Categories
XFINITY

Chase Briscoe Left With Regrets and Frustration Following Playoff Run

The playoffs demand the best out of any driver, just ask Chase Briscoe. He was able to put a top-10 in each of the events except for one, and found himself as one of the drivers not fighting for the Championship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I was telling people the other day after Kansas I was obviously frustrated and upset, but I felt like we were still gonna be fine,” he commented at ISM Raceway. “I felt like with our speed we were gonna be fine getting to Homestead still.  We can still go run top five the next two races, if not win one, and after Texas then everything that went down at Texas makes Kansas sting a lot worse and makes me even more mad.”

Briscoe was in the thick of the action to win at Kansas Speedway, battling Christopher Bell for the victory, when the pair made contact with a lap car resulting in damage to both vehicles. Despite the rear panel having to be replaced, he was able to fight back to finish third.

He showed speed at Texas Motor Speedway, running up front until he made contact with the wall and then cut a tire, requiring an scheduled stop down pit road. He was credited with a 22nd-place finish.

He ran inside the top-five part of the event at ISM Raceway, though ultimately finished eighth, missing the cut. 

Now as he is forced to watch four of his competitors fight for the championship instead, Briscoe finds himself thinking back to what happened at Texas.

“In hindsight we probably should have just pitted whenever we got in the wall,” he commented. “It was just a thing where at the time we felt like we made the right decision.  Me and my crew chief were talking and we’re pretty sure the splitter is what ended up flattening the tire.  If we would have come down, we didn’t even think the splitter was an issue, so we probably would have had the same issue regardless.  I don’t know. 

“There’s a lot of things we could have done different.  Obviously, the lapped car situation could have went way different and we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we are right now, but those are the cards we were dealt and we’ve got to deal with those.”

The fact that he did not make the Championship 4 only stings more when he looks back and sees how strong they were at the Homestead-Miami Speedway test.

“We were unbelievable, we felt like,” he said. “A lot of guys go and test and you’re like, ‘Oh, man.  We’re so good,’ and then you go back.  I know Jeff Burton was at the test and I heard on the TV broadcast I heard him talk about how good he thought we were.  Typically there fall off is around a certain time over a 40-lap run and we were two-tenths better than that, so I felt like if we can get to Homestead, we have a legitimate shot to win the championship.”

Briscoe went as far to mention that if he is able to pull off the victory on Saturday afternoon, “it’s gonna be sickening” in knowing what could’ve been. It’s an experience that he knows already, having won the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race there in 2017. 

Though on the flip side, one more checkered flag on the season would be very deserving for Briscoe and company as it’d give them a chance to not celebrate their success there, but as a year overall. While not making the Championship 4 is less than ideal, scoring 12 top-five’s and 25 top-10’s in the 32 races is certainly something to remember. It also easily puts him in the conversation as favorites for the title in 2020 with several drivers moving away from the series.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway

Although a first career triumph for Brandon Jones and the fight between championship contenders Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer will top the headlines leaving Kansas Speedway, several other things happened during the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday.

Lap Traffic Problems

https://twitter.com/XfinityRacing/status/1185669422075088896

As the laps began to wound down, it appeared as though the battle for the win would be between Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell. However, those hopes were dashed with 15 laps to go when they were caught up in a wreck with a lap car.

Garrett Smithley told NASCAR on NBC that he wasn’t made aware that the leaders were coming up on him, and he was just riding around on 70-lap tires at that point.

The frustration radiated from Briscoe who was quick to ask on his radio, “What was he doing? Where was he going?” It was a reasonable question considering Smithley was already five laps down at this point in the event. 

At the beginning of a driver’s racing career at the short track level, lap cars are taught to remain on the bottom, allowing the leaders to battle as they should have the right to. Knowing that he was already multiple laps down and off the pace, why did he not remain on the bottom of the track?

Secondly, it is a little disheartening to see Smithley throw total blame on his spotter for the incident. He is the one handling the controls of the racecar, and should be aware of the situation around him. 

