Chase Briscoe’s big week: Iowa, Eldora, Watkins Glen

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Chase Briscoe is feeling a tad nostalgic this week.

That’s due to the 24-year-old Xfinity Series driver being in the midst of a rather busy three-races-in-eight-days schedule of racing, or at least busy for someone who competes full-time in a national NASCAR series.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is four days removed from winning the Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway for his first victory of the year.

Thursday, he will set out with ThorSport Racing to defend last year’s victory in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series’ Eldora Dirt Derby in Rossburg, Ohio.

He’ll then journey to New York for his first career race on the Watkins Glen International road course Saturday in the Xfinity Series (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“It kind of takes me back to the dirt days where I’d run three or sometimes even four races in a week,” Briscoe told NBC Sports. “That’s the hard part, I think, about the NASCAR schedule is you don’t get to race a lot. At least compared to the dirt stuff. … They’re all definitely three different styles of race tracks. As a driver I love it. It’s kind of what it’s all about, getting to jump around in different disciplines and different types of tracks and just try to figure it out.”

Here’s how Briscoe learned or is learning to race on all three tracks:

Iowa Speedway

If you were aware of Briscoe’s history, you may not have been surprised at how Saturday’s Xfinity race played out between him and Christopher Bell, with Briscoe coming out on top after a 17-lap battle.

It wasn’t the first time the two drivers have fought it out on the .875-mile short track.

While they’ve competed on the track together in real life four times in the Xfinity and Truck Series, their battles there date back a decade in the virtual world.

“It started out we would race ‘rFactor’ together,” Briscoe recalled. “It was a dirt game on the computer. It transitioned to iRacing. Our favorite thing to do on iRacing is we always ran Iowa. It was always the best track on there. It was the only pavement track you could throw slide jobs on. So we would always run it. It’s funny how tendencies and how guys race on there correlates over to real life. I feel like there’s some things I know, not every time Bell does what I think he’s going to do, but there’s a lot of times I feel like I kind of choose the right scenario of what he’s going to do and it works out.”

Those years of throwing virtual slide jobs paid off for Briscoe when he successfully pulled one off on Bell in Turns 1 and 2 with six laps to go.

Briscoe admits Bell is one of, if not the hardest, drivers to execute the maneuver on in the Xfinity Series.

“Him and Tyler Reddick,” Briscoe says. “Just because they both grew up dirt racing and understand the principle of it.”

Of their virtual racing day, Briscoe says “it was kind of cool to kind of live that back and a couple of years later go from racing online at the place to it working in real life and getting a win.”

Eldora Speedway

Briscoe has plenty of experience racing on dirt tracks across the country in sprint cars and midgets. He’s still a relative newcomer to pavement racing, having only committed to it in 2013 at the age of 18.

“It’s hard to put in perspective that (teammate) Cole (Custer) has more Xfinity starts than I have pavement starts (in stock cars),” Briscoe says.

Chase Briscoe celebrates his win in the 2018 Eldora Dirt Derby. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

But in 2017, his lone full-time season in the Truck Series, Briscoe first experienced the NASCAR race where those two worlds collide: the Eldora Dirt Derby.

Driving for Brad Keselowski Racing, Briscoe entered the race thinking he “was going to set the world on fire.”

He very quickly discovered he was in over his head.

Twice in the first five laps of practice he spun his No. 29 truck.

“I was just on the gas, wide-open trying to drive like a sprint car,” Briscoe says.

Off the track, Briscoe sat in his truck when track owner and his future team owner, Tony Stewart, approached.

“Oh, this is cool, Tony’s going to come say something,” Briscoe thought.

“He just leaned down and kind of got onto me about how I got to quit driving so hard, how it’s not a sprint car,” Briscoe says. “Not that I looked like an idiot, but pretty much was saying I got to calm down. That kind of opened up my eyes.”

It took one more mistake for Briscoe to heed Stewart’s warning.

“I almost flipped the thing,” Briscoe says. “I was trying to throw a slide job and did it like a sprint car again and it carried way too much speed.”

Briscoe got things together enough to finish third that night. A year later, he would lead 53 of 154 laps to claim the win.

What has he learned about what it takes to handle a truck and win on dirt?

