Chase Briscoe explains why he’s ‘racing for my life’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Hours after he failed to defend his 2018 Xfinity Series win on the Charlotte Roval, Chase Briscoe posted a tweet saying he’s “racing for my life and trying to prove I deserve to be here.”

That sentiment comes even though the 24-year-old racer has two to three years left on his contract with Ford, which began in 2017.

“It’s still performance based,” Briscoe told NBC Sports Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a day after his ninth-place finish on the Roval. “I have to go win races and run up front. (Saturday) was a perfect opportunity to win a race. That was one of the best cars we’ve had all year-long. So (we) were in contention all day long, so trying to take advantage of that, that’s what I was trying to do is win a race.

“Last year winning this race is what catapulted me to being full-time at Stewart-Haas. So if I could do that this year, I feel like it would just up my odds for next year going racing.”

Added Briscoe: “I want to show Ford they made the right decision on taking a risk with me.”

On Friday, Briscoe told NBC Sports that Ford has “assured me I’m going to be in something” after this year.

“That’s kind of the unique thing with being a Ford driver. Even if you look at last year, I drove for two different teams (Stewart-Haas and Roush Fenway) under the Ford umbrella. I can go to Stewart-Haas again, I can go to Roush, I can go to Penske, I can go to any of those race teams just because I am a Ford driver. It’s good for a thing like that, but at the same time if I had my choice I want to be at Stewart-Haas. My hero growing up was Tony (Stewart). This is a place I feel comfortable.

“A lot of guys over there are dirt guys and just people I get along with. … I feel confident that’s where we’re working towards.”

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was in a good position to earn his second win of the year Saturday until a run-in with Christopher Bell with less than 11 laps to go in the race.

The two were racing for second when Briscoe pulled out to pass Bell on his right in the final two turns. Right as he was about to complete the pass, Bell ran out of room, made contact with Briscoe’s left rear and overshot the chicane, which is illegal.

As they went through Turn 2 on the ensuing lap, Bell made contact with Briscoe’s left side, sending him into a spin and causing a caution. Bell had to restart from the rear of the field for missing the chicane and not stopping along the frontstretch before the start/finish line, as required by NASCAR. He went on to finish 12th while Briscoe placed ninth and A.J. Allmendinger won.

“I know Christopher well enough and raced with him long enough I feel like to know that he doesn’t just get loose like that,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Sunday. “I can see why he was mad after over (in the final turn), but I don’t know that it necessarily … it wasn’t worth ruining our day over here.”

Briscoe, whose one win this year came at Iowa over Bell, speculated the site of this year’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway may have influenced the incident with Bell.

“I know in the trucks I remember him talking to me how they knew we were going to be good at Homestead,” Briscoe said. “He was at our test at Homestead this year. I feel like for sure if a non-playoff guy can win a race that just helps their situation as well. I don’t know what’s going on his mind. I’m not too worried about it. I just hate we didn’t win the race yesterday.”

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.