This is not Smithley’s first incident as a lapped car this season, either, as he crossed paths with Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Hopefully he learned something this time around as it is one of the most frustrating things in racing to see a battle for the win ruined this way.

Briscoe was able to rebound, getting a new rear bumper car installed to drive back up to finish third. Bell finished 12th, but thankfully has a comfortable advantage over the cut-off line in the playoffs thanks to a solid regular season campaign.

Overaggressive Driving

Knowing a spot in the Championship 4 is on the line, it was safe to say that several drivers were being overly aggressive on Saturday – namely Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson.

Cindric has been solid thus far through the playoffs to be considered a legitimate threat by some, as noted by POPULAR SPEED’s Mitchell Breuer entering the weekend. However, he wound up finishing 25th on Saturday after having to make a couple unscheduled trips down pit road with flat tires.

The contact was all self-inflicted, too. He grew frustrated battling Harrison Burton for position, saying that “he was driving all over the track,” that he drove in the back of the No. 18, sending Burton up into the wall and ending his day. The contact resulted in nose damage to Cindric’s Ford that was made worse when he made contact with John Hunter Nemechek on the restart.

Considering the issues experienced by fellow championship contenders and the speed Cindric has shown this year – finishing no worse than third in any playoff event entering this weekend, this could have been his opportunity to capitalize.

Although his title chances are not totally eliminated, he will essentially need to win one of the next two events to be part of the championship conversation. If he continues to let the little battles frustrate him, that certainly won’t happen.

Gragson, meanwhile, stated before the event that he was going to push harder than he has before, wanting to be aggressive and take advantage of the opportunity laid before him. It back fired, as he got into the wall on two separate occasions, ultimately finishing 13th with a car that should have placed in the top-10, possibly top-five.

Through Gragson’s truck series seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports, he was fast on a weekly basis – but mistakes and being overaggressive certainly took away some chances at winning. It seems that cycle is still repeated. If he had not found the contact resulting in the flat left rear in the final laps, he could have been celebrating in victory lane. 

There is something to be said for a driver who wants to push as hard as they can to succeed, but a line needs to be drawn in the sand. That is something the rookie needs to find if he wants to be able to score his first career series victory. 

Great Strategy!

Through his career, Michael Annett has been seen as an average driver – able to find solid consistency, but not become a serious contender for a championship. 

His crew chief Travis Mack deserves all the credit for leaving his driver out there on old tires, while the rest of the leaders pitted. That allowed Annett to take four fresh tires on a later caution, setting him up for a strong charge to the front.

The call was almost a success, as Annett drove his way from outside the top-10 to third before another caution came out. If the additional yellow flag had not waved, he had enough momentum to power past the top-two and snag the victory. However, the additional heat cycle on the tires took any chance that he had away, resulting in a fourth-place finish.

For anybody looking for an underdog for the championship, Annett and more so crew chief Travis Mack made a case for the No. 1 team. If there is a race that comes down to a strategy call, it may just work in their favor next time.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Chase Briscoe chases down Christopher Bell for Iowa victory

NEWTON, Iowa — Chase Briscoe’s been chasing wins all season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

They proved bitterly elusive — until Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.

The driver of the No. 98 Ford Performance Ford shrugged off frustration and instead churned up smoke with a jubilant, long-awaited series of burnouts that preceded his first trip to Victory Lane this season.

Briscoe’s sweeping slide job past longtime race leader Christopher Bell — who paced the field for a dominant 235 laps — ensured that the physical, caution-marred race would end in a raucous celebration, not head-shaking and second-guessing.

And maybe a run toward the top of the standings, which has been dominated by points leader Tyler Reddick, Bell and Cole Custer — the so-called “Big Three.”

“It’s nice, for sure, to kind of silence everybody,” said Briscoe, who ended Bell’s two-race win streak at Iowa while notching his first win on the racy 7/8-mile track. “We definitely are still not near where we need to be, but I feel like we’ve been way closer, these last couple weeks especially. So we’ve still got to get better if we’re gonna beat the “Big Three,” but I feel like we’re slowly getting into that conversation of being that fourth guy.”

