kyle Busch in the series’ inaugural event at COTA last season, is the only driver that will move upwards for the weekend, as the 40-year-old will contest his second event of 2022 for Kaulig Racing’s Cup program.

With seven NASCAR Xfinity Series road course wins, the most in series history, Allmendinger is clearly excited to get to COTA and compete for the victory on Saturday and Sunday.

“With the Next-Gen car, I think the braking will be the biggest difference compared to last year,” said Allmendinger. “I think we will be able to be more aggressive and reach peak-brake distance getting into the corners. The physicality of the race car will be increased as well – that’s something that makes racing more enjoyable for me, especially at a place like COTA where there are so many different types of corners, whether you are at high speeds, or more aggressive with the brakes.”

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, will pilot the No. 07 Bucked Up Energy Ford Mustang for SS Green Light Racing in Saturday’s Pit Boss 250. Custer will look to replicate his performance from Auto Club Speedway earlier this season, where he scored the first victory for Bobby Dotter and SSGLR.

It’s been over eight years since Bubba Wallace competed for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but this weekend at Circuit of The Americas, the 28-year-old will reunite with the championship-winning organization, to pilot the No. 18 Toyota GR Supra.

For Wallace, it’s the first of two scheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series events this season, as the 23XI Racing driver has also signed up to compete in the No. 18 at Indy’s Road Course, chasing additional road course experience for the Cup Series’ six road races in 2022.

There isn’t a single person in the NASCAR Cup Series garage with more positive momentum than Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain, who comes to Circuit of The Americas on a streak of three consecutive top-three results in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Much like last season, where Chastain went on to score his first top-five in Cup Series competition, the Alva, Florida-native will run double-duty at the 3.41-mile road course, driving the No. 92 Chevrolet Camaro for DGM Racing, in addition to his duties at Trackhouse Racing.

Last, but certainly not least, is road course expert Josh Bilicki, who will see his part-time schedules collide in Austin, Texas this weekend. Bilicki, 26, will be piloting the No. 45 for Alpha Prime Racing in Saturday’s Xfinity Series event, before competing for Spire Motorsports in the No. 77 on Sunday.

Of the drivers scheduled to run double-duty, look for Bilicki to punch above his weight in both the NASCAR Xfinity and NASCAR Cup Series events this weekend, as – barring major issues — the road course racer *should* be capable of pulling a top-20 finish in both events.

Now, these eight drivers will have pretty long and busy weekends, with on-track activity scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but if you’re in the garage and see what looks like a firesuit running past you in a blur, you know you’ve found one of three drivers.

As part of a previously announced deal, Will Rodgers will compete in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events at Circuit of The Americas for Reaume Brothers Racing.

The Hawaii-born driver will pilot the No. 33 Toyota Tundra in the XPEL 225 early on Saturday afternoon, before hopping into the No. 38 Toyota GR Supra, in a collaboration between RSS Racing and Reaume Brothers Racing.

Sheldon Creed, driving for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series, will also compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event for Young’s Motorsports, driving the No. 20 WileyX Chevrolet Silverado.

The Alpine, California-native competed in the series’ inaugural event last season, posting a top-five result. Despite being classified as a rookie in the series, Creed has competed in two road course events in the Xfinity Series, dating back to 2017.

Finally, in a last-minute change for the weekend, Parker Kligerman will also be running double-duty. The NBC analyst will compete in his usual No. 75 Chevrolet Silverado for Henderson Motorsports, in which he’s produced impressive results as of late.

However, following the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, Kligerman will compete for first-year team Emerling-Gase Motorsports, driving the team’s No. 35 Captain Pips Toyota GR Supra.


Double-Duty Drivers Cheat Sheet:

  • AJ Allmendinger
    • NCS: No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro for Kaulig Racing
    • NXS: No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro for Kaulig Racing
  • Josh Bilicki
    • NCS: No. 77 Chevrolet Camaro for Spire Motorsports
    • NXS: No. 45 Chevrolet Camaro for Alpha Prime Racing
  • Alex Bowman
    • NCS: No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports
    • NCWTS: No. 7 Chevrolet Silverado for Spire Motorsports
  • Kyle Busch
    • NCS: No. 18 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing
    • NCWTS: No. 51 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports
  • Ross Chastain
    • NCS: No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro for Trackhouse Racing
    • NXS: No. 92 Chevrolet Camaro for DGM Racing
  • Sheldon Creed
    • NXS: No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing
    • NCWTS: No. 20 Chevrolet Silverado for Young’s Motorsports
  • Cole Custer
    • NCS: No. 41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing
    • NXS: No. 07 Ford Mustang for SS Green Light Racing
  • Kaz Grala
    • NCS: No. 50 Chevrolet Camaro for The Money Team Racing
    • NCWTS: No. 02 Chevrolet Silverado for Young’s Motorsports
  • Parker Kligerman
    • NXS: No. 35 Toyota Supra for Emerling-Gase Motorsports
    • NCWTS: No. 75 Chevrolet Silverado for Henderson Motorsports
  • Will Rodgers
    • NXS: No. 38 Toyota Supra for RSS Racing w/ Reaume Brothers Racing
    • NCWTS: No. 33 Toyota Tundra for Reaume Brothers Racing
  • Bubba Wallace
    • NCS: No. 23 Toyota Camry for 23XI Racing
    • NXS: No. 18 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing

Weekend Schedule:

Friday, March 25:

  • NCWTS Practice (3:00 pm ET – FS1)
  • NCWTS Qualifying (3:30pm ET – FS1)
  • NXS Practice (5:00pm ET – FS1)
  • NXS Qualifying (5:30pm ET – FS1)

Saturday, March 26:

  • NCS Practice (10:00 am ET – FS1)
  • NCS Qualifying (10:30 am ET – FS1)
  • NCWTS XPEL 225 (1:00 pm ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90)
  • NXS Pit Boss 250 (4:30 pm ET on FS1, PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90)

Sunday, March 27:

  • NCS Echopark Automotive Grand Prix (3:30 pm ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90)

 

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Joseph Srigley
Joseph Srigleyhttp://tobychristie.com
University of Windsor | Business Administration - Supply Chain & Data Analytics Editor at TobyChristie.com

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