The 2021 season marks the first time that NASCAR‘s three top series will head to Circuit of the Americas in Texas. The highly-anticipated trip to the unique road track will not take place until the end of May, but three of Toyota Racing’s top drivers — Kyle Busch, John Hunter Nemechek, and Daniel Hemric — recently took part in some test laps.
The trip to Texas was part of a FOX Sports production day. The trio of drivers navigated their respective vehicles around the 20-turn road course. They also helped announce that Toyota will provide the official pace cars for the upcoming slate of races, including May 22’s Toyota Tundra 225 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event.
NASCAR’s first-ever trip to COTA will feature a jam-packed schedule. The inaugural weekend will also feature IMSA’s Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series race and another Lamborghini race on Sunday. The Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series races will take place on Saturday while the Cup Series race will cap off Sunday.
Circuit of the Americas poses an entirely new challenge
— NASCAR at COTA (@NASCARatCOTA) April 19, 2021
Following the test laps around the new course, the three Toyota Racing drivers provided a recap of their laps. Nemechek called the track “amazing” while discussing the elevation changes, tight corners, and high-speed straightaways. Busch similarly referenced the technical corners while discussing how easy it could be to mistakenly go in the wrong direction.
“It’s definitely an interesting place. There’s a lot of tricky corners that are here, kind of some hidden corners as well,” Busch said in a press release provided to media members. “When you’re coming around (Turn) 1 and you feel like you’re doing a good job of being in the right place, it’s not, ‘No, wait. We’ve got to go that way next.’ It’s definitely different. It’s a long course — a lot of corners, a lot of high-speed straightaways, heavy braking zones, so it’s definitely going to have its challenges for the drivers as well as the equipment.”
Busch’s comments about the corners echoed a similar sentiment by Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski. The driver of the No. 2 Ford Mustang headed to Austin in early March to put his stock car to the test. He met with the media after his session and explained that the drivers will go from 185 mph down to 30 mph in a matter of seconds while trying to enter some of the corners.
The trip to COTA was not all business
While the three drivers conducted serious business at the Austin track, they also found time for some fun and games. COTA has a special karting track on the property, and the three NASCAR drivers used the opportunity to test their skills against each other. Although they did so behind the steering wheels of very different vehicles.
With the trip to COTA complete, the three Toyota Racing drivers will enter the race weekend better prepared for an entirely different type of course. However, they will first have to take part in some other events on the schedule.
Hemric and Busch will now head to Talladega Superspeedway for the Xfinity Series and Cup Series races on Saturday and Sunday. Nemechek, on the other hand, will not compete again until May 1 at Kansas Speedway. For now, he will spend time with his wife, Taylor, and their newborn Aspen.