Chase Briscoe held off Kyle Busch in a thrilling last-lap drag race to the checkered flag to win Thursday’s Toyota 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.
It capped an emotional few days for Briscoe. Earlier this week, he and his pregnant wife learned they had lost their first child.
The 23-year-old Briscoe broke into tears after climbing out of his race car, telling FS1: “That’s for my wife. This is the hardest week I’ve ever had to deal with. I was crying in the race car and emotionally I wasn’t there at all.
“This is more than a race win, it’s the biggest day of my life after the toughest day of my life. To beat the best there is just so satisfying.”
If there was a comeback award, Busch would have won hands down. He won Stage 2 and was coming off pit road on the resulting caution when he was caught speeding, sending him to the back of the field for the restart for the final segment.
He quickly moved through the field and came up about one car length short.
“I hated we had the pit road penalty,” Busch said. “No excuses, just got busted for speeding unfortunately, .02 over and had to go to the back. Hopefully we put on a good show for the fans.”
It was the Xfinity Series’ first event since the season was suspended March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The race was scheduled for Tuesday night, but rain forced its postponement to today at Noon ET. Even with that, rain Thursday caused a 4 ½-hour delay until the green flag.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Noah Gragson
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Allgaier had a strong car and appeared to be the only challenge for Briscoe and Busch, but couldn’t get back to the front, having to settle for third.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: It was a bad end to what had been a good day up to that point: Michael Annett was running fourth and charging toward the lead when a tire went down on him with 15 laps to go, leading to a spin that caused significant damage to the right front of his car.
NOTABLE: Brett Moffitt made his first race start since suffering two broken legs in a motocross accident in mid-March and didn’t look too worse for the wear, finishing 11th.
WHAT’S NEXT: Alsco 300, Monday March 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Ryan Sieg “never really expected” this is where he’d be three races into the Xfinity Series season, as one of two drivers – along with Auto Club Speedway winner Harrison Burton – who has finished in the top 10 each time.
Sieg, who has been competing full-time in the Xfinity or Truck Series since 2010, finished fourth at Auto Club Speedway Saturday to earn consecutive top fives for the first time in his career.
“It’s a big deal, especially since they came at tracks that aren’t really tracks we’d normally get top five finishes at,” the 32-year-old Sieg told NBC Sports. “It’s always fun to be competitive. I don’t think I ever dreamed that this would kind of be the start to the year.”
In the opening three races, the Georgia native has finished ninth (Daytona), third (Las Vegas) and fourth. The top fives match his career-best total, earned last year.
It is the highlight among a few career performances for underdog, independent teams so far this season. Jeremy Clements placed ninth at Auto Club for his first top 10 on the track in 11 starts. Josh Williams of DGM Racing posted his first non-superspeedway top 10 (10th) at Auto Club in his 64th career start.
Sieg sits fourth in the point standings ahead of the final stop of the West Coast swing, Phoenix Raceway (4 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox).
The crew chief role was filled by Kevin “Cowboy” Starland, who was the team’s competition director last year. It also has Michael “Big Mike” Scearce, a former long-time Richard Childress Racing employee, as car chief.
Together, Ryan Sieg Racing brings 12-13 crew members to the track each weekend to work on its two cars, with some coming from Kentucky and Texas.
“We outsource our pit crews to Roush and Stewart-Haas for our two cars, which is nice because you have good pit crews and we’re not losing time on pit road too much,” said Sieg, adding their success is a result of “little upgrades here and there on things. It’s one of those things, you can’t build it overnight. It’s taken a number of years and it’s sort of worked in our favor with some of the Cup teams moving out of the Xfinity Series.”
Cup team that have reduced or completely left the Xfinity Series in recent years include Roush Fenway Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing (from four full-time cars in 2016 to one in 2020) and Stewart-Haas Racing (two cars in 2019 to one this season).
Adding to his impressive opening stretch is that Sieg’s performance is not coming in new equipment. Last year, Sieg had a few relatively new cars purchased from RCR that he drove to a career-best 12 top-10 finishes and a playoff entry.
Those cars are still in Sieg’s stable but his top fives have been in a RCR car they bought roughly three years ago.
“We sort of rebuilt it to what I was comfortable with and what I thought worked,” Sieg said. “Just seems like we hit it pretty well.”
One of the 2019 cars will be in action this weekend at Phoenix, the flat 1-mile track Sieg has 13 starts. He placed 10th in last year’s spring race, his first top 10 there, before finishing 13th in the fall.
“I think we’re going to go back to what we ran in the spring, we tried something a little bit different in the fall and it didn’t work,” Sieg said.
Watch for Sieg to attempt bold strategy as the season unfolds. At Las Vegas, when NASCAR gave teams an extra set of tires for a competition caution, Sieg’s team opted to wait to use their set until the final stage, which helped put Sieg near the front.
