NASCAR: 3 takeaways from COTA
Written by Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
What a race. After a hard-fought battle between the drivers spanning two hours, three overtime attempts, Tyler Reddick won the sixth race of the season at The Circuit of Americas. After an early breakaway from William Byron, Reddick and his team decided against the suggested 2-stop strategy, and came in before the end of stage one for a risky 3-stop strategy.
Byron eventually won stage one, but Reddick caught up to the front of the pack during the pit cycle for the two-stoppers, clearing traffic before eventually taking the top spot to win stage two. At this point, the two stoppers had the tyre advantage, but a yellow flag early into stage three reset the pit cycle, essentially securing top spot for Reddick.
Reddick pulled away from the pack after the restart, but late flags bunched up the field and sent the race into overtime. During all three overtime restarts, Reddick ran away with the lead effortlessly, eventually crossing the line in dominant fashion, leading the field by more than a second. The 45 team was on their A-game on the day, with no errors on pit stops, impeccable strategy, and Tyler Reddick himself had a perfect drive.
1. No stage breaks was a huge success
The first race of NASCAR’s experiment with no breaks between stages proved to be a resounding success. Continuous racing was extremely welcomed by the fans, and strategy was more of an emphasis than usual races, making the race more exciting and unpredictable. The strategy carried greater importance on road courses, where tyre wear is a key problem to tackle for teams, and the main dilemma among the Paddock lay between doing a two-stopper or a three-stopper.
In addition, eliminating the stage break shut out any chance for FOX to send the audience to another ad-break, a win for the fans.
2. Should COTA return for 2024?
COTA has proven to be a track where late excitement and door-to-door racing prevails. The race garnered approximately 3.1 million household viewers, and a 1.81 rating. Though a drop from previous years, live attendance was on the rise. NASCAR has plans to continue racing at a track where both the audience as well as the drivers enjoy a lot, but did not guarantee a return for 2024.
"We hope we can continue to come down here, and it looks very likely," executive race director Bryan Hammond told the American-Statesman on March 26th. "We have an option (for 2024), but it's contingent on SMI, COTA and NASCAR all agreeing on a new deal.”
3. Suarez’s struggles continue
While most of the field were driving back to pit road on the cool down lap, Daniel Suarez hit Alex Bowman in the rear bumper twice, before jumping out of the car to confront him about the overtime restart incident that sent him to the back of the field.
That was quite poor for Suarez, but you really ought to ask what led to that frustration. After having top 10 finishes in the first three races for Suarez, he has three consecutive races finishing below 20th.
Trackhouse Racing co-owner Justin Marks said he would rather have two drivers mad about losing than shrugging off their chances to win. While a show of competitiveness doesn’t hurt, Marks and Suarez definitely hope for a bounce back soon for the seventh-year veteran.