What NASCAR races include practice and qualifying
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series regular season is more than halfway through and drivers are running out of chances to reach the playoffs. There are only 11 races left before the qualifiers, the majority of which require the drivers to show up ready to go. They will only be able to train and qualify three more times before the start of the playoffs.
According to Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, the remaining races with practice and qualifying sessions are held at Nashville Superspeedway, Road America and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. Two of the circuits are new to the Cup Series while the third – Road America – has not been on the calendar since 1956. Drivers will also have the opportunity to train and qualify before the championship race in Phoenix.
As the trip to the Circuit of the Americas showed, participating in practice laps on new tracks is essential for teams. They have no information about past configurations to review and make adjustments. Instead, they need to understand this information as race day approaches in order to remain competitive during the race.
Road routes pose a different challenge
While Nashville Superspeedway is a concrete oval, both IMS and Road America are road runs that require drivers to go through a series of right and left turns. Unlike oval races, drivers can’t just go racing and find adjustments while going 200-400 laps. Instead, they should focus on several factors, including the configuration of the turns.
Preparation is extremely important for these events as the slightest mistake could send a car off the track and into the wall. The COTA race proved it as several riders entered the corners too quickly and had to lock the brakes to avoid sinking into the gravel or grass.
There will be NASCAR drivers who enter the race at IMS with previous experience. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe took the checkered flag in the inaugural race of the Indianapolis GP Xfinity Series in 2020, preventing several drivers in the process. Ross Chastain of Chip Ganassi Racing was part of that group, finishing sixth.
Several cup drivers will likely participate in the Xfinity Road Course races
Considering the level of unknowns at IMS, it is likely that the Cup Series stars will line up for the second Indianapolis GP. Drivers such as Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer and Austin Dillon all took part in the Xfinity Series race at the Circuit of the Americas on May 22, 2021, in order to gain crucial experience. They might choose to do it again to see firsthand the unique layout of the road course.
However, these Cup Series drivers will have to face Sonoma Raceway first. They have considerable experience on the road course given that it was part of the NASCAR calendar until 2019. Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch each won one race at Sonoma while Kyle Busch made two trips to Victory Lane. Martin Truex Jr. is the most successful among active pilots with three wins to his name.
Cup Series drivers won’t have the opportunity to revisit Sonoma as the Xfinity Series heads to a different track instead of Sonoma. Drivers such as Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson will compete in the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course while Harvick and co. head to california.
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