For most of Saturday’s race, Bell appeared headed for another breezy victory at Iowa, but worn-out tires doomed him down the stretch as Briscoe’s grip and gumption took over.

“He did a good job and did everything he needed to win the race,” a dejected Bell told MRN Radio.

Bell cruised to wins in the first two 60-lap stages and now has led more laps at Iowa than any other series driver (668) despite only having five starts at the track.

“I felt like we were a second-place car all day,” said Briscoe, who stayed out when Bell pitted with 100 laps to go, allowing him to pit later and run on fresher tires down the stretch. “The 20 was the class of the field.”

Briscoe — who started alongside Bell on the front row —overcame an early pit road penalty to earn his first win at Iowa and snare his third straight top-six effort after a 35th-place finish at Daytona.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Briscoe, who notched his second career series win and remains seventh in the point standings. “We were definitely racing real hard. That was beating and banging — and that’s about as good as it gets.”

John Hunter Nemechek finished third and led six laps while battling in the top five most of the day.

“To finish third and say you’re disappointed is pretty good I guess,” Nemechek said. “We needed this run after the last few weeks we’ve had.”

Briscoe’s banner day contrasted sharply with one of the Big Three’s series of misfortunes.

Custer ran in the top five most of the day until a penalty for speeding on pit road dropped him to the rear of the field.

He then hit the wall on lap 160, prompting a trip to the garage that ended his day. He finished 29th and remains third in points, behind Bell and Reddick, who finished fifth Saturday.

“I was mad at myself for getting a speeding penalty and putting us back there,” Custer told MRN after being evaluated at the infield care center. “Frustrating.”

Saturday proved anything but for Briscoe, who had battled Bell at Iowa many times — but mainly online, not on the track.

“We’ve been racing online against each other for probably 10 years,” Briscoe said. “We used to run Iowa all the time in the Xfinity car and have battles like that, so it was fun to do it for real this time.”

Categories
XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: MoneyLion 300 at Talladega Superspeedway

Every driver for themselves, trying to do whatever it takes to get to the front of the field with making sure to time every single move they make right. That is the critical to being successful with the NASCAR Xfinity Series restrictor plate package which sees everybody equal right through the field with consistent three-wide racing. 

Those who followed through were rewarded on Saturday afternoon.

From the drop of the green flag, three drivers showed the determination to make whatever move was necessary – Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Cindric. They were rewarded when the checkered flag flew in the MoneyLion 300 with top-five finishes.

Of those three drivers, Reddick pushed the boundaries throughout the event. Sometimes he went a little too far, as notable with his contact with the outside wall during the second stage. Though despite whatever was thrown at him, he showed a constant stream of determined aggressiveness to make his way back to the front on each occasion. His move at the end to get the run on Christopher Bell with 10 to go, followed by blocking Briscoe, were the icing on the cake for the win.

Reddick has often been criticized for his all-or-nothing driving style. It got him into trouble on a couple occasions last year as he threw away races that many believed he should have won. However, he continues to show that it works for him as recall, he won the championship last year for JR Motorsports. Now he could be the perfect driver to put Richard Childress Racing in the conversation this year alongside Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer.

Bell appeared to be in the catbird seat for his third victory of the season, but proved late on a pair of his blocks during the final 30 laps to secure the advantage. It was like irony in watching the driver known for being aggressive everywhere else be almost a bit conservative on Saturday afternoon.

It was also odd to not see a JR Motorsports entry not in the conversation at the end of the event as they have dominated the restrictor plate events in the Xfinity Series for the past couple of seasons. However, Daytona winner Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier were taken out in a wreck together, while Noah Gragson suffered contact with the inside wall. Gragson was their highest finisher in 11th at the checkered flag.

