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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Drivers to watch in Clash at the Coliseum

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The 2023 NASCAR season will begin with Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the second race on a purpose-built track inside Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Although a non-points race, last year’s Clash generated intense interest as NASCAR moved the event from its long-time home at Daytona International Speedway to Los Angeles. The race was rated a success and opened doors for the possibility of future races in stadium environments.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: 10 historic moments in the Clash

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Year Two will find drivers competing on a familiar landscape but still with a track freshly paved. Last year’s racing surface was removed after the Clash.

Drivers to watch Sunday at Los Angeles:

FRONTRUNNERS

Joey Logano

  • Points position: Finished 2022 as Cup champion
  • Last three races: Won at Phoenix, 6th at Martinsville, 18th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Won in 2022

Logano put bookends on 2022 by winning the first Clash at the Coliseum and the season’s final race at Phoenix to win the Cup championship. He’ll be among the favorites Sunday.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd in 2022
  • Last three races: 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville, 2nd at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: Did not qualify last year

Chastain was the breakout star of 2022, winning a pair of races and generally putting himself front and center across much of the year. Can he start 2023 on a big note? If so, he will have to do so without replicating his Hail Melon move at Martinsville after NASCAR outlawed the move Tuesday.

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 15th in 2022
  • Last three races: 5th at Phoenix, 16th at Martinsville, 8th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 10th in 2022

Sunday will begin the final roundup for Harvick, who has said this season will be his last as a full-time Cup driver. He is likely to come out of the gate with fire in his eyes.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 13th in 2022
  • Last three races: 7th at Phoenix, 29th at Martinsville, 9th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 2nd in 2022

Welcome to Kyle Busch’s Brave New World. After 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, he begins a new segment of his career with Richard Childress Racing. He led 64 laps at last year’s Clash but couldn’t catch Joey Logano at the end.

Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 14th in 2022
  • Last three races: 23rd at Phoenix, 35th at Martinsville, 35th at Homestead
  • Past at Clash: 21st in 2022

Reddick ran surprisingly strong in last year’s Clash, leading 51 laps before parking with drivetrain issues. He starts the new year with a new ride — at 23XI Racing.

Ty Gibbs

  • Points position: Won Xfinity Series championship in 2022
  • Last three (Cup) races: 19th at Martinsville, 22nd at Homestead, 22nd at Las Vegas
  • Past at Clash: Did not compete in 2022

After a successful — and controversial — Xfinity season, Gibbs moves up to Cup full-time with his grandfather’s team. Will he be the brash young kid of 2022 or a steadier driver in Season One in Cup?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interstate Batteries extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Interstate Batteries, which has been a Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor since the team’s first race, has expanded its involvement with the team for 2023.

Interstate, based in Dallas, will be a primary JGR sponsor for 13 races, up from six races, the number it typically sponsored each year since 2008.

Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs will run the majority of Interstate’s sponsorship races, but Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. also will carry the sponsor colors.

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with our founding sponsor, Interstate Batteries,” said team owner Joe Gibbs in a statement released by the team. “They have been such an important part of our team for over three decades now, and it’s exciting to have them on board all four of our cars this season. The best part of our partnership is the relationships we’ve built with everyone there over the years.”

Bell will carry Interstate sponsorship in Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum, the All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 28, at Texas Motor Speedway Sept. 24 and at Martinsville Oct. 29.

Gibbs, in his first full season in Cup racing, will be sponsored by Interstate at Daytona Feb. 19, Bristol April 9, Nashville June 25, Chicago July 2, Texas Sept. 24 and Charlotte Oct. 8.

Hamlin will ride with Interstate sponsorship March 26 at Circuit of the Americas, and Truex will be sponsored by Interstate July 23 at Pocono.

Interstate was a key JGR sponsor in the team’s first season in 1992.

NASCAR announces rule changes for 2023 season

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR announced a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that includes outlawing the move Ross Chastain made at Martinsville and eliminating stage breaks at all six Cup road course events.

NASCAR announced the changes in a session with reporters Tuesday at the NASCAR R&D Center.

Among new things for this season:

  • Updated penalty for a wheel coming off a car.
  • Change to the amount of time teams have to repair cars on pit road via the Damaged Vehicle Policy.
  • Change to playoff eligibility for drivers.
  • Cars could run in wet weather conditions on short ovals.
  • Expansion of the restart zone on a trial basis.
  • Choose rule will be in place for more races.

