When I was growing up, road courses were considered somewhat irrelevant. They were fun one-offs that gave us something different besides the typical intermediate snooze fest but they were little more than that. My favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., sucked at them so, as fans, we sort of just grit our teeth and got through them. Now, though, that’s no longer an option.
With 5 road courses on the NASCAR schedule in 2024, 2 of them being in the NASCAR Playoffs (Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Roval), there’s an argument to be had that they’ve never been more important. A bad race at one of these tracks could prematurely end a driver’s season.
Like superspeedway tracks, there are certain drivers who just excel at this kind of racing. The cream always rises to the top, as the saying goes. So, we at the Daily Downforce thought that we’d take a look at some of the key drivers to watch on the road courses in 2024. Let’s take a look!
Chase Elliott is the road course ace of NASCAR. There’s no denying it: he took over where the likes of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart left off. His first win came on a road course in Watkins Glen in 2018 (coincidently, his father’s first Cup win was also on a road course in Riverside, California). Of Chase’s current 18 career Cup Series wins, 7 have come on road courses. There’s just something magical about Chase’s ability to turn right! So, it goes without saying: look for the No. 9 to win at least one road course race in 2024.
A. J. Allmendinger
A. J. Allmendinger is sometimes dismissed as a road course ringer. While that may not be fair to him or his career, it is undeniable that his biggest successes in the NASCAR Cup Series have all come on road courses. Allmendinger is a 3-time NASCAR winner. He won at Watkins Glen in 2014 driving for JTG; he won at the Indy Road Course in 2021 driving part-time for Kaulig; not to mention his emotional win at the Charlotte Roval in 2023. A. J. Allmendinger and the words “road course” are almost synonymous with one another. Expect that Kaulig No. 16 to have Allmendinger behind the wheel at all 5 of the 2024 road courses…and don’t be surprised if he sneaks away with a win or two.
All things taken into account, Daniel Suarez had a pretty down year in 2023. He went winless and missed the playoffs even after a pretty good 2022 season. While Daniel Suarez has proved in years past that he and his No. 99 Trackhouse Chevy are capable of competing at some of the other tracks, road courses are his bread and butter. Suarez won at Sonoma in 2022 and is always up front at these kinds of races. Expect to see much of the same out of him in 2024.
Some fans may consider McDowell’s 2023 win at the Indy Road Course to be an upset. I don’t know about that. Michael McDowell has always been strongest on road courses, often challenging for top-10 finishes pretty consistently. With the introduction of the NextGen car and Front Row’s clear step forward in performance, it’s not all that surprising to see the field leveled some. With FRR’s new alliance with Team Penske, don’t be too shocked if McDowell goes out and steals another one in 2024.
Tyler Reddick is a 5-time winner (so far) in the NASCAR Cup Series. 3 of those wins have come on road courses. Reddick scored his first victory at Road America in 2022. He won at the Indy Road Course the same year. In 2023, his first year with 23XI Racing, he conquered COTA. He ran up front in the other road courses of the year as well. Look for him to continue this success throughout 2024.
Shane van Gisbergen
I think it’s safe to say that SVG is going to be the one most eyes are on when it comes to road courses in 2024. I mean, the guy did what nobody since the 1960s has done: win in their first-ever start in the inaugural Chicago Street Course Race. He got a top-10 at the Indy Road Course. That’s a pretty good average finish. While I’m more interested in seeing how he does in the Xfinity Series, driving Kaulig’s No. 97, I’ll definitely be watching his Cup entries to see if he can replicate his Chicago Street success.
Who do you think the street king is in NASCAR heading into 2024? Let us know! Here at the DailyDownforce.com, we have a lot of exciting content coming as we gear up for the 2024 Daytona 500 as well as the Clash. Follow us on all our social media sites to be sure that you do not miss our coverage of some of the hottest topics and fan discussions in the NASCAR sphere today!