If you are making early picks for the next restrictor plate race, you will want to include the three aggressive drivers from Saturday – but don’t forget about Allgaier. He’s the best driver in the series on the plate tracks to not have a win on his record yet. Saturday’s 28th-place finish marked his first outside of the top-eight at Talladega since 2010. He’s also shown the same ability at Daytona, despite his statistics being up-and-down, seemingly always finding a wreck while up front at the end of these races. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Chase Briscoe Hopeful for Richmond Payday

After Christopher Bell won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash bonus at Bristol Motor Speedway, he stated it was going towards forming his own Sprint car team. He isn’t the only one with big dreams for the $100,000 cheque.

Chase Briscoe will join Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer as drivers eligible to take home the bonus at Richmond Raceway on Friday night. The simple chance for Bell to race for that amount of money is “huge,” so it’s no surprise that it’d be a “special” feeling if he could take home the prize.

Just like Bell, though, he has already worked out his plans for the money moving forward.

“It would go a long way with my Chili Bowl organization,” he said. “I’m trying to get a new motor for my midget right now, so if I could do that, I feel like I could maybe give Bell a little more of a run for his money at the Chili Bowl, so there’s definitely a little extra incentive to try to go win and, honestly, a lot of it would probably go toward my dirt team to try and make it a better program.”

On top of his driving duties, Briscoe owns a dirt team like several of his fellow NASCAR competitors do, fielding drivers in sprint cars and midgets. In their most recent event, Dave Darland scored his car owner a ninth-place finish in the USAC Midget event at Bubba Raceway Park. 

“I feel like Florida is a place that just doesn’t fit necessarily our style of how our cars are setup and Dave’s driving style he kind of always struggles in Florida,” Briscoe commented. “So we’re really excited to get back to Indiana and run some stuff.”

Even with a full Xfinity Series schedule on tap, Briscoe is hoping that he can get behind the wheel of some of his equipment this season to “kind of see where our stuff is.” However, to be able to do that, he will need permission from the ownership at Stewart-Haas Racing. 

“I haven’t talked to Tony (Stewart) yet,” Briscoe confessed. “I feel like my sweet spot is gonna be going to talk to Tony. That’s my best chance. I don’t even know if Tony knows that I’m probably not allowed to go do it, so I’ll just go to Tony I guess and see what he says and then maybe ask for forgiveness later.”

Being able to bring the organization’s second win of the season may certainly help his offers. Though while teammate Cole Custer was able to reach victory lane, Briscoe hasn’t done so through the first seven races this season. He has shown speed, though, scoring five top-10’s to rank eighth in the season standings.

“I feel like we haven’t had the speed we expected to have,” he said. “The 98 team has been kind of weird, but we’ve been consistent every week where we literally practice right around 15th-place, the first half of the race we’re 10th to 15th, and then the last 50 laps we’re right there in the top five battling for the win. So we just have to finally be able to put the whole weekend together.

“It’s taken us a little bit of time each and every weekend to kind of find that balance I like and that’s normally with around 50 to go, that last pit stop we finally kind of hit the nail on the head, so we’ve got to start making our practices more efficient. Instead of trying to tune a 15th-place car, we’re tuning a fifth-place car.”

Briscoe is hoping that they can get their program improved quickly, as he knows currently having earned only four stage points compared to his competitors doesn’t bode well for his playoff chances. Being able to score some stage wins could be crucial for him in the post-season, given competitors like Bell and Custer have already racked up 14 and six points, a piece, ahead of the pre-playoff reset. 

Briscoe has only made one Xfinity Series start at Richmond, scoring a 26th-place finish last season.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

ASHLEY ASKS…… Chase Briscoe

After winning the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, Chase Briscoe will tackle the full calendar in 2019. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver recently shared his thoughts going into the season with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the season?

CHASE BRISCOE: I’m really exciting. It’s going to be nice to get everything going. We’ve had everything announced for a couple months, so we’ve had some time to think about the upcoming season, so I’m just really excited to get going. It’s going to be nice to just be in one place for the year, the relationship with my guys and my crew chief, and drive the same car every week. I’m just excited to get going, honestly.