MORE: Ranking top 10 moments at the Clash

NASCAR updated its policy on a loose wheel. Previously, if a wheel came off a car during an event, it would be a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members. That has changed this year.

If a wheel comes off a car while the vehicle is still on pit road, the vehicle restarts at the tail end of the field. If a wheel comes off a vehicle while it is on pit road under green-flag conditions, it is a pass-thru penalty.

The rule changes once a vehicle has left pit road and loses a wheel.

Any vehicle that loses a wheel on the track will be penalized two laps and have two pit crew members suspended for two races. The suspensions will go to those most responsible for the wheel coming off. This change takes away a suspension to the crew chief. The policy is the same for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

With some pit crew members working multiple series, the suspension is only for that series. So, if a pit crew member is suspended two races in the Xfinity Series for a wheel coming off, they can still work the Cup race the following day.

The Damaged Vehicle Policy clock will be 7 minutes this season. It had been six minutes last year and was increased to 10 minutes during the playoffs. After talking with teams, NASCAR has settled on seven minutes for teams to make repairs on pit road or be eliminated. Teams can replace toe links on pit road but not control arms. Teams also are not permitted to have specialized repair tools in the pits.

NASCAR will have a wet weather package for select oval tracks: the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Lucas Oil Raceway Park, Martinsville, Milwaukee, New Hampshire, North Wilkesboro, Phoenix and Richmond.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said that teams have been told to show up at these events prepared for wet weather conditions as they would at a road course. That includes having a windshield wiper. Wet weather tires will be available. 

“Our goal here is to get back to racing as soon as possible,” Swayer said. “… If there’s an opportunity for us to get some cars or trucks on the racetrack and speed up that (track-drying) process and we can get back to racing, that’s what our goal is. We don’t want to be racing in full-blown rain (at those tracks) and we’ve got spray like we would on a road course.”

NASCAR stated that it is removing the requirement that a winning driver be in the top 30 in points in Cup or top 20 in Xfinity or Trucks to become eligible for the playoffs. As long as a driver is competing full-time — or has a waiver for the races they missed, a win will make them playoff eligible.

With the consultation of drivers, NASCAR is expanding the restart zone to give the leader more room to take off. NASCAR said it will evaluate if to keep this in place after the Atlanta race in March.

NASCAR stated the choose rule will be in effect for superspeedways and dirt races.

NASCAR eliminates stage breaks for Cup road course events

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will do away with stage breaks in all six Cup road course races and select Xfinity and Truck races this season, but teams will continue to score stage points. 

NASCAR announced the change Tuesday in a session with reporters at the NASCAR R&D Center. 

MORE: NASCAR outlaws Ross Chastain Martinsville move

NASCAR stated there will be no stage breaks in the Cup road course events at Circuit of the Americas (March 26), Sonoma (June 11), Chicago street course (July 2), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 13), Watkins Glen (Aug. 20) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8).

There will be no stage breaks for Xfinity races at Circuit of the Americas (March 25), Sonoma (June 10), Chicago street course (July 1), Indianapolis road course (Aug. 12), Watkins Glen (Aug. 19) and Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7).

There will be no stage breaks for the Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas (March 25).

In those races, stage points will be awarded on a designated lap, but there will be no green-and-checkered flag and the racing will continue.

The only road course events that will have stage breaks will be Xfinity standalone races at Portland (June 3) and Road America (July 29) and the Truck standalone race at Mid-Ohio (July 8). Those events will keep stage breaks because they have non-live pit stops — where the field comes down pit road together and positions cannot be gained or lost provided the stop is completed in the prescribed time by NASCAR.

NASCAR has faced questions from fans and competitors about stage breaks during road course races because those breaks alter strategy in a more defined manner than on most ovals.

Elton Sawyer, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, said the move away from stage breaks at road courses was made in collaboration with teams and response from fans.

“When we introduced stage racing … we took an element of strategy away from the event,” Sawyer. “Felt this (change) would bring some new storylines (in an event).”

NASCAR instituted stage breaks and stage points for the 2017 season and has kept the system in place since. NASCAR awards a playoff point to the stage winner along with 10 points. The top 10 at the end of a stage score points.

It wasn’t uncommon for many teams to elect to pit before the first stage in a road course race and eschew points to put themselves in better track position for the final two stages. By pitting early, they would be behind those who stayed out to collect the stage points. At the stage break, those who had yet to pit would do so, allowing those who stopped before the break to leapfrog back to the front.