“You’ve got to kind of drive them like a pavement car with really, really old tires,” Briscoe says. “There’s a little bit of dirt stuff that kind of goes in, like reading the race track and trying to find extra grip. It’s like trying to drive on corded tires all the way around on pavement would be the easiest way to put it.”

Briscoe’s attempted defense of his 2018 win will come under different circumstances than last year. While he was competing part-time in the Xfinity Series, he took part in 25-30 sprint races throughout the year.

But Thursday’s race will be his first on dirt since he competed in the Chili Bowl in January. He’s not permitted to run a sprint car until the season is over.

“I’m going to be pretty rusty if I had to guess the first couple of laps,” Briscoe says. “But it’s going to be like riding a bike I would think. … I think the guys that run a truck every week have a little bit of an advantage, but at the same time I’ve been running a heavy stock car all year long. I feel like that will help a little bit too.”

Should he knock off enough rust and win, he’ll be the first driver to capture the Derby twice. It would be a significant accomplishment for the Indiana native who grew up attending races at Eldora.

“I don’t think it’s a big record by any means, but it means a lot to me.”

Watkins Glen International

Like a handful of tracks this year, Briscoe has never traversed the road course in New York.

But Briscoe, who has competed in IMSA for Ford and won the Xfinity race on the Charlotte Roval last year, says it should have similar characteristics to other road courses he’s experienced.

“Pretty much every other road course I’ve ever ran you kind of have to get up on the wheel and you’re slipping and sliding around,” Briscoe says.

But he won’t show up in the garage Friday unprepared. He’s already spent extensive time in Ford’s simulator making laps around the Glen and watching on-board camera footage.

While in Eldora Briscoe plans to ask for advice on the track from Stewart, a five-time winner there. He’ll also lean on his teammate, Custer.

But like those tracks he’s visited for the first time this year, such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he’ll seek out the guidance of one of the most accomplished active Cup drivers: Kevin Harvick.

“That’s the nice thing about Stewart-Haas, we have a lot of really good race car drivers, a lot of guys have a ton of experience and they’re all open books,” Briscoe says.

But Harvick is the SHR Cup driver he turns to the most for guidance.

“He’s always been super good to me and always been willing to help,” Briscoe says. “The biggest thing is like braking points and things to look for. … I don’t really even know where the proper place to lift is or whatever. He’s really good at doing visual markers and using those. … He’s really good at being able to tell you what you need to try to work on for practice … so (the car will) race really good.”

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All-Star Race moves to Texas in 2021

All-Star Race
Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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The All-Star Race moves to Texas Motor Speedway in 2021, marking the third different track the event will held in a three-year period.

The 2021 race will be held June 13, the track announced Wednesday.

The complete 2021 Cup schedule will be announced Wednesday afternoon by NASCAR.

MORE: COTA to host Cup road course race in 2021

The All-Star Race was held from 1985-2019 at Charlotte Motor Speedway except for 1986 when Atlanta Motor Speedway held the race. The event moved to Bristol Motor Speedway in July because of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings in North Carolina.

Chase Elliott won Bristol All-Star Race.

Texas will remain in the playoffs in 2021. It will host a Cup playoff race Oct. 17.

NASCAR Cup Series to go dirt trackin’ at Bristol in 2021

Photo: Bristol Motor Speedway
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Cup teams will compete on a dirt track for the first time in more than 50 years when the series races March 28 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the track announced. 

The full Cup schedule is set to be released at 3:30 p.m. ET today.

“Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted many historic events over the years and we will be adding to that resume,” Jerry Caldwell, general manager of  Bristol Motor Speedway, said on Wednesday. “We can’t wait to see how the stars of NASCAR take to the dirt.”

Said Austin Dillon of the race: “I’m super pumped. … I’m hoping it becomes a staple.”

Caldwell said the track will work with NASCAR on the race format for the dirt event.

“This is returning to our roots in racing,” Caldwell said. He noted that this concept has been talked about for “awhile.” He also said the track will “explore other options” on any other series that could race on dirt beyond NASCAR.

Caldwell said the change comes from feedback from fans.

Bristol hosted dirt races in 2000-01 with the World of Outlaws (see video below of 2001 race) and dirt late models. The track used 14,000 truckloads of dirt for the project.