PS: What are your goals and expectations?

Barry Cantell | NKP

CHASE: I truly feel like we can go win a lot of races. We proved last year that we can win races at that level, and Stewart-Haas probably has the best cars in the garage. Cole (Custer) last year won the owner’s championship, and I think that’s the plan – to go win races and the championship. That’s the goal every single week.

If you don’t think you can win races, in my opinion, you shouldn’t be going. So we defiantly have the mentality of thinking we can win each and every week, and we’ll let the results fall and see what happens.

PS: What track are you looking forward to the most?

CHASE: Honestly, probably Atlanta. Atlanta is probably the place that I feel the (No.) 98 is the strongest car. (Kevin) Harvick has won there the past two years, and Atlanta is probably one of my favorite tracks because it relates so much back to dirt racing, slipping and sliding around. Atlanta is probably the one place I’m excited to go to most.

Plus, it’s so early in the year that it’s a good place to see where you stand and get some momentum rolling. Daytona is kind of a throwaway in seeing where you stack up with the competition.

PS: What is one track that you wish was on the NASCAR schedule that currently isn’t?

CHASE: Eldora. Really, any dirt track, but Eldora has been proven in the truck series that it works, and I feel like right now, even at the Cup level, they have every discipline of race track – even at the XFINITY level. They have local short tracks, intermediates, and superspeedways. So, in my opinion, I think we need to tie it all together and have at least one dirt race to kind of test and see where everybody is at.

PS: What did it mean to you to break through and get that win at the ROVAL last year?

NKP

CHASE: It was huge. To even pick it up at the ROVAL and be the first guy to win there is certainly huge. It was a big deal. The first three years I lived in North Carolina, I slept on a couch probably just five miles from the track in Charlotte. To have it come back full circle and to win a race at Charlotte and have it be my first XFINITY Series win, certainly something that’ll stick with me forever.

I’m excited to get back there last year and if you would’ve asked me anywhere you thought I’d get my first win, the road course definitely wouldn’t been it. Hopefully we can do it again next year.

PS: NASCAR made a considerable announcement that they are going to strip wins away for illegal cars. What are your thoughts on the news?

CHASE: I think it’s good. I think for the fan’s sake, for sure. I think they should know who won the race when they leave. In my opinion when there’s a grey area, it makes it really tough and now it’s going to be either legal or illegal. I think teams will definitely play it a little more conservative then they have been. In the past, there wasn’t really any big penalty for them to do it. Now if you end up getting penalized, you’re going to run dead last so there’s certainly a huge penalty now, whereas before it was just a money fine.

I think you won’t see it – maybe once, but I think all the teams are going to play conservative with the risk now. I think it’s a good thing.

PS: If you were in charge of NASCAR for one day, what is one change that you would make to help the sport?

CHASE: That’s tough. I honestly think the one thing would be I would have a free admission race to get people back to the track and see what a good time they could have. I know a lot of tracks probably wouldn’t want to do it, but if I could do one thing, that’s probably what I would do in having a race where it’s free admission to get in and let all these people to see the event. Potentially, they may not have gone to a race if they had to pay, and they may come to the free race and get hooked. That’s the one thing that I would do.

PS: We’ve seen a lot of drivers running different cars and series recently. What is a series/type of car that is on your bucket list to one day try?

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

CHASE: I’ve been fortunate to run a bunch of different series and racecars my whole life, and even just this past year. Probably the two that would stick out – the Robby Gordon (Stadium Super) Trucks look pretty cool, as well as Rallycross. I think both of those would be really fun to try.

PS: What would be your advice to someone trying to get into racing?

CHASE: I think the biggest thing that I’ve always tried to do is treat everyone how you want to be treated. I think that goes a long way. You may have drove for a team three or four years ago, or you may be just trying to get started, and if you’re nice to someone and they like you and respect you, you don’t know who they might know that may help you down the road.

