Iowa Speedway

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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NASCAR official addresses incident involving sweeper truck at Iowa

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A NASCAR senior executive suggested Monday that series officials could have delayed opening pit road by a lap in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway to avoid the incident Dillon Bassett had with a sweeper.

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.

There were two trucks in the apron near the entrance to pit road as the field passed. Some cars cut down to enter pit road under caution.

Tyler Reddick, Justin Allgaier, Riley Herbst, Justin Haley and Zane Smith passed the sweeper truck, which appeared to stop as the cars came by. Bassett was a little further back and hit the back of the truck. Gray Gaulding, who was behind Bassett, had to dart to the right to avoid hitting Bassett’s car after it slammed into the back of the sweeper truck.

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.”

Results, points after Xfinity race at Iowa

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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.

MORE: Chase Briscoe passes Christopher Bell late for Iowa Xfinity win

MORE: Dillon Bassett’s car runs into track sweeper in Iowa Xfinity race

It was Briscoe’s first win of 2019 and the second of his Xfinity Series career (he also won last year on the Roval at Charlotte).

Bell finished second, while John Hunter Nemechek, Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top five.

Click here for the race results.

Points

Tyler Reddick continues to lead the Xfinity Series point standings, although runner-up Christopher Bell closed Reddick’s lead from 56 to 46 points.

Cole Custer remains in third, but his late race wreck cost him, dropping from 76 points behind Reddick after last week’s race at New Hampshire to 97 points after Saturday’s race at Iowa.

The top five of the standings is rounded out by Justin Allgaier (-153 points) and Austin Cindric (-207), who also had a rough race, crashing early and finishing 37th.

Click here for the updated Xfinity standings.

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Dillon Bassett’s car runs into track sweeper in Iowa Xfinity race

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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.

Bassett finished 26th.

MORE: Chase Briscoe passes Christopher Bell late for Iowa Xfinity win

MORE: Results, points after Xfinity race at Iowa

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Chase Briscoe passes Christopher Bell late for Iowa Xfinity win

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Chase Briscoe stopped Christopher Bell’s two-race winning streak at Iowa Speedway, capturing Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250.

It was the second career Xfinity win for the 24-year-old Briscoe, a native of Mitchell, Indiana, first in 2019. He bounced back from a penalty for running over an air gun on pit road earlier in the race.

“I just can’t believe it,” Briscoe told NBCSN. “When I ran over the hose, I was worried.

“It’s nice, for sure, to kind of silence everybody. We definitely still aren’t near where we need to be but I feel like we’ve been way closer, especially these last couple of weeks. We still have to get better if we’re going to beat the big 3 (Tyler Reddick, Bell and Cole Custer), but I feel like we’re slowly getting into the conversation to be that fourth guy.”

Bell, who had won at Iowa this past June, as well as last July, led a race- and career-high 234 laps. But Briscoe grabbed the lead away from Bell late in the race on Lap 244 and led the final seven laps to take the checkered flag.

“That was tough, to be able to hold him off for as long as I did and not win the race,” Bell told NBCSN. “This car was super, super fast today.”

MORE: Results, points after Iowa race

MORE: Dillon Bassett’s car runs into track sweeper in Iowa Xfinity race

Bell has now finished first twice and second two other times in his last four starts at Iowa.

“It’s kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” said Bell, who was seeking his sixth win of the season in Saturday’s race. “I tried to chase him (Briscoe) into the corner. Maybe I could have opened my entry and tried to turn down, looking back at it. He did a good job, he won the race and we had a great race car.”

Bell finished second, followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Justin Allgaier, Shane Lee, Justin Haley, Zane Smith and Michael Annett.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell (series-leading 11th stage win)

Stage 2 winner: Christopher Bell (12th stage win)

Who had a good race: Even though he finished second after dominating almost the entire race, Christopher Bell had one of his most impressive performances of the season, including leading a career-high 234 laps. … John Hunter Nemechek battled Bell for the lead several times in the final stage, including leading six laps, before finishing a still very impressive third.

Who had a bad race: Cole Custer suffered his fourth DNF of the season when his car unexpectedly and sharply veered right and into the outside wall with 86 laps to go in the race. Custer finished 29th. “I honestly couldn’t exactly tell you,” Custer told NBCSN when asked what happened. “I got really loose going into three and guess I over corrected it into the fence. … I’m really frustrated. I hate that we’re out (of the race).”

Notable: The series now has three road course events in the next four scheduled races.

What’s next: Zippo 200 at The Glen, Saturday August 3 (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Watkins Glen International

 

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