Cup Champions Get First Look At COTA

Brad Keselowski (2) and Chase Elliott (9) got their first taste of Circuit of the Americas during a tire test on Tuesday. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)
Brad Keselowski (2) and Chase Elliott (9) got their first taste of Circuit of the Americas during a tire test on Tuesday. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)

AUSTIN, Texas – A trio of NASCAR Cup Series champions hit the track at Circuit of the Americas for the first time on Tuesday as part of a Goodyear tire test in preparation for the inaugural EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at the 3.41-mile road course.

Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, 2012 Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. each got the chance to make laps at the facility in preparation for the race.

Elliott, who has won five times on road courses during his NASCAR Cup Series career, was complimentary of Circuit of the Americas after making his first laps around the track.

“The track’s fun. It has a lot of character to it, I feel like,” Elliott said. “I’ve never been here, never seen it before in person before today and really haven’t watched a ton of races here, so it’s really been a pretty steep learning curve for me, trying to piece together all the different parts of the track and understand where you need to be good and how to make it flow. Trying to learn, but it’s been fun.”

Keselowski said the track requires a certain amount of finesse in order to navigate the corners, but also noted that you can carry a lot of speed at different points around the track.

“It’s different than a lot of road courses we go to – very high-speed,” Keselowski said when describing Circuit of the Americas. “This section over here, it’s about 185 mph. Then you slow down to about 30, so – 185 to 30, you know that’s a heck of a ride. I know it would make my wife sick if she was riding with me. And you really have to finesse the cars down in the corners.”

In particular, Keselowski said there are several fun sections around the track that make it a unique but fun challenge for him as a driver.

“There are a couple of spots that certainly stand out as being a lot of fun,” Keselowski said. “The esses are such a rhythm section. You feel like you’re doing a Tango dance with your feet. You have to be really precise and hit everything perfectly. So there’s a really strong rhythm section on the front half of the course, and then the back half of the course, kind of the ballsy place is the entry to this really high-speed corner section. Again, 185 mph down to 35 mph, you know it. You’re going at that corner really, really fast. You’re pushing it to the limit, and it really stands out.”

Truex, who owns two road course victories in NASCAR Cup Series competition, said he watched a few minutes of in-car footage before coming to Circuit of the Americas in an effort to prepare himself for the test.

However, he said that in-car footage didn’t prepare him for the nuances of Circuit of the Americas.

“I literally watched five minutes of in-car footage last night, I think it was a Porsche going around this place, and I was like, ‘OK, this looks pretty straightforward,’” Truex said. “Then you get out here and you’ve got the elevation changes. You’ve got the blind corners. Those are the things that take time to learn because you’ve got to go off of instinct more than what you’re seeing. It’s all about markers and points on the track and when you turn in and what gear you’re in and how much speed you’re carrying and finding the brake points and all those things.

“It takes over two minutes to get around here, so if you make a mistake, you’ve got to wait two minutes to correct it, and you can’t forget it when you come back around. It was interesting to do that and a lot of fun to do that.”

NASCAR will debut at Circuit of the Americas May 21-23, with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series all scheduled to compete for the first time at the track.