Honestly, the whole reason I’m in NASCAR was I was volunteering at a team for a year and a half and they ended up giving me a chance to drive their car, and we ended up winning races. So be willing to learn, volunteer your time, and treat everyone how you want to be treated.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Rookie Outlook: XFINITY Series

When looking at a rookie class one might wonder, how much success is possible for these drivers? Well, if the last couple of years in the XFINITY Series is any indication, the sky is the limit.

Three of the last five drivers to win the award have gone on to win the championship, and just by looking at whose eligible this year, it could be argued that it is likely to happen again in 2019.

With that said, let’s take a look at those who will be competing for the honor.

Chase Briscoe

Well, it could be argued that a lot of these drivers could be perceived as the favorite, Briscoe may have the best case for himself.

He has experience in the form of 17-race schedule last year, where he had four top-10’s and a win. Not to forget the 24-year-old will be driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, one of the best teams not only in the series but in the sport as a whole. SHR proved the strength in their program last year by winning the owner’s championship with Cole Custer behind the wheel.

The expectations will, and rightfully so, be high for Briscoe.

Noah Gragson

Speaking of high expectations, there is Gragson, who joins JR Motorsports, whose last three rookie drivers (Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and Chase Elliott) have won the championship. So, no pressure right?

However, the Las Vegas native has proven himself worthy of the ride after two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, where he scored two wins, 12 top-five’s, and 30 top-10’s.

While he may not have as much XFINITY experience as some of his competitors, Gragson did have success in his three starts last season for Joe Gibbs Racing. His worst finish with the team was seventh, and he even came close to winning in his debut at Richmond Raceway in a runner-up effort.

John Hunter Nemechek

A team that has seen strong development over the last year, GMS Racing, partnered with a driver in Nemechek whose shown capable, could prove to be a lethal combo.

Nemechek comes from a season where he split time between XFINITY and trucks, where he was able to win in both. The 21-year-old showed off his talent in NASCAR’s second-tier series, where in addition his lone victory at Kansas Speedway, he was able to produce six top-five’s and 11 top-10’s in an 18-race effort for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Despite his impressive stat line though, he seemed to be overshadowed by Kyle Larson and Ganassi’s late-season addition, Ross Chastain, whom he split the No. 42 with.

With the ride at GMS all to himself, it will be interesting to see how he capitalizes on the opportunity.

Justin Haley

How about a dark horse? Haley enters the 2019 season, relatively under the radar, despite being impressive in 2018.

The 19-year-old was able to capture three wins in the truck series last year, and produced a strong enough playoff run to get himself into the series’ Championship 4. He also made three starts in XFINITY for GMS, where he was one legal pass away from winning at Daytona International Speedway.

This year though, Haley will be with a different team in Kaulig Racing, whose fielded a playoff entry in each of the last three seasons and, saw a noticeable increase in performance last year, scoring 11 top-10’s with then-driver, Ryan Truex.

Gray Gaulding

A driver who actually has more experience in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Gaulding looks to develop a much more stable schedule after spending the last few seasons jumping around multiple teams.

He joins SS-Green Light Racing to drive the No. 08 Chevrolet. The team fielded an entry for Spencer Boyd in 2018, averaging a 26.9 finish.

Seeing how Gaulding has never had one season-long ride to himself, it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old can improve being with just the one team.

Matt Mills

Mills, who ran eight races last season in XFINITY, will join B.J. McLeod Racing in 2019 to drive the No. 8 Chevrolet.

The 22-year-old did get the chance to run two races with the team in 2018, where he was able to grab his season-best qualifying effort (25th) and matched his career-best finish (27th) at Richmond Raceway.

Part-Timers

The least experienced of all the drivers listed, Zane Smith, will join JR Motorsports for a limited schedule driving the No. 9 Chevrolet.

