A Hoosier homecoming this weekend for Chase Briscoe


Not every young person growing up in Indiana dreams of winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But enough do.

Chase Briscoe – native of Mitchell, Indiana, two hours south of the Brickyard – was one such person. And on July 4, 2020, he made his dream come true when he won the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the IMS road course.

But while he reveled in his accomplishment, there was something missing: A roaring crowd to congratulate him. The COVID-19 pandemic forced that weekend’s races at IMS – NASCAR Xfinity and Cup, plus IndyCar – to run behind closed gates.

That won’t be the case this weekend, which sees Briscoe return to IMS as a Cup Series rookie and competing on the same 14-turn circuit he triumphed on.

His supporters from Mitchell will be there in force.

“Oh man, I don’t even know what the number will be,” Briscoe told NBC Sports with a laugh on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of them, though. I know that. I think they’re all gonna be towards Turn 1 … I know they’ve got a pretty big block of tickets down there.

“It’ll be fun to (have) that. And there’s a lot of people even working at the race track that are from my hometown or kind of the area I’m from – whether they’re ‘yellow shirts’ or just working at the offices there.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard
Indiana native Chase Briscoe won last year’s inaugural Xfinity race on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This year, he’ll have supporters in the stands when he returns as a Cup rookie. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Along with Sunday’s Cup race and quality time with loved ones, Briscoe also will get to race on dirt a bit.

Friday, he’s scheduled to run a non-wing sprint car at Paragon (Ind.) Speedway, where at age 14, he became the youngest driver ever to win in a 410 sprint car. The driver that held such status beforehand? Jeff Gordon.

He’s also sticking around after Sunday’s Cup race to run as a driver-owner in the BC39 midget race the following week on the IMS dirt track. Reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott and IndyCar driver Conor Daly will run his other two entries for the event. Not a bad pair of pick-ups.

“The sprint car stuff is fun,” Briscoe said. “There’s just no pressure. It doesn’t matter where I finish. I’m just going to have a good time and hang out with my family. My grandpa (renowned sprint car team owner Richard Briscoe), I haven’t seen him this excited for a long time. I know he’s gonna go this weekend and go to Paragon. He’s definitely not going to miss that one.

“So, it’ll just be fun to go there and just have a good time and let loose in the sprint car. Same with the midget race. It’s a little more serious, but at the same time, at the end of the day, the results don’t necessarily matter at any of those races like they do on Sunday.”

Briscoe says he plans to savor these moments, which may not be as easy to have in the future.

There’s a good reason why. He and his wife, Marissa, are set to welcome their first child, a son, in October.

One of Briscoe’s sponsors, Huffy Bicycles, has already chipped in with a custom bike for the child before he is born.

So while we may not see Briscoe racing as much outside of his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Briscoe figures to see his son do the same thing he did when he had a Huffy.

“I used to race my Huffy around in the driveway against myself,” he said. “I’d draw a little race track out with chalk and I’m sure he’ll probably do the same.”

As for Sunday, Briscoe hopes to continue the momentum he’s built on road courses this season.

In a down year for Stewart-Haas Racing – Aric Almirola’s win at New Hampshire notwithstanding – Briscoe’s three top-10 finishes have all come on road courses. Last week, he finished ninth at Watkins Glen.

So how did a dirt-track ace become a solid road racer? At first glance, the disciplines couldn’t seem more different.

But Briscoe’s knowledge on dirt doesn’t just serve him well over there.

“I feel like a lot of the road courses (in a Cup car) definitely correlate over to sprint cars just because on the road courses, you’ve really got to be elbows up,” he explained. “You’ve got to be hustling the car, slipping and sliding around. You have more power than you can normally put to the ground on the exit of these corners, and it’s the same with a sprint car.”

“… IMS last year, for sure, I felt like it was very similar to the sprint car in the sense of how you had to be smooth on the throttle on the exits. And you had to get aggressive. You’re three-wheeling the thing, jumping curbs, sideways a lot of the time.

“That just goes back to what I grew up doing in sprint cars.”

Back then, Chase Briscoe was simply dreaming of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A little over a year after making that dream come true, a proper Hoosier homecoming awaits.

Sammy Smith to run full Xfinity season for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023


Sammy Smith will run the full Xfinity schedule in the No. 18 car, Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday.

The 18-year-old Smith, a Toyota development driver, won the ARCA Menards Series East title for a second consecutive year in 2022 and also made nine Xfinity starts with JGR.

Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation and Allstate Peterbilt will be sponsors on Smith’s car throughout the 2023 season. Jeff Meendering will be Smith’s crew chief.

“This is an opportunity I have been working towards,” Smith said in a statement from the team. “I can’t wait to get behind the wheel full-time and am looking forward to a great season. I learned a lot in 2022 that will really help me to be competitive and run up front in the Xfinity Series. Thank you to Pilot Flying J, TMC Transportation, Allstate Peterbilt Group, and Toyota Racing Development for supporting me in my racing career. I am excited for next year and appreciate the opportunity.”

Said Steve DeSouza, JGR executive vice president of Xfinity Series and driver development, in a statement: “Sammy is a fantastic addition to our 2023 Xfinity lineup. He proved to have the passion and the talent to necessary to compete for wins in the races he ran for us in 2022,” .“We are excited to get him in the No. 18 full time and know he will be competitive from the jump.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Racing through the numbers


Some drivers carry one car number throughout their racing careers. The most famous racers in NASCAR’s 75-year history typically are associated with one number, although some have raced under several.

