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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Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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Cup champion’s celebration painful to those who didn’t win title

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A year after being feted for his first NASCAR Cup title, Joey Logano returned to Champion’s Week with a different feeling.

“These banquets aren’t really the same after you’ve won it and you know what it’s like to see your car plastered everywhere and your team and everyone is having fun together,” Logano said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re in Nashville, there’s a lot of really cool things, but it really stinks for the competitor to come to the banquet because it’s just like another reminder that you got beat. That’s not much fun. I don’t really like that part.

“When you leave the banquet that night, you really wish you could race the next day because that’s about the most motivating thing you could do is go to a banquet that you didn’t win because all you want to do is change that. And you want to do it as quickly as possible but you’ve got to wait until Daytona to get going again.”

The sport celebrates Kyle Busch’s championship at 8 p.m. ET today on NBCSN. This marks the first year the NASCAR Awards Show has been in Nashville. Busch was a part of the WWE event in the city on Monday, was honored by the Nashville Predators before Tuesday’s NHL game and took part in the Burnouts on Broadway on Wednesday with many other playoff drivers.

While Busch basks in the celebration, teammate Martin Truex Jr. deals with the pain of finishing second in the championship for a second consecutive year. Logano passed Truex late to win last year’s championship. Truex’s title run this season was derailed, in part, by his crew putting the wrong tires on the wrong side of the car in last month’s championship race in Miami.

Had things gone a little differently, Truex could have won three consecutive championships, matching Cale Yarborough’s accomplishment from 1976-78.

“I’ll tell you when I get over it,” Truex said of the pain of finishing second again for the title. “It’s a  big deal. Work all year long to put yourself in that position. When it doesn’t turn out the way you hope, it’s tough.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into it. It’s not something that goes away. It takes time. Honestly, I’m still sour about finishing second last year, too. Two years in a row finishing second hurts. you have to learn from it and move on, but you never forget it.”