Long: No fans mutes Indy soundtrack, but Chase Briscoe still relishes win

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INDIANAPOLIS — Mimicking what his hero Tony Stewart twice did at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Chase Briscoe climbed the fence after winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the road course.

But unlike Stewart, who looked out to a sea of fans bathing him in cheers, Briscoe saw only empty gray bleachers and heard only the shouts of his crew members who joined him on the ascent.

The culmination of a historic doubleheader with the NTT IndyCar Series and the Xfinity Series also meant the end of a day — and a July 4 at that — unlike any other at the famed speedway.

No fans at NASCAR races have become common during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the sight — and lack of sound — at Indy was stark.

Sunday’s Cup race will not have fans. It also will not have seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who announced Friday he and his wife have contracted the coronavirus.

Johnson says he is asymptomatic but admits he has more questions than answers about how he and his wife got the virus and when he’ll be able to return to racing. Sunday was to have been his final Cup start in a race he’s won four times.

Johnson will be missed. So will be the fans. Just as they were Saturday.

The fans provide a soundtrack to any event, even a race where engine noise dominates. There was no roar from the crowd when the command to start engines was made. No cheers for the winner when he emerged from his car in victory lane. No oohs and ahhs when the top four cars in the Xfinity race sailed down the long front straightaway into a sharp right-hand turn with two laps left, dueling for the win.

The only sound came from the engines echoing off the canyon of empty seats.

Even in the smallest settings, interactions were missed. When Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race earlier in the day, his crew, unable to be in victory lane because of protocols, stood on a stairwell 20 feet above him and clapped.

When Briscoe won, there was no family to greet him. Two years ago his father had tears seeing Briscoe drive at Indy. One could only imagine what his reaction would have been Saturday.

My family is probably crying at home,” said Briscoe, an Indiana native. “I was thinking about that the last couple of laps. That is tough. I wish they could have been here to experience it. It is something that may not ever happen again. It is definitely bittersweet to win without them here.”

If he wins again at Indy, good chance it could be with Stewart-Haas Racing. Greg Zipadelli, SHR’s competition director, served as Briscoe’s interim crew chief because Richard Boswell was serving the final race of a four-race suspension and voiced his support for Briscoe.

“I think he is still young and has a lot to learn, but I am very, very impressed with how quick he is learning how to race these stock cars,” Zipadelli said. “I hope he is a part of Stewart-Haas for a long period of time.”

What makes Briscoe — only the second driver to win five of the first 13 races of a season in the Xfinity Series — stand out?

“He is able to dig deep,” Zipadelli said. “There are some people that when it is time to close, I see that a lot in him, he finds a little bit extra. He has a lot of confidence but isn’t getting cocky, which I love. Most of all he is just a good race car driver.”

While IndyCar had run on this course, this was new for Xfinity Series. Briscoe had prepared since February for this race, spending time weekly on the Ford simulator driving the 14-turn, 2.439-mile course. The training came through as Briscoe battled AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric and Justin Haley for the lead late. 

Even though Haley finished second to Briscoe, he still enjoyed the afternoon.

“I have zero complaints about the Indy road course,” Haley said. “I thought it was an amazing day

“When the fans are back, I think it’s going to be better.”

Briscoe said he can’t wait for fans to be back at this track and elsewhere.

“They are the reason you celebrate and the last couple of times I didn’t really celebrate because without the fans I don’t get hyped up,” he said. “Here I was obviously excited. I wish there were fans here.”

Even so, Briscoe would still have a celebration.

A former dirt track racer, Briscoe planned to visit a dirt track Saturday night within an hour’s drive of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“My little sister has decided she wants to try to drive a race car,” Briscoe said. “At the end of the night she is going to drive a mini-sprint around there for 20 or 30 laps. I am going to head there and see a lot of my friends I don’t get to see anymore and hang out with my dad and family.”

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Results, standings after Indianapolis Xfinity race

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After being pushed out of the lead, Chase Briscoe roared right back in the closing laps to win Saturday’s inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s Briscoe’s fifth win of the season. He predicted in the preseason that he would win eight races in 2020. He’s now just three wins away from that goal.

Justin Haley finished second, followed by Noah Gragson, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric.

Click here for results

Ranked No. 1, Briscoe opened his lead on Noah Gragson to 21 points in the driver standings and a 55-point edge over third-ranked Ross Chastain.

Updated Xfinity driver points after Indy

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Chase Briscoe wins inaugural Xfinity race on Indy road course

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INDIANAPOLIS — Chase Briscoe had been practicing on a simulator since February for Saturday and he survived a four-car battle for the lead in the final laps to win Saturday’s inaugural Xfinity race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. 

The Indiana native scored his fifth series win in 13 races this season, becoming only the second driver in series history to win as many races in the same time frame. Sam Ard holds the record with six wins in the first 13 races of the season.

MORE: Race results 

Briscoe celebrated Saturday’s victory with his team by climbing the fence, just as Tony Stewart used to do. Briscoe and the team also kissed the bricks at the start/finish line.

