Much has been made in recent years about Chase Elliott’s dominance on road courses, and the stats bear that out – Elliott has won a stunning 6 out of the last 12 races on road courses and possesses an average finish of seventh at the track type (best among active drivers).
While it would be tempting to match Elliott up with his Hendrick Motorsports counterpart Kyle Larson this week (who won three road course events in 2021), the clean slate offered by the Next Gen race car makes road course specialist AJ Allmendinger the most intriguing matchup for Elliott heading into the weekend.
Allmendinger, who is on a part-time Cup Series schedule, has far and away the most experience on road courses outside of NASCAR – having an illustrious career outside of stock car racing that saw him win many races on road courses in circuit-based series like IMSA, IndyCar and others. Plus, don’t forget he won at the Indianapolis Road Course last season.
24 – William Byron vs. 5 – Kyle Larson
For the first time ever, NASCAR.com fans voted for their preferred matchup of the week, and Byron vs. Larson was the top choice. Fans certainly voted wisely, as both of these Hendrick Motorsports drivers have shown incredible speed on road courses in recent races.
The last time the series visited a road course (Charlotte Roval last fall), Larson won the race, but Byron arguably had the best car late in the event – leading 30 laps in the final stage before an untimely late caution and contact with Tyler Reddick on the ensuing restart spoiled Byron’s shot at a surprise win.
2 – Austin Cindric vs. 19 – Martin Truex Jr.
Reigning Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric gets his first crack at his bread and butter track type as a full-time Cup driver this weekend. Cindric is a classically-trained road racer at heart who came up through sports cars prior to transitioning to stock cars – and that road course acumen has yielded strong road course results for Cindric in his young NASCAR career – five Xfinity road course wins and one Truck Series road course win.
Truex makes for a strong matchup for Cindric, as the JGR veteran has one of the best stat-lines in the sport in recent years on road courses – he has the fourth best driver rating on RCs since 2019 (105.9) and the fourth best average finish in the same span (10.50).
11 – Denny Hamlin vs. 18 – Kyle Busch
The final matchup for COTA is an intriguing one that matches up two JGR superstars with similar records on road courses.
Hamlin has the third highest average finish since 2019 on the road course track type (8.92) among active drivers but has had a miserable start to the 2022 season, where he currently sits 26th in points.
Busch has had poor luck and unusual circumstances bite him in road course races in recent years, culminating in what currently stands as the 19th best average finish (16.50) on road courses since 2019. That said, Busch is a four-time road course winner at the Cup level and collected a surprise victory in the 2021 Busch Clash, which was contested on the Daytona Road Course.