At Auto Club, the team gambled on fuel strategy – attempting to save five laps of fuel over the final 50 laps – but two cautions in that stretch cancelled it out.
What kind of strategy could they employ at Phoenix? It depends on the level of tire falloff.
“Say there’s 110 laps in that last stage,” Sieg said. “If a caution comes out 30 laps into the final stage, what do you do? Do you put your tires on and hope it goes green or do you save your tires and hope there’s a caution later and you can put the tires back on.”
At Phoenix and beyond, Sieg will be watching the cars in front of him to determine his late-race pit strategy.
“If we’re an eighth-place car, we don’t want to do what the top seven does,” Sieg said. “We’re going to do something different.”
Despite his “incredible start,” Sieg’s team is trying to “keep our heads on” and “keep real, smart goals.”
An obstacle is in store this weekend though, as two full-time Cup Series drivers make their first Xfinity start of the season.
“Obviously, you’ve got a couple of aces coming this week with (Brad) Keselowski and Kyle Busch,” Sieg said. “I think you’ll have a better pace at the front of the field if that makes sense … I’m going to guess Kyle Busch is going to be a half a second faster than if you were to put a rookie in that car. So over the course of a 70-80 lap run, he’s going to lap more guys and make up more time on people. That used to be kind of the thing we’d look at as we tried to stay on the lead lap. I don’t think we’ll have that trouble this weekend, but it’s one of the many things you can look at.”
Sieg observed a track like Phoenix can be a “better opportunity” for a small team like his, however there are disadvantages when going against team’s like Keselowski’s and Busch’s.
“When you get away from one area, like the aerodynamics of a mile-and-a-half, then you’re getting into another, like the brakes,” Sieg said. “You’re up against teams that have better brakes and spend more money on brakes. That’s an important part of Phoenix, obviously. You lose the aerodynamic part, you have another part that comes in where the teams can beat you.”
With Busch and Keselowski present, Sieg’s goal is to run from fifth to eighth.
“I don’t expect to be a contending car for the win,” said Sieg.
Luckily for him, Sieg knows a thing or two about exceeding expectations.
Christopher Bell continued his thus far perfect weekend Saturday, capturing the pole for this afternoon’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 Xfinity Series playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC) at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
Bell’s pole – his sixth of the season (a career high) – added to Friday’s accomplishments of being fastest in both Xfinity Series practice sessions. In addition, Bell is the defending winner of this race from last fall.
Now all that’s left to cap off the perfect weekend is to win this afternoon’s race.
Bell took today’s pole with a speed of 132.450 mph. Cole Custer will start alongside Bell on the front row after posting a qualifying speed of 132.100 mph. Bell and Custer were the only drivers to post speeds above 132 mph during the qualifying session.
Bell covered the 1.5-mile track at a speed of 181.165 mph. It was his fifth pole of the season and 11th of his Xfinity career.
Today’s race will be the 19th Xfinity race held at Kansas Speedway and Bell becomes the 15th different driver to earn an Xfinity pole there. Kansas Speedway is the closest NASCAR track to Bell’s Norman, Oklahoma home.
After all the waiting it’s almost time for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN).
The fifth year of NASCAR’s official Throwback Weekend celebrates the 1990-94 era of the sport but there are paint schemes from various eras that we’ll be seen competing on the track “Too Tough to Tame.”
Here’s your guide to the retro paint schemes that have been announced so far for this weekend, including schemes for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.
Landon Cassill, No. 00 Chevrolet – The StarCom Racing car will honor Sterling Marlin with his early 2000s “Silver Bullet” scheme.
Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chevrolet – The Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s car will be made to look like his personal 1969 Chevy Camaro.
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford – The Team Penske driver will race Rusty Wallace’s 1996 Cup Series scheme.
Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet – Dillon will boast a paint scheme that was driven by his grandfather and team owner Richard Childress in the late 1970s.
Ryan Newman, No. 6 Ford – With Oscar Mayer taking the place of Valvoline, Newman’s car will take its cue from the scheme Mark Martin raced in 1993, when he earned Roush Fenway Racing’s first Southern 500 victory.
Daniel Hemric, No. 8 Chevrolet – Hemric will drive a car inspired by the design of CAT equipment and the logo used on them from its launch in 1925 until 1931.
Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet – Elliott will boast the scheme his father, Bill Elliott, claimed his first Cup pole with in 1981 at Darlington.
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota – Hamlin’s car will evoke Darrell Waltrip’s Western Auto paint scheme from the 1990s.
Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford – The Team Penske driver will have a scheme inspired by Michael Waltrip’s Pennzoil car from 1991-95.
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota – Busch will pilot a Snickers-sponsored car based on Bobby Hillin Jr.s 1990 No. 8 Snickers scheme.
Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Toyota – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will throwback to himself with the Bass Pro Shops paint scheme he drove during his 2004 Xfinity Series championship campaign. That year he drove for Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Chance 2 Motorsports.
Erik Jones, No. 20 Toyota – To mark his 100th Cup Series start, Jones will boast a scheme based on his rookie late model car.
Paul Menard, No. 21 Ford – Wood Brothers Racing will pay tribute to late team founder Glen Wood with the paint scheme Wood drove himself in 1957, including in his only appearance as a driver at Darlington.
Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford – The Team Penske driver will have the Pennzoil paint scheme Kevin Harvick used to win the 2007 Daytona 500.
William Byron, No. 24 Chevrolet – Byron will drive one of Cole Trickle’s paint schemes from the 1990 Tom Cruise movie “Days of Thunder.”
Corey LaJoie, No. 32 Ford – GoFas Racing’s car will be based on Dale Jarrett’s 1990-91 Nestle Crunch sponsored Xfinity car.
Michael McDowell, No. 34 Ford – The Front Row Motorsports driver will have a paint scheme that pays homage to the career of long-time owner and driver Jimmy Means, who was once partnered with FRM owner Bob Jenkins.
Matt Tifft, No. 36 Ford – The rookie driver will pay tribute to his father. The car is based on a Dirt Late Model car his father owned, which was driven by David Hilliker.
David Ragan, No. 38 Ford – The Front Row Motorsports driver will drive a scheme inspired by David Pearson’s 1969 championship car.
We got the @shrinershosp Ford Mustang colors dialed in perfect for this weekends @TooToughToTame race. Car will look great when it hits the track on Friday!!
Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet – Larson’s car will resemble Ricky Craven’s Kodiak scheme from his Cup Series Rookie of the Year season in 1995.
Bubba Wallace, No. 43 Chevrolet – Wallace’s car will be a tribute to the late Adam Petty and his 1998 ARCA win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Ryan Preece, No. 47 Chevrolet – Preece will have a tribute to modified racing legend Ron Bouchard. The scheme is based on the No. 47 Majik Market/Hawaiian Punch car Bouchard drove at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway in 1984.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet – Johnson will throwback to his off-road racing days with a scheme from 1995.
BJ McLeod, No. 51 Chevrolet – The car is inspired by one that Burt Reynolds’ character raced in the movie “Stroker Ace.”
In 1953 Bill Blair won at Daytona when they raced on the beach and HWY A1A. This design is to honor Bill Blair, and all the early racing pioneers, who helped shape what is now known as NASCAR, and also to the role High Point, NC played in the early years of stock car racing. pic.twitter.com/YDd7YAPEyN
Garrett Smithley, No. 54 Chevrolet – The Rick Ware Racing car will pay tribute to Lennie Pond’s 1976 ride.
Reed Sorenson, No. 77 Chevrolet – The Spire Motorsports car will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Motor Racing Network and the 11 radio affiliates that have broadcast NASCAR races since its inception in 1970.
Alex Bowman, No. 88 Chevrolet – Bowman’s Axalta-sponsored car is inspired by Tim Richmond‘s Folger’s Coffee scheme from 1986-87.
Matt DiBenedetto, No. 95 Toyota – The Leavine Family Racing car will be a tribute to the GTO Celicas that won the IMSA GTU title in 1987.
Stewart-Haas Racing – In celebration of co-owner Tony Stewart’s election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, three SHR drivers will have paint schemes based on the cars Stewart raced to his three Cup Series titles. Aric Almirola‘s No. 10 Ford will be based on Stewart’s 2002 car, Daniel Suarez‘s No. 41 Ford will be based on the 2005 season and Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford will look like the car Stewart drove to his 2011 title.
Cole Custer, No. 00 Ford – The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will have a throwback to Buckshot Jones’ 1997 Xfinity Series car.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet – Earnhardt will pilot the scheme his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., drove in his first Cup start in the 1975 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Justin Haley, No. 11 Chevrolet – Kaulig Racing will boast Jeff Burton’s 1994 rookie Cup paint scheme with matching sponsorship from brake parts company Raybestos. It also serves as a tribute to team owner Matt Kaulig’s father and team chief financial officer, Bob Kaulig, who served as a vice president of Raybestos from 1985-2008.
Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford
Stephen Leicht, No. 15 Chevrolet – The JD Motorsports driver’s scheme is based on Ken Scrader’s mid-1990s Budweiser car.
Denny Hamlin, No. 18 Toyota – Hamlin will have a scheme based on Bill Elliott’s No. 11 Budweiser car.
Brandon Jones, No. 19 Toyota – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will have Bubby Baker’s “Gray Ghost” paint scheme.
Austin Cindric, No. 22 Ford – The Team Penske driver will race the paint scheme Roger Penske had for his one and only NASCAR win as a driver.