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The Drivers Who Need to Save Their Season at COTA

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

NASCAR heads to Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas this weekend for the first road course race of the season. Some drivers tend to race well on road courses, which makes these races some of the most unpredictable of the season. Plenty of road course aces are struggling some this season, and this could be their opportunity to get their season back on track.

  • For this list, we will focus on drivers who are struggling or simply have long winless streaks that could turn their fortunes around at COTA. The focus is on full-time drivers across all three series.
  • We won’t include part-time “Road Course Ringers” like SVG or Kamui Kobayashi because these are part-time starts. They do not factor into the Championship at the end of the season.
  • Fans are already concerned about certain drivers this season. However, COTA is a unique track and a unique race, so, some surprise results could come.

Cup: Zane Smith

Zane Smith currently sits 35th in Cup Series points, the lowest of any full-time driver. It’s been an awful start for him, but, we head to COTA this weekend, where Smith had some success in the Truck Series. He is a two-time defending winner at the track in the series, so, he knows how to get around COTA.

No one is in need of a good run more than Smith. If he does not get it together soon, he could drop into must-win territory if he wants to make the Playoffs. Is COTA the antidote?

Xfinity: Sam Mayer

Sam Mayer followed up a Championship-4 run by sitting 24th in points 4 races into the 2024 season. Thankfully, Mayer is one of the best road course racers in the Xfinity Series currently. That may sound crazy, but, Mayer won 3 road course races last season en route to the Championship 4.

While Mayer needs to continue improving on ovals, a road course means a nice confidence boost for him. He knows he can win on a road course, and COTA could be a big race for him.

Cup: Austin Cindric

Austin Cindric now sits 20th in Cup Series points, but, road courses are where he shines. Of his 16 career Cup Series top-10s, 7 of them came on road courses. That includes his last two races at COTA.

He also qualified 3rd and led a few laps in his first career COTA start in the Cup Series in 2021. He always seems to be at or near the front here. If he wants to put himself in a decent Playoff position later in the season, he needs to take advantage of the road course races.

Trucks: Tanner Gray

Tanner Gray has not been bad in the first four Truck Series races this season, but he has failed to record a top-10. Last year at COTA, he recorded a top-10, so, he knows he can succeed at a track like this. He’s not a road course ringer by any means, but, he could use the confidence boost.

Gray is under pressure to make the Playoffs this season, and races like road courses are interesting opportunities for him. While some younger drivers ahead of him may struggle, can he use the experience to make up a big points chunk?

Cup: Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott has not won in 38 starts, and that win came all the way back in October of 2022 at Talladega. Lo and behold, a road course is on the horizon, and Elliott is renowned for his prowess on road courses. The closest he came to a win last season was a 2nd at Indianapolis, a road course race.

Elliott has yet to truly break through this season. He has been towards the front at times, but, it has not been consistent enough. Can he start a new trend at COTA this weekend?

Who will turn their season around at COTA this weekend? Did we miss anyone on this list?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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