chase briscoe

Power Rankings after Indianapolis: Kevin Harvick back to No. 1

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Helped greatly by his win in the Brickyard 400, Kevin Harvick returns to the top spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

Harvick was a unanimous pick of NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers, knocking Denny Hamlin off last week’s No. 1 perch.

Making the biggest gain this week is Matt Kenseth, who is ranked fifth after being unranked last week. Chase Elliott suffered the biggest drop, from fourth last week to 10th this week.

Here’s how this week’s rankings look:

1. Kevin Harvick (30 points): Among his 53 career wins, he has three Brickyard 400s, two Coke 600s, one Southern 500 and one Daytona 500. Last week: second.

2. Aric Almirola (26 points): Keeps churning out top five finishes; goes for a half dozen in a row this weekend at Kentucky. Last week: third.

3. Brad Keselowski (18 points): Placed fourth at Indy, earning his ninth top 10 finish in the last 11 races this season. Last week: fifth.

4. Denny Hamlin (17 points): If it hadn’t of been for his late tire issue and crash, we likely would be talking about the great run and win Hamlin had at Indy. Last week: first.

5. Matt Kenseth (14 points): He may be the oldest active driver on the NASCAR Cup circuit, but Kenseth showed Sunday he still knows how to wheel a race car. Nearly secured a playoff spot at Indy with a win but had to settle for his fourth career runner-up finish there. Last week: unranked.

6. Kyle Busch (13 points): Climbs back into the rankings but remains one of the biggest mysteries of the season, namely, how can the defending Cup champion still be winless? Can he finally break through this Sunday at Kentucky? Last week: unranked.

7. Chase Briscoe (12 points): Heck of a finish in the Xfinity race on the Indy road course. All he does is win, win, win. Is now only three wins away from reaching his preseason prediction of eight wins in 2020. Last week: eighth.

8. Michael McDowell (10 points): Two top 10 finishes in the last three races for the Front Row Motorsports driver. Last week: unranked.

9. Cole Custer (8 points): Finished fifth and gave teammate Kevin Harvick the key push on the final restart at Indy. Last week: unranked.

10. Chase Elliott (5 points): Four top 10s in the last seven races. Last week: fourth.

Others receiving votes: Matt DiBenedetto (4 points), Bubba Wallace (3 points), Kurt Busch (2 points), Tyler Reddick (2 points), Austin Dillon (1 point).

Chase Briscoe: Austin Cindric has been ‘mentor’ in NASCAR rise

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Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric had a tall order in store for them when the 2020 Xfinity Series season began.

A year after struggling to find success against the onslaught of the “Big 3” of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer, they had a chance grab more of the spotlight.

But Briscoe, in his second full-time year with Stewart-Haas Racing, and Cindric, in his second full year with Team Penske, had to do it as the only Ford drivers in the field.

It’s worked out so far.

Ahead of the doubleheader races at Kentucky Speedway this week, Briscoe has a series-leading five wins – four more than in his last two seasons. Meanwhile, Cindric is winless but he’s fourth in the points after posting seven top fives in addition to two top 10s.

Their resilience against the competition is helped in part by the defacto Ford teammates having been joined at the hip in their rise through the racing ranks.

“We drive for different race teams, but we’re the only two Fords in the series and as soon as I came to pavement (from dirt racing), Austin’s really been by my side throughout that whole thing,” Briscoe said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track.” “When I was driving in ARCA for (Briggs) Cunningham, he came in and ran a limited schedule. The next year we’re teammates in the Truck Series full-time (at Brad Keselowski Racing). Then following year in 2018 we’re teammates at Roush (Fenway Racing) and do an IMSA stuff together. Austin really has been my mentor throughout all the road course racing stuff.”

Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe were teammates at Brad Keselowski Racing in 2017 and at Roush Fenway Racing in 2018. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Briscoe said when they first started in IMSA, he was four to five seconds off Cindric’s pace. On Saturday, he topped Cindric and road-course ace AJ Allmendinger to win the inaugural race on the Indianapolis road course.

“(Cindric) was there to coach me along the way and teach me all the little things he knows,” Briscoe told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Now even in the Xfinity car, every time we go to a road course, even at Indy, the day of the race I talked to him, we went and had lunch together. I’m asking him questions that truthfully I’m probably not expecting him to give the honest answer. But I know he’ll shoot me straight just because that’s the kind of guy he is.”

Even though they’re the closest thing they have to teammates, Briscoe believes “no matter what, me and Austin are always going to be really hard competitors against each other for winning races. But we still want to see each other succeed. If I can’t win, I want to see Austin win. I know he’s the same way with me. So it’s really nice when you can have that camaraderie.”

Of Briscoe’s five wins this season, two have been on 1.5-mile tracks. Thursday’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1) will be his fourth overall start at Kentucky Speedway and his second in Xfinity. The 25-year-old driver isn’t too fond of the track in Sparta, Kentucky.

“Statistically, I’ve always been terrible at Kentucky for whatever reason that is,” Briscoe said. “I haven’t had the best luck there.”

However, backed by his five wins, Briscoe is confident he’ll have a good car for the doubleheader. He also notes his former Xfinity teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, Cole Custer, was “really good” there last year, when he led 88 laps and won. Briscoe finished fifth.

