The 2021 NASCAR schedule just got a whole lot more interesting. May 23rd, 2021 sees the premier stock car series head to Austin, Texas. That is correct, COTA is now home to NASCAR. I have long held a belief that the series does not utilize enough of the fantastic road courses in America. The schedule already had Watkins Glen, Road America and Sonoma. Adding COTA is a tremendous step in the right direction for NASCAR. The narrative over the last five years has created talk that NASCAR is dying. I beg to differ. However, one cannot ignore that the sport has declined in popularity. I feel part of that is down to the consistent usage of soulless oval tracks.
Yes, NASCAR should race at Daytona and Talladega, but does the series need to go to Dover or New Hampshire? A stale schedule featuring the same venues becomes tiresome. It becomes easy to skip this race or that race. Shaking up the calendar creates variety and excitement. F1 benefitted from a schedule variety this year. Plus, it gives the drivers and teams an entirely different challenge. Now Steve Phelps has provided the NASCAR teams and drivers with the ultimate test.
A World-Class Facility
When F1 returned to the United States in 2012, the championship needed a world-class facility to host a premier event. Famed architect Hermann Tilke had the task of transforming the Texas wasteland into an elite track. COTA features undulation, fast corners, long straightaways and slow corners. It is a recipe for some brilliant wheel-to-wheel racing. The teams will also have the full comfort that F1 feels. There will not be the cramped spaces that you see at Elkhart Lake.
It is a superb race track that has mixed stretches from famous racetracks to create a mega circuit. The first section features a fast series of rights and lefts that look similar to Silverstone. Meanwhile, the final section has a series of slow, tight corners that make it look like Macau or Monte Carlo, rather than Texas. It is the perfect racetrack to expand NASCAR’s popularity and create excitement around the championship.
A Steep Challenge
Stock cars are heavy. They lack aerodynamic grip compared to the equivalent European touring cars. Yet, they have plenty of power and are incredibly fast in a straight line. All these traits make COTA an incredible challenge. It demands everything from man and machine. The teams must set the cars up for good mechanical grip to aid traction while making sure that they have the right aerodynamic grip to be quick in the corners as well as being fast in a straight line.
It is a test for the crew chiefs and engineers, but it is also a massive test for the drivers. It is an entirely different test to what the ovals present. Winning will be about consistency across a long lap to set the fastest times. The drivers will be required to tame the fast corners, slow corners, long straights and technical bends to win. It will examine the drivers to an extreme level. We will see who are the complete drivers after they race at COTA.
An Amazing Spectacle
COTA is the best at creating memorable events in F1. With NASCAR coming to town, Bobby Epstein and his team will go all out to create an incredible weekend to welcome fans from all over America. It is the benchmark venue in America, maybe the world. Everything is bigger in Texas. It’ll be enormous when the NASCAR circus rocks up at the front gates.
Going to a place like COTA is the boost NASCAR needs. It will be a challenging, demanding race on both teams and drivers. The fan experience will also be fantastic. COTA is an excellent track for door-to-door, bumper-to- bumper racing. I don’t know what you will be doing on May 23rd, but I will be tuning in to watch this race. Wherever you are in the world, you should too. It’s going to be epic.