Kwik Trip 250 Preview: Return to Road America

Kwik Trip 250 Preview: Return to Road America

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

This weekend the NASCAR Cup Series goes road racing once again, as we visit the track at Road America for the second time in two seasons. The track located near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is a 14-turn, 4.048-mile long road course that is classified as an FIA Grade Two circuit. The event is 62 laps, divided into three stages of 15 laps, 15 laps and 32 laps. Top speeds are tempered by a modest mix of long straights and hairpin turns. The circuit is crafted for sports car racing and motorcycles but has hosted a number of major racing series over the years. IndyCar, IMSA and many others currently compete at this circuit. The track opened in 1955 and hosted NASCAR's top touring series for one event in 1956. Tim Flock would run away from Billy Myers and Fireball Roberts to win that first Cup Series race at the Wisconsin circuit. NASCAR's top touring series made triumphant return to the facility last season. Road racing ace, Chase Elliott, would take control late and cruise to the victory in last season's Jockey Made in America 250. The Hendrick Motorsports star will be tabbed for race-title defense this weekend, but there will be several road racing suitors for his Road America crown.

Since this is just the second time in the modern era that the Cup Series will be racing this Wisconsin road circuit, we have minimal historical stats to examine this weekend. That does put us at a bit of a

This weekend the NASCAR Cup Series goes road racing once again, as we visit the track at Road America for the second time in two seasons. The track located near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is a 14-turn, 4.048-mile long road course that is classified as an FIA Grade Two circuit. The event is 62 laps, divided into three stages of 15 laps, 15 laps and 32 laps. Top speeds are tempered by a modest mix of long straights and hairpin turns. The circuit is crafted for sports car racing and motorcycles but has hosted a number of major racing series over the years. IndyCar, IMSA and many others currently compete at this circuit. The track opened in 1955 and hosted NASCAR's top touring series for one event in 1956. Tim Flock would run away from Billy Myers and Fireball Roberts to win that first Cup Series race at the Wisconsin circuit. NASCAR's top touring series made triumphant return to the facility last season. Road racing ace, Chase Elliott, would take control late and cruise to the victory in last season's Jockey Made in America 250. The Hendrick Motorsports star will be tabbed for race-title defense this weekend, but there will be several road racing suitors for his Road America crown.

Since this is just the second time in the modern era that the Cup Series will be racing this Wisconsin road circuit, we have minimal historical stats to examine this weekend. That does put us at a bit of a disadvantage, but we're not completely without numbers. We have the race from one year ago in the old generation stock car to examine. We're also going to rely on the statistics that our NASCAR Cup Series drivers have accumulated the past two seasons on the various road circuits of the Cup Series. It will be a good companion to last year's Road America loop stats for forming our driver group this week. The table below are the loop stats from last season's inaugural Road America race.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Chase Elliott1.020122455139.0
Kyle Busch3.090447122.5
Tyler Reddick8.0273558106.2
Christopher Bell2.0195046104.4
Denny Hamlin5.0181057103.4
Kurt Busch4.0372050101.8
Ross Chastain7.0271052100.2
Kyle Larson16.023205995.3
Martin Truex Jr.9.017114391.9
Chase Briscoe6.08003188.7
Austin Cindric38.05121986.6
Alex Bowman22.015204784.8
Joey Logano15.023005480.5
Austin Dillon11.08003076.0
William Byron33.0156154574.1
Aric Almirola14.05012572.5
AJ Allmendinger29.010502571.1
Chris Buescher18.07002170.8
Brad Keselowski 13.0700767.5
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.12.0510566.6

In this event one year ago, William Byron, Kyle Busch and handful of other drivers would pace the field in the early-going of the inaugural Road America race. It was a fantastic, balanced battle between multiple drivers. However, the scales would tilt decidedly in Chase Elliott's favor in the third and final stage of that event. Elliott would take the lead after the final caution period of the day and lead the final 17 laps to the checkered flag. Coming off the big win at Nashville Superspeedway this past weekend, Elliott will be making a very timely visit to Elkhart Lake. The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet has the momentum and experience to continue his winning ways in Sunday's Kwik Trip 250.

