Nascar Racing

COTA Is Next For The Next Gen

From a NASCAR Fan’s View


What a difference a year makes. Last year at COTA there was the old car, the uncooperative weather, racing in the rain (I guess just to prove they could, no matter how bad the track got from the rain) and a rain shortened race. Oh, and I didn’t even mention some of the other things that were different last year, but last year won’t even be able to be compared with the race this year.

This year, things will be different for a lot of reasons. The weather looks like it’s going to cooperate, the teams have a few weeks under their belts with the Next Gen car, the drivers have much more time in the new car and there was practice and qualifying. I don’t know how important any of that is but I do know this years COTA race will definitely be different than last year.

One thing stands out very vividly to me about this year and that is the number of drivers that have taken advantage of a way to gain more track-time. Yeah, you guessed it, several are running in other series. Personally, I think that will be a definite advantage to those that take advantage of it even though the Next Gen car is nothing like the trucks or the Xfinity cars, it’s just gaining a better understanding of what to expect as a race progresses. The drivers will even tell you there is no substitute for time on the track, no matter which series it is.

Just as a quick example of what I mean by my above statements, I would point you to Kyle Larson and how many other types of races he enters week in and week out. I’ll even go a step further and mention how I think the younger, less Cup Series experienced drivers like Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer, Austin Cindric and others. As I’ve said before, I believe the younger drivers have a lot less to forget about driving the old car compared to the new Next Gen car. The veterans in the series spent a lot of hours in the old car and it isn’t as easy to transition from the old to the new.

Once again, looking back to last year, it seemed some were able to handle the adverse conditions better than others and track position made a huge difference. By the end of the race last year There were two Hendrick drivers battling for the win. I’m not so sure it will be that way this weekend at COTA. I could be wrong and all four of the Hendrick teams could be up front, at least near the end. I’m not at all saying that’s the way it will go but, it is a possibility with the way all of them have been running so far this season. Chase Elliott is the only one of the Hendrick drivers that hasn’t won yet and he is one of the favorites as we approach the drop of the green flag on Sunday afternoon.

But, what about all those others?

Well… to be honest, there are more than a couple of names that standout to this fan. I’m not at all willing to name any names as shew-ins but the Fords and Toyotas have shown they did come to make it a race this weekend. After all, Ryan Blaney did win the pole – even after spinning into a soft-wall – and his Ford has to be considered as a possible front runner when it comes down to the last lap. After all, he has been running at or near the front at the end of several races lately. Another would be Cole Custer and he is starting right behind Ryan Blaney. Daniel Suarez and Tyler Reddick start outside of those two and staying up front and maintaining track position is one thing all four will want to do.

Personally, I’m not so sure having a good qualifying lap or two says anything about how the end of the race might look. Again, I say there is a very high likelihood one or more of the Hendrick teams will work their way to the front, even if it takes half of the race or more. I don’t expect them to remain mired in the pack and I’m not saying they will pull off the win but, it wouldn’t be the first time either. Chase Elliott has been known to qualify or start in the middle to the back of the lineup and still end up leading when it counts, especially on a road course. And then, there are all of those others that seem to excel on road courses these days. Yeah, I’m of the opinion the race this year won’t look at all like last year’s race. Well… that is until the last laps are in the book…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 26, 2022 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.