The last Cup race on dirt was Sept. 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Richard Petty won a 200-lap race on the half-mile track. He earned $1,000. Petty was among one of five Hall of Famers in the 23-car field that day. Bobby Isaac finished third, Bobby Allison placed sixth, Benny Parsons was 14th, Wendell Scott placed 20th.

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series raced on dirt at Eldora Speedway from 2013-19. It was not held this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Bristol also will host a second race. That event again will be in the playoffs. The Sept. 18 race again will be an elimination race in the first round. The playoff race will be on the concrete track surface.

Road America to host 2021 Cup race on July 4

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Food, fireworks and road course racing will fill the July 4 calendar for NASCAR fans with Road America hosting the Cup series on that holiday weekend in 2021.

The track announced the race date Wednesday. The full Cup schedule is set to be released at 3:30 p.m. ET today.

The 4.048-mile course has hosted Xfinity races since 2010. Among the current Cup drivers who won there in the Xfinity Series are Michael McDowell in 2016 and Christopher Bell in 2019.

MORE: Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

MORE: Circuit of the Americas to host Cup for first time in 2021

The track takes the holiday date that had been held by Daytona International Speedway from 1959-2018 before Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the Cup Series that weekend last year.

“We certainly have been working very close with (Road America) not only how we bring this to life but, ultimately, where it was going to be located on the schedule,” Ben Kennedy, NASCAR vice president of racing operations, told NBC Sports, said of adding the Wisconsin track to the schedule. “We started to really toss around the idea of hey, what about July 4th weekend and what would that look like for the track?

“Just even the name, Road America, it feels like Americana and the July 4th weekend and everything. Fireworks, camping and cookout, everything that goes along with it. That track is almost synonymous with it. I think that’s where we really ended up kind of tying Road America to July 4th weekend. Working with NBC on that as well, they are certainly very bullish on it and excited about having Road America on that weekend.”

Tim Flock won the lone Cup race at Road America in 1956. Flock was among nine NASCAR Hall of Famers among the 26 drivers in that race. Others included Fireball Roberts (third), Herb Thomas (sixth), Buck Baker (eighth), Rex White (11th), Lee Petty (13th), Joe Weatherly (20th), Curtis Turner (24th) and Junior Johnson (26th).

Circuit of the Americas to host Cup for first time in 2021

R. Kevin Butts photo - Courtesy of COTA
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The Cup Series will do more road course racing in 2021 with the addition of the Circuit of the Americas to the schedule, the track announced Wednesday.

The Cup race will be held May 23.

The 3.41-mile road course in Austin, Texas, has hosted Formula One and IndyCar races, among others since its debut in 2012. The track also has a 2.2-mile, 15-turn short course. Announcements regarding race length, course selection and the full weekend schedule will be made at a later date.

MORE: Cup to run on Indy road course in 2021

A NASCAR event has never been held at Circuit of the Americas, but Tony Stewart piloted a Stewart-Haas Racing car there last year in a demonstration run.

COTA is located roughly 220 miles south of Texas Motor Speedway. Speedway Motorsports will be the event’s promoter.

“Our company is proud to have a 60-year history of fabulous firsts in motorsports entertainment, and we are honored to bring America’s premier racing series to one of the world’s most renowned entertainment venues and cities for the very first time,” said Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith in a statement. “I’d like to thank COTA CEO Bobby Epstein as well as NASCAR’s executive leadership for supporting us in an endeavor to do something that we believe will be spectacular for race fans, not only in Texas but around the world. We work and challenge ourselves every day at Speedway Motorsports to create amazing experiences that will last a lifetime, and we know NASCAR at COTA will deliver in 2021.” 

“I’m grateful for Marcus Smith’s vision and determination to make this event possible,” said Circuit of the Americas CEO and Chairman, Bobby Epstein in a statement. “His teams in Charlotte and at Texas Motor Speedway have created a spirit of partnership that will make for a spectacular weekend of fun and competition. Speedway Motorsports, along with the leadership at NASCAR, have a ‘Fans First’ attitude and have responded to everyone who has long desired to see a Cup Series race at COTA. Fans who’ve been here before will witness stock car racing at its finest for the first time, and first-time visitors will be amazed at the views and friendly experience. It will be our pleasure to write another chapter of motorsports history alongside Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR in 2021.” 

The complete 2021 schedule will be announced this afternoon by NASCAR.