There have been a couple of road racing events thus far in 2022. We'll make a close examination of those races to see who will contend with Elliott and pose the biggest threat to steal the win this weekend. The Trackhouse Racing duo of Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez have won the first two events at COTA and Sonoma, so they'll certainly be drivers of focus as we head into the third road course race of the season. We'll take a look at Road America one year ago and this season's road racing aces and give you the drivers you need to succeed in your fantasy racing games for the Kwik Trip 250 at Road America.      

The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

Chase Elliott – Seven of his 15-career victories have come on road circuits, and those seven have come in 21 total starts for a dazzling 33-percent win rate. Elliott has yet to scratch the win column in the new Next-Gen car on a road course, but he's nabbed fourth- and eighth-place finishes so far this season with 26 laps led very recently at Sonoma. Coming off the big win at Nashville this past weekend, his second of the season, Elliott and the No. 9 team are on a roll coming back to Road America. He led 24 of the 62 laps in this event one year ago and dominated the last third of that race to win. Experience will be golden this weekend and when we hook that up with momentum it's likely a winning combination unless something unexpected happens to the Hendrick Motorsports star.

Austin Cindric – Cindric's Xfinity Series road course excellence has persisted even after his promotion to the Cup Series. He led 11 laps earlier this year at COTA before finishing eighth and he recently cracked the Top 5 at Sonoma. Cindric was a five-time road course winner during his time in the Xfinity Series (good for a 25-percent win rate) and his 14 Top 5's during that time check in at an astonishing 70-percent rate. He qualified fifth in this event one year ago, driving a third Penske car, but a rear-gear failure would send him to the garage early after leading a couple laps. Cindric is getting his act together and rides finishes of 11th, fifth and seventh place into this weekend's action at Road America.    

Ross Chastain – Trackhouse Racing has been the surprise outfit on these road circuits in 2022. Chastain won to lead off the season with a strong performance at COTA. He led 31 of the 69 laps that afternoon in Texas and won an incredible three-driver battle on the last lap to secure the victory. Chastain followed that up recently with a strong seventh-place finish at the Sonoma road circuit. The veteran driver has really elevated his game since moving to the No. 1 Chevrolet team over the off-season. Chastain's start in this event one year ago for former boss, Chip Ganassi, netted his former team a strong seventh-place finish. The Trackhouse Racing veteran will be battling among the leaders in the closing laps this Sunday afternoon.   

Daniel Suarez – Suarez recently made Trackhouse Racing two-for-two on road circuits this season with his big win at Sonoma Raceway. He led a dominant 47 laps and ran away from Chris Buescher to claim his first-career Cup Series victory. Suarez also performed well earlier in the year at COTA. The driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet would qualify on the outside pole and lead 15 laps before running into some trouble and fading to 24th place by the end. The Mexican-born NASCAR veteran has some impressive road racing talent. Suarez has made two Xfinity Series starts (finishing as high as fourth place) and one Cup Series start at Road America, so he's not short on experience at this track. He'll be a threat to win the Kwik Trip 250. 

Solid Plays – Near locks for a Top 10 with an outside shot to win

Ryan Blaney – Blaney reversed some May struggles with strong fourth-, sixth- and third-place finishes the last three weeks in June. The Penske Racing youngster has been a dependable performer on the road circuits in recent years. Blaney's 12 career Top 10's in 21 road course starts works out to a strong 57-percent rate. That success has transferred into the Next-Gen car as well. The driver of the No. 12 Ford has nabbed a pair of sixth-place finishes this season at COTA and Sonoma. He may not be a major threat to win this Sunday in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, but Blaney should forge another Top-10 finish in Sunday's Kwik Trip 250. 