“I feel like from an experience standpoint and a confidence standpoint, I’ll be way better this year,” Briscoe told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I’m looking forward to going there and trying to get two wins.

“Normally if you have a bad race you gotta wait a whole ‘nother week to get back behind the wheel. And we’re fortunate to have another chance the next day. It kind of goes back to Homestead this year. Saturday, we had an issue and felt like we were the best car but we were able to redeem ourselves Sunday. Hopefully you’re there this week and get two wins.”

Bump and Run: Should Cup race on the Indy road course?

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Should the Cup Series remain on the oval at Indy or should it move to the road course like Xfinity did this weekend?

Dustin Long: I’d rather see what the Next Gen car could do on the oval before abandoning that for the the road course. Stay on the oval for now.

Daniel McFadin: I’m firmly in the #MoreRoadCourses camp and Cup should give Indy’s a shot. It doesn’t need to replace the oval race, but Saturday’s Xfinity race was more memorable than any Brickyard 400 in my memory.

Jerry Bonkowski: Both. I think NASCAR should hold a weekend doubleheader at Indy next season (and beyond), with a road course race on Saturday and oval race on Sunday. For even added measure, switch them around for every other subsequent year.

Chase Briscoe said before the season started he felt he needed at least 8 Xfinity wins to move up to Cup. He now has five victories through 13 races. How many wins will he get this year?

Dustin Long: Twelve.

Daniel McFadin: I had my doubts Briscoe could get to eight wins, mostly because he’d never had more than one win in his previous two Xfinity seasons. But he arguably should be at six wins. I think he’ll at least get to nine wins.

Jerry Bonkowski: I can see him winning nine races at least … and maybe as many as 12. He is definitely on a roll and no one else is even close to him, not just in wins but overall performance.

Kyle Busch has one win in the last 38 Cup races. Does he win in any of the next four points races (Kentucky, Texas, Kansas and New Hampshire)?

Dustin Long: No. Team hasn’t shown elite level speed to contend for wins. He’s led 130 laps this season and 100 of those laps came at Bristol. Can’t lead, can’t win.

Daniel McFadin: I think he wins one of them. If he doesn’t, then his team will be on red alert when teammate Denny Hamlin is on a roll right now.

Jerry Bonkowski: I think Texas offers him the best opportunity to win at in the next four tracks. He’s won there three times there in his Cup career (he’s also won three times at New Hampshire, which would be my secondary choice for Busch). There’s just something about Texas that seems to bring out the best in Busch and the No. 18.

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).

Aric Almirola’s team ‘has been on it’ amid top-five steak

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While Kevin Harvick got all the glory with his win Sunday in the Brickyard 400, he wasn’t the only member of Stewart-Haas Racing who left the track with something to smile about.

Harvick led a team effort that saw three SHR cars finish in the top five for the first time this year and for the fourth time in team history.

Finishing third was Aric Almirola, who overcame an early unscheduled pit stop for a tire vibration that briefly sent him a lap down. He scored his fifth consecutive top-five finish. Almirola entered this season having never earned consecutive top fives in his Cup career.

“We had such a fast race car and we kept getting behind the eight-ball because we kept having to pit for vibrations, but so proud of (crew chief) Mike Bugarewicz and this whole race team,” Almirola told NBC. “Just really proud of our race team. Five top fives in a row. We’re so consistent and when you run that consistently in the top five we’ll win races. … We just ran five top fives in a row at racetracks that are probably my worst racetracks statistically (Miami, Talladega, Pocono and Indianapolis). We’re going to some racetracks that are really good for me — Kentucky, Loudon, Bristol for the All-Star Race, so I’m excited for these next stretch of races. This team has been on it.”

Rounding out the top five was rookie Cole Custer, who earned his first Cup Series top five in his 19th start.

His previous best finish this season was ninth at Phoenix.

“It is awesome to have all of SHR running well here at Indy,” Custer told NBC. “It is (co-owner) Tony’s (Stewart) backyard so it is a huge race for us. For us, our team, this package has been exactly the opposite of what I am used to driving. For it to all come together today means a lot. … I am psyched. I am really happy we finally had it all come together.”

Why are things starting to come together for Custer through 16 races in his rookie season?

“I think it is just that I am getting better with the cars and knowing what to expect when we go to the track and getting better at what to bring in the cars to the track,” Custer said. “It is a work in progress and having no practice doesn’t help that. I think it is all starting to come to us.”

On the overtime restart to end the race, Custer restarted in the second row behind Harvick and helped push him to the lead.

“Cole had a great restart, got attached to my bumper,” Harvick said. “We were clear before we got to Turn 1. At that point you have clean air, and those guys were side‑by‑side. We were able to break away right there. Definitely Cole was a huge part of helping us win this race at the end.”

Almirola said he was “really proud” of Custer.

“I think he’s been learning the ropes,” Almirola said. “He’s figured out that the jump from Xfinity to Cup is a big jump. He’s doing a great job. He’s learning. He’s bringing cars home in one piece. He’s continuing to build and get better.”

Sunday’s performance by SHR and Harvick’s win capped off a memorable doubleheader weekend for the team. On Saturday, Chase Briscoe won the inaugural Xfinity Series race on the Indy road course for his fifth win of the year.