Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas is the spot for the sixth race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. It’s just the second time stock cars have raced on this 3.41-mile road course facility and the first time they’ve done so without Mother Nature unleashing a flood.
Indeed, fans will be relieved to know there’s zero percent chance of rain this weekend as teams have been greeted with sunshine and picture-perfect weather conditions. It’s a far cry from last May, where raging downpours led to savage wrecks, unsafe conditions and ultimately forced the race to be shortened.
Instead, the biggest obstacle has been working out some handling kinks as the Next Gen car makes its road course debut. Chase Briscoe described the way his car drove as “out of control” after his run on SIRIUS XM Radio, with other drivers chiming in that the car has been tougher to drive than expected.
Pole-sitter Ryan Blaney found out the hard way, getting off course and hitting some soft barriers during the day’s only practice session. However, the car avoided heavy damage and Blaney charged back to win the first pole of his career on this track type. He edged out Daniel Suarez by just .026 seconds as Team Penske’s entire trio (Joey Logano, Austin Cindric) will start inside the top 10.
Thirty-nine cars showed up for this event, leaving the field one short of its 40-car maximum. Three open cars chose to make an attempt: the No. 27 of Team Hezeberg (Loris Hezemans), the No. 50 of The Money Team Racing (Kaz Grala), and the No. 66 of MBM Motorsports (Boris Said). The No. 44 of NY Racing (Greg Biffle) chose to skip this race.
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1. Ryan Blaney
2. Daniel Suarez
3. Cole Custer
4. Tyler Reddick
5. Alex Bowman
6. Joey Logano
7. Christopher Bell
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Justin Haley
10. Austin Cindric (R)
11. Kurt Busch
12. Chase Elliott
13. Kyle Larson
14. Chase Briscoe
15. Kyle Busch
16. Ross Chastain
17. Martin Truex Jr.
18. Kevin Harvick
19. Harrison Burton (R)
20. AJ Allmendinger (i)
21. Austin Dillon
22. Chris Buescher
23. Bubba Wallace
24. William Byron
25. Aric Almirola
26. Brad Keselowski
27. Michael McDowell
28. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
29. Todd Gilliland (R)
30. Erik Jones
31. Kaz Grala (i)
32. Corey LaJoie
33. Ty Dillon
34. Josh Bilicki
35. Cody Ware
36. Loris Hezemans (i)
37. Boris Said
38. Joey Hand
39. Andy Lally (i)
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
Pre-Race Inspection Failures
The following teams lost a crew member due to pre-race inspection failures.
- No. 6 RFK Racing (Brad Keselowski)
- No. 50 The Money Team Racing (Kaz Grala)
- No. 66 MBM Motorsports Ford (Boris Said)
- No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet (Josh Bilicki)
- No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford (Andy Lally) – failed three times, will start the race with a pass-through penalty
- Ryan Blaney (1st) scored his second pole of the season and eighth of his career. He’s finished sixth or better in six of those seven previous pole runs.
- Daniel Suarez (2nd) earned his best starting spot since September 2019 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when he ran for Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s the best-qualifying Chevrolet driver in the field.
- Cole Custer (3rd) earned the best starting spot of his career (81 Cup start). He’s the highest-qualifying Ford and is seeking his first top-5 finish since July 2020.
- Christopher Bell (7th) was the highest-qualifying Toyota. Bell’s lone Cup win came on a road course, back at Daytona International Speedway in February 2021.
- Austin Cindric (10th) was the fastest rookie. Cindric led four laps here last May after qualifying inside the top 5.
- Chase Elliott (12th) is this race’s defending winner.
- Kyle Larson (13th) won more road course races (three) than any other Cup driver last season.
- Kaz Grala (31st) starts his first Cup race since the Daytona 500 with The Money Team Racing. Grala is running a limited schedule for the team this season.
- Loris Hezemans (36th) will make his Cup debut this weekend for Team Hezeberg, replacing Jacques Villeneuve. The Euro NASCAR champion will run a limited schedule this season for a team making their first start since the Daytona 500.
- Boris Said (37th) replaces Timmy Hill at MBM Motorsports for this race as the No. 66 team makes its first race of 2022. (The team failed to qualify back at Daytona). Said, 59, is running his first Cup event since 2017.
- Road-course specialist Joey Hand (38th) replaces David Ragan for this race at Rick Ware Racing. Hand ran the Charlotte ROVAL for RWR last season, finishing 27th in his Cup debut last fall.
- Trans-Am driver Andy Lally (39th) makes his return to Cup racing with Live Fast Motorsports. The 2011 Cup Rookie of the Year ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course last summer with this team, his first race in Cup in nearly 10 years.
NASCAR Race Breakdown
Race: EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix
Track: Circuit of The Americas
Date: Sunday, March 27
TV: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 68 laps (231 miles)
Stage 1: 15 Laps
Stage 2: 17 Laps
Final Stage: 36 Laps
Adam Cheek and Bryan Nolen co-host the Frontstretch Podcast this week, recapping a wild weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway before turning their attention to Circuit of The Americas. They forecast this weekend’s race favorites and discuss how the racing will be different out in Austin the second time around.
Don’t forget about Athlon Sports’ 2022 Racing magazine. With 144 pages of racing content, it’s the most complete preview available today. Click here to get your copy or purchase the digital edition for instant access.