“Everybody knows that I grew up and my hero in racing was Tony Stewart,” Briscoe said. “To get to drive for him and watch him win the Brickyard, (climbing the fence) was always his signature thing and I just wanted to do it. Obviously it is not the same prestige as winning on the oval, but you still won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Justin Haley, who also is from Indiana, finished second. Noah Gragson was third and followed by AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric.

“I think we saw that the racing was amazing,” Haley said.

Briscoe earned the win by outbraking Allmendinger into Turn 1 to take the lead with two laps to go. The top four cars ran two abreast through Turns 1 and 2. Briscoe kept the lead and pulled away as Allmendinger and Cindric made contact racing for second.

“I think today is a statement win,” Briscoe said. “I don’t think anybody had us as a favorite today with Allmendinger and Cindric in the field but we knew down deep we could run with those guys.”

Cindric’s race took a turn when NASCAR penalized him for jumping the restart. Cindric was furious on the radio about the penalty, saying Riley Herbst pushed him but that didn’t matter to series officials. Cindric was leading by the time the penalty was called and fell back to 31st by the time he serve his penalty by driving through pit road on Lap 31.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Justin Haley’s runner-up finish is his best result in six road course events. … Preston Pardus finished 10th in his third career start. … Jade Buford finished 14th in his Xfinity Series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: It’s hard to say that a sixth consecutive top-five at a road course is a bad race, but Austin Cindric, one of the favorites, was penalized for jumping a restart, had a slow pit stop when he parked his car too close to pit wall and lost positions later when a tire changer had trouble removing a wheel. … Brandon Jones finished 37th.

NOTABLE: All seven of Chase Briscoe’s Xfinity Series wins have come on different tracks.

NEXT: The series races Thursday at Kentucky Speedway, the first of back-to-back night races there for the series.

Xfinity start time at Indianapolis: TV, stream, lineups, forecast and more for Saturday

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The Xfinity Series provides the second half of Saturday’s historic NASCAR/IndyCar doubleheader at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Xfinity start time at Indianapolis is at 2:15 pm ET (Watch on NBC or the NBC Sports app).

After the NTT IndyCar Series races on the road course Saturday, the Xfinity Series will race on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile course for the first time.

AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley and Chase Briscoe were the fastest in Friday’s two practice sessions. Cindric and Allmendinger combined to win three Xfinity road course races last year and will be the favorites in this race.

Here is the Xfinity start time at Indianapolis and other info for Saturday’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be at 2:49 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 9 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Drivers report to their cars at 2:30 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:41 p.m by Pastor T.C. Taylor of One Fellowship Church in Indianapolis. The national anthem will be performed at 2:43 p.m. by Noah Schnacky.

DISTANCE: The race is 62 laps (151.22 miles) around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 20. Stage 2 ends on Lap 40.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race. Coverage begins at 2:15 p.m. with Countdown to Green. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network’s coverage will begin at 2:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

LIVE STREAM: You can watch the race on NBCSports.com or on the NBC Sports app.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for mostly cloudy conditions with a high of 89 degrees and a 15% chance of rain predicted at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe won at Pocono. Ross Chastain finished second. Jeremy Clements placed third.

LAST RACE AT INDIANAPOLIS: Kyle Busch won on the oval. Justin Allgaier was second. Noah Gragson placed third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Xfinity practice report from Indy road course

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Austin Cindric posted the best lap in the last of two Xfinity Series practice sessions Friday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Team Penske driver posted a top speed of 97.850 mph around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile course. Cindric recorded 19 laps.

The top five was completed by A.J. Allmendinger (97.344 mph), Justin Haley (96.753), Chase Briscoe (96.534) and Justin Allgaier (96.530).

Anthony Alfredo had his right-rear tire go down with about 40 minutes left in the session. A few minutes later, Joe Graf Jr. spun going into Turn 1.

Jeremy Clements overdrove Turn 7 and went off course 20 minutes into the session. Michael Annett spun off course with 15 minutes left in the session. Both Allmendinger and Allgaier went off course in Turn 7 late in the session.

Click here for final practice report

First practice

Allmendinger posted the best lap with a top speed of 97.392 mph around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile course. Allmendinger recorded five laps during the 55-minute session.

The top five was completed by Austin Cindric (96.804 mph), Chase Briscoe (96.471), Justin Haley (96.213) and Justin Allgaier (95.976).

Michael Annett, who was 18th fastest, recorded the most laps with 19.

Ryan Sieg and Josh Williams went off course in Turn 12 during the early portion of the session. Turn 12 is where the circuit transitions from the oval short chute between Turns 1 and 2 back into road course.

Sieg then went off course a second time in Turn 13. He and Williams were both able to continue.

Allgaier locked up his brakes and missed Turn 12 with about 26 minutes left in the session.

Mike Wallace briefly went off course in Turn 1 late in the session and Brett Moffitt suffered a cut left rear tire with two minutes left.

The second practice session is scheduled for 3 – 3:55 p.m. ET and can be watched on the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the practice report.