Nascar Racing

Cup Teams Facing COTA Challenges   

From a NASCAR Fan’s View

There is always something challenging going on in the NASCAR Cup Series and this weekend is no different. This weekend not only do they face their first road course race of the 2024 season but they also face it with the newest NASCAR short track rules package for the first time. Judging from the practice sessions and the qualifying, it appears things are slightly different than the last time the Cup teams visited COTA. Well, that’s the way it looked from this fan’s view anyway. I don’t think I’ve seen as many people spinning out during practice as I did in these sessions this weekend.

I don’t know how you see it but, it does appear the Toyotas have not only found their speed but they have it hooked up to the track. Once again this weekend they are fast and they could be the ones to beat this afternoon at COTA.

This is just an observation but it does look like the new body changes to the Toyotas agree with them, especially the Gibbs Toyotas. They have been fast since the races have moved from the Superspeedways to the shorter tracks. The number of laps they have led in the last couple of weeks has been outstanding. In fact, they have dominated the field over the last two weeks.

In the first couple of weeks of the season, it looked like the Chevys were going to be running away with at least the first part of the season. Now, it appears that the Toyotas have taken the lead in that. They are obviously getting a grip on their new body style and they are obviously making up for lost time even from what they showed late in the season of last year with speed even before the new body style.

As it stands right now, I have to ask the question – Has the new NASCAR Cup downforce package for the shorter tracks had anything to do with the resurgence of the Toyotas and their grip on leading the field in speed and performance lately?

Well… that is a good question and one I’m not sure I have a grip on yet. It does appear their season began to turn almost immediately the first week this package was introduced.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that is the reason. What I am saying, or asking, is did this new package just fit into where they were at the start of the season or did it actually offer them some advantage over the other two manufacturers?

If we only look at the results from the first races with it, it does appear that it helped them close the gap on the Chevys and especially over the Fords. From my view, it does seem the Chevys still have speed but that speed has been surpassed by The Toyotas. Also from my view, as a whole the Fords appear to be struggling. Well, at least many of them when it comes down to the actual races. Qualifying is a little different part of the story but, except for Ryan Blaney, they don’t seem to be there at the end of a race.

Getting back to the challenges they appear to be facing at COTA this weekend, there have been changes to the track in the form of repaving some areas of the track. There is also a new starting area which may either help or hinder when the race actually starts. That is something that remains to be seen, especially when the entire field enters turn one at the top of the hill on the front straight.

As I mentioned earlier, the Toyotas have shown up with speed again this weekend but, taking a quick look at the front row shows there is a Chevy and a Toyota on the front row. William Byron squeaked by Ty Gibbs for the Pole position by a very, very small margin. Add to that there are six Toyotas starting in the top ten and four Chevys. The Fords don’t show up until eleventh through twentieth and then there are only three there. Not a very strong showing for starting this race at COTA.

Of course, you and I both know qualifying doesn’t always show how the race will go. Just because some cars run fast for one or two laps doesn’t mean they will even be in the top ten when it comes down to the final laps. When it comes down to Road Course racing, well, just about anything can happen by the time the checkered flag drops.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about how I think the race will go for several reasons. One is the speed of the Toyotas and especially Ty Gibbs. He has been fast every weekend lately and only circumstances have kept him from his first win in the Cup series. It is possible he could get that win today at COTA. It is also possible any of the main Toyota drivers could take it to Victory Lane. The JGR and 23XI teams do look to be tough to beat, considering how they qualified.

Of course, there are several Chevys that could very likely have something to say about that. William Byron, Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain and, yes, even Corey LaJoie. There are several others and I won’t rule them out but the race will probably show a lot of difference between the some of the qualifiers and where they will finish. There are a lot of very good road racers a little back in the field. Remember, the qualifying times don’t show that much separation. I believe this one is going to come down to strategy and tires. Both of these could be affected by the number of cautions.

From what I’ve seen in the practice sessions, there could be more than a few of those but, even I admit it could come down to long green flag runs and that won’t be known until this one is over…

Hey, this is Russ and that’s my view… See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 24, 2024 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
All audio productions by and Pod Cast Norm Productions
All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated

By Rusty Norman

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