Despite his lack of experience, Smith is still well-accomplished, with four wins in the ARCA Racing Series and, a fifth-place finish in his truck debut last year.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Chase Briscoe Gets First Xfinity Win in Inaugural Charlotte Road Course Race

CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Briscoe made the most of pit strategy that put him out front during Saturday’s inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.

Leading the last 24 of 55 laps in the Drive for the Cure 200 at the challenging 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course-thanks to a pit stop on Lap 26, before the end of Stage 2-Briscoe held off Justin Marks after the last restart on Lap 45 and took the checkered flag 1.478 seconds ahead of Marks’ No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Driving the No. 98 Ford fielded by Biagi DenBeste Racing in collaboration with Stewart-Haas Racing, Briscoe claimed his first victory in the series. Neither Briscoe nor Marks are Playoff contenders, given that neither is running a full Xfinity Series season.

“This is unreal,” an elated Briscoe said after the race. “I was four seconds off in practice, and my guys stuck behind me and kept working with me. It’s just an honor and privilege to drive a race car and to do it for my hero, (Stewart-Haas co-owner) Tony Stewart, and get a win.

“I feel like my career was getting really bad this year, and I needed to get my stock back up, and I just can’t believe it. Thanks to all these fans for coming out-what an awesome crowd! I hope you all enjoyed that race. It’s going to be a good one tomorrow (Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event).”

Briscoe took particular pride in winning the inaugural race on the Charlotte Road Course, which combines an infield section with the traditional oval punctuated by two chicanes.

“It’s huge to me,” Briscoe said. “Everybody had to adapt to it and figure it out, and I don’t know that I’m necessarily the best at it, but I felt like I just tried not to hit anything, and this thing hardly has a scratch on it.”

Marks, a road-course specialist who is also running Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), gave the Charlotte Road Course a favorable review.

“These ROVAL races are always challenging for these series to put on, given the confines of the oval, but I thought it was great,” Marks said. “If we’re going to reinvigorate this fan base and we’re going to regain some positive momentum on our side, we’ve got to think outside the box and do things like this.

“So I really applauded the effort everybody made to put this track together. The track itself is challenging… The did a great job of painting the infield, there’s a lot of grip there, and it’s a really challenging course. But you want to challenge this group of drivers. You want it to be hard for them…

“I thought it was great. I thought it was awesome. You’ve got tight corners, and then you’ve got the things wound up to 160 miles an hour on the oval, and that’s a little bit of everything these cars do. That makes it an exciting event.”

Pole winner and Playoff driver Austin Cindric recovered from a spin in Turn 6 while leading on Lap 14 to finish third in front of Ryan Preece and series leader Christopher Bell, who has advanced to Round 2 of the Playoffs by virtue of his Sept. 21 victory at Richmond.

In fact, Cindric and Daniel Hemric had arguably the two fastest cars, but, like Cindric, Hemric made a mistake that cost him a chance to battle for the win.

On Lap 45, after the final restart, Hemric blew the frontstretch chicane and paid the prescribed penalty of a full stop in the tri-oval. He fell to 15th and fought his way back to 10th at the finish.

Approaching next week’s Playoff cutoff race at Dover, Bell is the only driver locked into the second round. With the field to be trimmed from 12 to eight contenders after the Dover race, Cindric is in ninth place, nine points behind Ross Chastain in eighth.

In the wide-open competition for the top eight spots, only 12 points separate third place Tyler Reddick from Chastain.

Matt Tifft, Cole Custer, Kaz Grala, Tyler Reddick and Hemric completed the top 10 in Saturday’s race.

Categories
Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Eldora Dirt Derby

NASCAR’s annual Wednesday night trip to get dirty has been special so far as the 2018 edition of the Eldora Dirt Derby for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series did not disappoint.

Beginning right with the qualifying heats, to the final laps of the main event, you can’t deny being entertained by the action on-track as drivers ran as high as the wall, to as low as they could go and through the middle trying to make up ground. How about four-wide for the lead on a late-race restart inside of the final 10 laps?

