NASCAR will be keeping it weird in Austin this weekend

Martin Truex Jr. is a good bet to make. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The time has finally come, NASCAR makes its highly anticipated debut at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. This is one of the most unique tracks not just on the NASCAR schedule, but on the F1 schedule as well. There are two long straightaways and an incredible elevation change entering the first corner. This is also a very long racetrack as most laps take about two minutes to finish, we could very well see a lot of fuel conservation come into play as well. The biggest thing to watch out for this week is the weather with tons of rain in the forecast this week in Austin, so it is a real possibility that we see a rain tire race for the first time in NASCAR Cup Series history. If you thought the prospect of running on a brand-new racetrack was crazy, just wait until rain is added to the equation. This will be one race even a casual fan wouldn't want to miss.

Last week at Dover, it was all Hendrick Motorsports as Alex Bowman went on to his second victory of 2021. His teammates Kyle Larson, William Byron and Chase Elliott all followed as it was the first 1-2-3-4 finish for the team and the first since 2005 when Jack Roush's team did it. There had been much speculation about this team, many believed that they missed a step over the past few years but after winning the title last year with Chase Elliott, it looks like they have found their return to glory. Of the races four-hundred laps, THREE-HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO laps were led by a Hendrick car! That is 96 percent of the race! While this team has been good here, this was a whole new level of domination. The rest of the field will have a lot of work to do if they want to keep up throughout the season.

Last Tuesday, Adam Stern dropped a bombshell on Twitter regarding the 2022 plans of NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski. It has been reported that Keselowski has been offered a ride and an ownership role at Roush Fenway Racing. This sent shockwaves through the racing world. No one could have ever expected this. While yes, Roush Racing is pretty good and car owner Jack Roush has a great relationship with the Ford Motor Company, they aren't on the level of his current team, Penske Racing. One thing to remember is that this report is simply a rumor and has not been confirmed. So this is all subject to change, but this could be a huge first domino to fall. It will be interesting to see what car he will drive next season and if this ownership role allows him to return to potentially reopening his old Camping World Truck Series team.

There are a lot of unknowns going into this week considering this is the first race here and there isn't really any data to show who the favorites could be. But if I had to pick a winner this week, I would have to say Martin Truex Jr is a good bet to make. He has really excelled at road courses and is always a favorite, plus he also showed a lot of speed when he was testing here last month with Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. I look for him to capture his fourth victory of 2021.

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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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