Victories, championships and driver personalities give life to something as generally mundane as a number. And the most popular produce even bigger numbers, as in sales of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most iconic NASCAR numbers:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. 43 — Since Richard Petty’s emergence as a superstar in the 1960s, the number 43 has been NASCAR’s most iconic. Although Lee Petty, Richard’s father, usually drove No. 42, he actually scored the first win by the 43, in 1959. The Petty blue No. 43 carried Richard to a string of championships. He scored 192 of his 200 race wins with the number. It rolls on today with Erik Jones, who took the 43 to the Southern 500 victory lane this season.

2. 3 — The fiercely facing forward No. 3 became ultra-famous while driven by seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt (although Earnhardt won his first title driving the No. 2). Earnhardt’s black Chevrolet carried the number to new heights, but Fireball Roberts, David Pearson, Junior Johnson, Buck Baker, Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, among others, also won in the car.

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3. 21 — The list of drivers who have raced Wood Brothers Racing’s famous No. 21, with the familiar gold foil numbers, reads like a history of NASCAR. David Pearson brought the most fame to the number, but Tim Flock, Curtis Turner, team owner Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough, A.J. Foyt, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett and Dale Jarrett also have driven the 21.

4. 11 — This number is responsible for more race wins — 228 — than any other. It also has scored eight championships — three each by Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and two by Ned Jarrett. Other stars in the 11 over the years: Junior Johnson, Bobby Allison, A.J. Foyt, Terry Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott and Denny Hamlin. And some guy named Mario Andretti.

5. 48 — This number was largely ignored until the arrival of Jimmie Johnson, who carried it to seven championships, including five in a row.

6. 24 — The number 24 was a lonely number until 1994 when a kid named Jeff Gordon drove it to its first win, in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The brightly colored 24 became a regular visitor to victory lane from that point forward, carrying Gordon to four championships and becoming one of NASCAR’s most decorated numbers.

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7. 18 — Although Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won in the 18, Kyle Busch, draped in the bright colors of sponsor M&Ms, took it into new territory.

8. 22 — NASCAR’s first Cup champion (Red Byron) and its most recent (Joey Logano) rode with the 22. The number has produced 87 wins over the years, including victories by Fireball Roberts, Bobby Allison, Ward Burton, Kurt Busch, Byron and Logano.

9. 2 — Although the 2 carried Dale Earnhardt (1980) and Brad Keselowski (2012) to Cup championships, it is perhaps most identified with Rusty Wallace, whose menacing black No. 2 was powerful at Team Penske. Also successful in the 2: Bill Blair, Kurt Busch and Austin Cindric, this year’s Daytona 500 winner.

10. 9 — The 9 was basically nondescript until Bill Elliott roared out of the north Georgia mountains to turn it into a big winner in the mid-1980s. His son, Chase, continues the trend.



Truck Series: Rajah Caruth joins GMS Racing


Rajah Caruth will drive the No. 24 truck full-time for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023, the team announced Tuesday.

The 20-year-old Caruth ran a full season in the ARCA Menards Series last year, placing third in points. He also made seven Xfinity starts and four Truck starts last year. 

“I am extremely honored, and really excited to join GMS Racing and be in the fold of a professional race team with so much history,” Caruth said in a statement from the team. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this throughout my whole career, and I’m going to do the best in my power to make the most of it.

“First and foremost, I can’t thank everybody at GMS enough for believing in me and believing that I have what it takes to drive one of their trucks. Same goes for everybody at Chevrolet for their support, we truly wouldn’t be able to make this happen without them. 

Caruth joins Grant Enfinger and Daniel Dye as GMS Racing’s full-time Craftsman Truck Series drivers. Chad Walter will be Caruth’s crew chief. Jeff Hensley will be Enfinger’s crew chief. Travis Sharpe will be Dye’s crew chief. 

The primary partner on Caruth’s truck will be the Wendell Scott Foundation. The foundation, named for the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup race, seeks to provide resources and services to underprivileged Black youth communities near Scott’s hometown of Danville, Virginia. Since the foundation’s formation in 2011, more than 25 students have been awarded more than $50,000 from the Wendell Scott Legacy Scholarship programs.

“We are excited for Rajah to compete full-time with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2023,” said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. “Through Chevrolet’s partnership with Rev Racing, we have been impressed with Rajah’s talent both on and off the track. He has proven his ability to compete at the NASCAR national level, and we look forward to seeing his continued success with a series championship winning team.”

The Truck season begins Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. 

In other Truck Series news:

Dean Thompson will drive the No. 5 for TRICON Garage this coming season. The 21-year-old was a rookie in the series this past season. He had a season-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas.

“I am thrilled to start the next chapter of my career with TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing Development,” Thompson said in a statement from the team. “The team and manufacturer have quickly made a statement in the Truck Series as striving to be the best of the best. I’m ready to take on the challenge and live up to the expectations of being a driver for TRICON.”

McAnally Hilgemann Racing announced Tuesday that Christian Eckes and Jake Garcia will drive full-time in the Truck series for the team next season.

Eckes, who will drive the No. 19 truck, moves over from ThorSport Racing. Garcia will drive the No. 35 truck in pursuit of the series Rookie of the Year award.

NAPA AutoCare will continue as a team sponsor.

Garcia is 17 and is scheduled to make his first start March 3 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Because of NASCAR’s age restrictions, he will miss the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team’s Daytona driver has not been announced.

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry


Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.