Austin's COTA zooms to top of most Instagram-worthy racetracks

Austin's COTA zooms to top of most Instagram-worthy racetracks

NASCAR fans are gearing up for the series' first visit to the COTA in May. Photo courtesy of COTA

Ahead of hosting NASCAR — for the first time ever — this May, Austin’s world-class racetrack is getting some high-throttle attention on social media.

Circuit of The Americas, home to a tricky 3.41-mile race track and 1,500 acres of sprawling East Austin hillside, is the most popular NASCAR track around, according to Instagrammers anyway. Industry site Scrap Car Comparison revealed the results of its recent study of tracks on the official NASCAR circuit, declaring the COTA is the most popular, based on Instagram hashtags.

Anyone who has been to a race at COTA has probably taken a selfie or Instagrammed a shot of the impressive track, with some social media users even posting images taken by drone, the study says. Data from the study shows the COTA showed up in 99,354 posts tagged with #circuitoftheamericas, beating out every other NASCAR track in the country.

Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, long a host to NASCAR races in the Lone Star State, was ranked seventh in the study with 63,565 hashtag mentions, and COTA also beat out prominent tracks like Daytona International Speedway (No. 2) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (No. 8).

Surprisingly, COTA even raced ahead of Bristol Motor Speedway (No. 14) in Tennessee, which will host the first dirt race in modern NASCAR history this weekend in what is sure to be a ferociously messy yet equally exciting event.

But it’s in Austin where fans of motorsport are eagerly awaiting NASCAR’s first run on the winding COTA track May 21-23. The experience will be new to many of the racing series’ drivers as well, with a recent tire test at the track in anticipation of the race yielding some interesting comments from the sport’s top racers.

“The track’s fun. It has a lot of character to it, I feel like,” current NASCAR champ Chase Elliott said after the early March tire test. “I’ve never been here, never seen it in person before today and really haven’t watched a ton of races here, so it’s really been a pretty steep learning curve for me, trying to piece together all the different parts of the track and understand where you need to be good and how to make it flow. I’m trying to learn, but it’s been fun. I hope [fans] will come out and give it a chance. It’s a different type of racing.”

Driver Brad Keselowski offered up his take after the test, drawing particular attention to COTA’s famously grueling first turn. 

“One of the things about this track here in Austin, it’s got a couple of key action spots. Turn 1 is designed as though a fan said, ‘How can I have the most calamity in that corner on the start?’ So there’s a couple of things,” Keselowski said.

“First off, it’s uphill, which helps the car stop, so it encourages the driver to try to out-brake another driver, which is big on a restart or a start because all of the cars are already so close together. Second thing is it’s really wide on entry, so it’s almost impossible to block because there’s just a lot more racetrack. And then, of course, the third part is it’s a super slow corner, meaning you have to use a lot of brakes to get through there. So, like I said, almost like it was intentional — I’m sure it was intentional — to create some epic starts. I think you’ll see that here.”

According to the Scrap Car Comparison study, COTA has become a firm fan favorite since the track opened in 2012, with the study noting its striking observation tower featured heavily in Instagram posts.

Though 2021 marks the first time NASCAR races into Austin, the track has for years played host to a variety of racing series, including IndyCar; MotoGP; and, most notably, Formula 1, the premier racing series in the world. After being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1 will return to Circuit of The Americas in late October as part of F1’s 2021 season.