NASCAR has addressed companywide layoffs that were announced Friday and significantly will impact the staffing of one racetrack.
As part of the restructuring, NASCAR has moved to a “centralized” model at Iowa Speedway, meaning the majority of its staff has been dismissed.
The track will retain president David Hyatt and a small staff in operating its races this year. The staff at Kansas Speedway, which is about four hours away from the 0.8-mile oval, will assist the operation of Iowa Speedway. NASCAR hasn’t finalized its 2021 schedule, but the track’s potential races next year also wouldn’t be expected to be affected as of now.
“Iowa Speedway looks forward to running our 2020 race event schedule and delivering another exciting season of racing,” Hyatt said in a statement to NBCSports.com. “With assistance from the Kansas Speedway staff, we remain committed to providing an unforgettable race day experience and great entertainment value for our fans.”
“Following the (ISC) merger, NASCAR began evolving its operations and we remain committed to this process during these unprecedented times to ensure the long-term health of our sport,” NASCAR said in a statement to NBCSports.com. “Like other businesses, we are working to get through this economic impact and position ourselves for success upon our return to racing.”
A spokesman said NASCAR was offering programs and resources to help employees who were affected with finding new jobs.
NASCAR already had announced across-the-board pay cuts last week (25 percent for executives, 20 percent for other employees) as it deals with the shutdown from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
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:
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.”
“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.
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.”
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.”
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, made the comments Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Bassett’s race ended when he ran into the back of a sweeper truck while trying to enter pit road with 28 laps left in the race. Bassett’s vision was obscured by the cloud kicked up by the sweeper. Bassett finished 26th.
Extremely disappointed with the ended today. Had a good car and was able to run inside the top 15. Let’s be clear, wasn’t the spotters fault. If you see the video, 08 about drove right into the back of us.
Well, they decided to open pit road as the leaders hit turn 3. Spotter said safety truck on the bottom, I passed a clean up truck and the first sweeper and then committed to pit road at the same point I had all day. The truck was 200ft off of pit road while throwing dust up
O’Donnell was asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio about what happened and what could be done to avoid that situation from repeating in future races.
“You look at the circumstance on our end of what happened,” O’Donnell said. “You saw a number of cars able to pass the sweeper. We had a conversation with the driver (Bassett). There was some lack of communication, I would say, with the spotter on the team side. We’ll correct that. The team will correct that.
“But then on our end, you look at the circumstances there. It’s one thing to be parked, which we’ve had many times and it’s worked successfully. It’s another when you look at kind of the smoke or fog, I guess, that was created.
“I think in that instance, you learn from it, you maybe keep pit road closed one more lap and don’t try to get back to green as fast. Always a challenge for us because we want to make the fans happy and get back racing as quickly as possible but in that case you could probably wait one more lap. We’ll go back and continue to look at the film and make adjustments.”
Chase Briscoe lived up to his name, chasing Christopher Bell for much of the race, before finally passing Bell for the lead and held on for the final seven laps to win Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway.
While Bell led a race- and career-high 234 laps out of the scheduled 250 circuits around the 7/8-mile oval, Briscoe remained patient and methodical – even after an earlier pit road penalty for driving over an air gun – and never gave up on the prospect that he could still win.
Dillon Bassett was in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway.
With 28 laps to go, Bassett was among several cars that tried to make it to pit road for what would likely be the final pit stop of the race.
While the other cars made it onto pit road without incident, Bassett did not, as his Chevrolet ran into the rear of a track sweeper that had been clearing up track drying powder near the entrance to pit road.
There was some smoke coming out of the rear of the sweeper just before impact that may have obscured Dillon’s vision.