Christopher Bell –  Bell finished a brilliant runner-up in this event one year ago when the Cup Series debuted at Road America. That experience will serve the Joe Gibbs Racing youngster well heading into this weekend. Bell was not very impressive recently at Sonoma, but if we take a look back at COTA we see he raced up front all afternoon in that event and finished a strong third place in the Echopark Automotive Texas Grand Prix. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota has always performed well on the winding circuit. He nabbed his first career Cup Series victory at the Daytona road course and his 45-percent Top-10 rate on these style tracks is not to be quickly dismissed. Bell owns one-career Xfinity Series win at Road America, and that experience will serve him well this weekend. 

Kurt Busch – Coming off his fifth Top-5 finish of the season and third in the last five races, Busch is surging on his way to Wisconsin. The road courses haven't been kind to him this season, but that's likely to change starting this weekend, as Busch has always been a strong road course performer. The 23XI Racing veteran is a one-time winner on these circuits and his dazzling 26 Top 10's in 51 career road course starts works out to a strong 51-percent rate. In this event one year ago, Busch piloted his former Chip Ganassi team to a strong fourth-place finish in the Jockey Made in America 250. He was one of a handful of drivers in serious contention to win that inaugural event at Road America.   

Kevin Harvick – It hasn't been a very good season for Harvick and the No. 4 team, a group which sits an uncharacteristic 11th place in the driver points coming to Road America. However, the veteran driver is riding a two-race Top-10 streak entering this weekend. Harvick has been a good performer on the road circuits in the new Next-Gen car, posting 11th- and fourth-place finishes at COTA and Sonoma. Harvick has had no trouble thus far with the winding circuits in the new car. It's easy to forget he's a two-time road course winner in his career and sports a solid 49-percent Top-10 rate on this style of track. Harvick was nearly invisible in this event one year ago at Road America, but we bet he's not in Sunday's Kwik Trip 250. 

Sleepers – Drivers with good history of road course racing & solid upside

William Byron – Byron has been a tough-luck driver of late, but he's been pretty sharp on these road circuits in 2022, so we're calling for the rebound effort this Sunday at the Wisconsin road course. Finishes of 12th at COTA and ninth more recently at Sonoma teases the No. 24 team's potential this weekend. Byron won the pole for this event one year ago at Road America and led the opening 15 laps before running into trouble and finishing a distant 33rd place. He'll look to rebound from that performance this Sunday. Byron seems to have a leg up on most of his competition in the Next-Gen car on these style tracks, and that may be all the advantage he needs in Sunday's race at Road America. 

Tyler Reddick – The Richard Childress Racing youngster finished a respectable eighth place in this event one year ago. That was the Cup Series' debut at Road America, and now Reddick will get to show that was no fluke. He's qualified well this season on the road courses (fourth at COTA, fifth at Sonoma) and Reddick nabbed a fifth-place finish at the Texas road course. While he wasn't as fortunate recently at Sonoma, we're willing to give him a mulligan on that performance. His five-career Top 10's in 11 starts on road circuits works out to a 45-percent Top-10 rate. Byron has been an inconsistent driver this season, but he's been a steady producer on the winding tracks.       

Brad Keselowski – It's been a tough, tough season for Keselowski at his new No. 6 Ford team. However, the veteran driver has been skilled in his two road course starts this year. Despite all Keselowski's struggles on intermediate ovals, he's collected 14th- and 10th-place finishes at COTA and Sonoma. He's been able to adapt well to the new car on this style of track. Keselowski has only been a 33-percent Top-10 finisher for his career on road circuits, so it does buck his history a bit, but you can't argue with the results. In this event one year ago at Road America, Keselowski was a Top-15 finisher for his old boss, Roger Penske. He presents some nice fantasy racing upside for the Kwik Trip 250.

