When NASCAR announced that it would be racing at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, a track designed more for Formula One racing than for stock cars, opinions were divided. On the one hand, some fans were excited to see a new road course on the schedule. On the other hand, some fans were adamant that changes would need to be made to the track layout to make the racing, y’know, exciting. But NASCAR has decided to race the whole damn thing.
The 3.41-mile road course has taken the place of one of Texas Motor Speedway’s points-scoring events, and while it’s not one of NASCAR’s longest road courses, it is one of its most technical. The twists and turns at COTA are designed with the agility of an open-wheel car in mind—not a beefy stock car that’s a bit less graceful.
When the Australian Supercars series raced at COTA back when the track first opened, it did so on a shortened course that cut off the ‘tail’ of the track—that big long straightaway with the hairpin at its very tip. The goal was to reduce lap times, keep the cars closer together, and prevent fans from going a solid minute without seeing a car pass them by. The initial thought was that NASCAR would do something similar.
From Speedway Motorsports president and CEO Marcus Smith:
We took a hard look at both the 3.41-mile long course and the newly reconfigured 2.2-mile short course,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith, whose company is putting on the event. “There’s no doubt the long course will be the most entertaining for the fans. There are more sight lines and opportunities for hillside viewing, plus we’ll have additional options for trackside camping. Every NASCAR driver will be challenged by the same 20-turn, counterclockwise circuit designed for Formula 1 races.
Rumble strips and reinforced tire barriers will be added to the track similar to those added to the Charlotte ROVAL and the Daytona road course.
From the map recently released by COTA, there will be general admission seating available at Turn 3 and Turn 11, with grandstands available on the main straight, Turn 1, and Turn 12. Premium seating is available at the main straight and Turn 12.
All three NASCAR Series—Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks—will contest the track during the May 21-23 weekend. If you want my advice, I’d try to watch one race from three different spots, either through GA or via a multi-seat grandstand package that COTA often offers for big race events. No one part of the track is the same, and the only seat that offers a view of the whole thing is in the very top right corner of the Turn 15 grandstands, which don’t appear to be used. Put on your walking shoes and wander!