Tyler Reddick topped the speed charts in Fridays 50-minute NASCAR Cup Series practice session at the Circuit of The Americas. The 23XI Racing driver circled the 3.56-mile Texas road course with a top lap of 92.989 mph in his No. 45 Toyota.
Reddick is one of the guys I’m watching this weekend. This is his first road course race with Toyota and we saw what he could do in a Chevrolet. Reddick won twice on road courses a year ago and was strong here last March. He also enters Sundays race (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN) surging on the heels of two straight top five finishes.
However, the Toyota’s last year were the worst road course outfit.
Martin Truex Jr finished 7th, 26th, 13th, 21st, 23rd and 17th in the 6 races on them a year ago. Denny Hamlin was 18th, 31st, 17th, 14th, 20th and 13th respectively himself. Kyle Busch was 28th, 30th, 29th, 11th, 32nd and third. Christopher Bell being 3rd, 27th, 18th, 12th, 8th and first was the bright spot. Bubba Wallace was 38th, 36th, 35th, 5th, 35th and 7th. The 45 ride which is now the 23 was 32nd, 18th, 23rd, 17th, 16th and 22nd between Kurt Busch and Ty Gibbs.
In saying this, how much will another change to the racing package bring them together or does Chevrolet make further gains?
Chevrolet has won 15 of the last 17 road course events including 5 of the 6 a year ago. They’re 2-for-2 in COTA.
This will be the 3rd ever race on this track so there’s not much history or trends to witness here. The inaugural race in 2021 was run in the rain. Last year’s in the clear skies but also with a new car. This year, we have the second year of this new Next Gen model but this being the first road course event of the season, how much does the 2022 package work in 2023, especially with the changes made?
NASCAR has announced last month updates to the components of the NASCAR Cup Series car for races held at road courses and short tracks (excluding Bristol and Dover). The Road Course and Selected Short Track Package will consist of the following:
1. 2” Spoiler
1. Remove Engine Panel Strakes
1. Remove Center and Inner Diffuser Strakes. Only the Outer Diffuser Strakes will remain installed. Spacers will be installed between the diffuser flap and diffuser due to removing the inner diffuser strakes.
1. Remove Diffuser Fences and Replace with Baseline Fences.
1. Splitter stuffers will remain unchanged from the current components.
The rules are in place at the following tracks: Charlotte Roval, Chicago Street Course, Circuit of The Americas, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Martinsville, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix, Richmond, Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Which is why I’m curious on if Chevy’s advantage is still around and if Toyota closed the gap?
It’s why we saw the practice session on Friday and now the usual P&Q on Saturday.
Toyotas went 1-8-11-17-19-21. Chevy went 2-3-4-5.
The practice was actually dominated by road course favorites. Kyle Larson won three of the seven road courses in 2021 and in Watkins Glen last year. He was second quickest. Ross Chastain was third. He’s the defending race winner.
Kyle Busch and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top five. Between Reddick, Larson and the Trackhouse Racing duo, they combined to win 5 of the 6 road races last season.
Michael McDowell and Austin Cindric have road racing backgrounds and were sixth and seventh respectively.
The session was delayed 30 minutes to dry the track after a wet morning but the session had just one stoppage for debris.
Up next: Qualifying 11:30 am ET