AJ Allmendinger – Allmendinger will once again pilot the No. 16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing this Sunday at Road America. He's been a tough-luck finisher on the road courses this season, but we can't forget his incredible battle for the win at COTA earlier this year. He unfortunately lost that battle to Ross Chastain but was in contention to win right up until the last couple corners of that race. With two career Cup Series victories on road circuits and 12 Top-10 finishes, Allmendinger can't be overlooked. He's also grabbed one Xfinity Series victory as well as one runner-up finish and three Top 5's at Road America in that division. He knows this track well and can perform at a high level at the Wisconsin road circuit.      

Chris Buescher – The Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing veteran has been a good performer this season. Just a few weeks ago, the driver of the No. 17 Ford nabbed a brilliant runner-up finish on the road circuit at Sonoma. That was one of four Top-10 finishes this season for Buescher. In this event one year ago, he was a Top-20 finisher in the inaugural Road America race. However, he's been dramatically better on these road circuits in the Next-Gen car. With just three career Top 10's on road courses, most fantasy racing players will pan Buescher this weekend. Don't make that mistake. He brings high upside into Sunday's Kwik Trip 250.   

Michael McDowell – The veteran driver has been on a roll of late. McDowell has three Top 10's in the last six races, including his strong third-place finish at the Sonoma road circuit recently. He also registered a respectable 13th-place finish at the COTA circuit in Texas this spring. Road courses and superspeedways have always been McDowell's best tracks, and that success has translated into the Next-Gen car in 2022. The Elkhart Lake track is no stranger to this veteran driver, as McDowell has five career Xfinity Series starts at this facility. He's led a combined 58 laps in those events and claimed a victory (2016) and runner-up finish (2012). McDowell is a great fantasy sleeper play this weekend.   

Slow Down – Drivers to avoid this week

Kyle Busch – We don't typically put Busch in the Slow Down list very often, so pay close attention. The Joe Gibbs Racing star hasn't had a good season thus far on the road circuits. Busch's qualifying efforts have been subpar (13.5 average start) and his finishes have been even worse (29.0 average finish) between COTA and Sonoma. He really labored at Sonoma recently and finished a very uncharacteristic 30th place in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Busch put on a dazzling drive from the back to the front in this event one year ago at Road America, but that was in the old generation stock car. It seems he doesn't yet have things figured out just yet in this new car on the winding tracks.

Kyle Larson – Larson is another big name to downgrade this weekend. He recently won the pole and led 26 laps at Sonoma, but found a way to fade to a disappointing 15th-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Larson was also an uncharacteristic 29th-place at COTA after having finished runner-up there the previous season. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet just hasn't quite figured out these new cars as it relates to road course racing. Road America wasn't quite to Larson's liking last season, as the rough and tumble road course action saw him finish a subpar 16th place in this event one year ago. This is a good weekend to take a timeout from Larson in weekly lineup and salary cap based fantasy leagues.   

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse has had some fantasy racing utility on intermediate ovals this season, but this is a weekend to pass on the driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet. His finishes of 37th- and 25th-place at COTA and Sonoma are quite demonstrative of his road racing resume at NASCAR's top level. Stenhouse has no Top-10 finishes in 27 career starts on these style tracks and finishes around 23.4 for his career at these challenging facilities. The transition to the new Next-Gen car has had virtually no impact on his performance at road circuits. Stenhouse was born and bred a short-track dirt-oval performer and has never had much success on these winding circuits. 

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin was a Top-5 finisher in this event one year ago at Road America, but we're calling for the fantasy fade this weekend. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota has had it tough on the road courses this season. Hamlin struggled to a subpar 18th-place finish at COTA in the spring and more recently had a very tough time in Sonoma, finishing a distant 31st-place. Road courses have been part of Hamlin's inconsistency this season. From a historical perspective, despite some success on these sorts of tracks, Hamlin's worst-performing tracks have been road circuits. His 15.5 average finish at these facilities is more than two spots worse than his career average finish of 13.3 across all tracks.     

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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