With trucks in every groove imaginable, it’s understandable that passing was at a premium as drivers found themselves stuck in traffic unable to make a line work at times during the event. Indeed, this made the strategy of not pitting at the start of the final stage a perfect opportunity. However, a driver that chose to make his way down – Chase Briscoe – ultimately snagged the checkered flag. Therefore, with the right handling truck and ability behind the wheel, you could make it happen.

That said, the finish was everything as ThorSport Racing teammates Briscoe, and Grant Enfinger remained side-by-side through the final lap, bouncing off each other, right until the checkered flag. That type of racing is what stock cars were bred on, and if fans could get that every week, there’d be no complaints ever.

I get what Briscoe meant in victory lane in apologizing for the contact with Enfinger due to being teammates and such, saying that’s “not how he races,” but he didn’t have anything be sorry for. He followed the fundamentals of racing in rubbing, but he didn’t wreck Enfinger and ruin his race. As they said in Days of Thunder, “He didn’t hit you, he didn’t nudge you, he rubbed you, and son, rubbin’ is racing.”

For ThorSport, this race is their most impressive of the season with three trucks in the top-four as Matt Crafton finished fourth. It also marks their second straight win after Ben Rhodes picked up the win at Kentucky. While GMS Racing was the dominant force the first half of the year, could ThorSport be finding the momentum at the right time as we head towards the playoffs? 

If it wasn’t for a late-race caution, though, the series could’ve easily had their first series winner as Logan Seavey was impressive in his series debut, leading 53 laps before fading back to eighth on the final pair of restarts. He is currently being dubbed as one of the top prospects, and we’ve seen what dirt talent can accomplish via Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson. Don’t be surprised if he isn’t running full-time, or at least most of the races next season. 

While the night was filled with excitement and a lot of great takeaways, there is one issue that needs to be addressed – the Last Chance Qualifier. It’s fair that 25 trucks qualify through the five heat races, leaving the rest for the shootout. Though only having two transfer from that with the rest of the field set by owner points defeats the purpose. If you’re going to run an event and you want drivers to put it on the edge, make it worth something by having five trucks qualify, leaving only two spots up to provisionals. Could you imagine the moves that would be made out of desperation? Just look back to the first year with Norm Benning.  

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Categories
News

Chase Briscoe Edges Grant Enfinger in Dramatic Last Lap for Win at Eldora Speedway

With dirt slinging, doors banging and the checkered flag waving, Chase Briscoe edged ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger to earn his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) victory in the sixth annual race at the historic Eldora Speedway.

In a one-off race with ThorSport, Briscoe, on newer tires, took advantage of a Lap 145 restart to pass leader and Toyota Racing Development protégé Logan Seavey, but the event’s final caution within three laps of the finish set the tone for the exciting finish in NASCAR overtime.

For Briscoe, a Ford Performance development driver, it was his second straight win after earning his first career victory last November in the Truck Series season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway with Brad Keselowski Racing.

“I know (Enfinger) is running for a championship and he’s our teammate,” said Briscoe. “I wasn’t going to wear him out. I wasn’t going to just wreck him for the win. We rubbed, and I definitely let it float on the way to the wall and I’m sorry for that, it’s not how I race.

“I’m so thankful that Ford allowed me to do this race. I was begging them about three weeks ago to let me do it and it came together at the last minute. It’s awesome to be in Victory Lane.”

Spending much of his childhood in the grandstands of Eldora watching his grandfather compete, Briscoe became emotional talking about the significance of winning in his second Eldora Truck Series start.

“It just means so much to win Eldora,” Briscoe said. “I was growing up as a dirt guy. My grandpa won here, and this is our Daytona for dirt guys. This win is for all the dirt guys out there who don’t get a shot. Tonight proves a dirt guy can do it at this level.”

After the race, Enfinger said if the roles were reversed, he would raced Briscoe the same way.

“I feel like we had a position on him, we were pretty good right there,” said Enfinger. “He used me up and I was going for it, he didn’t do anything dirty, it was just the last lap for a really, really big race.

“I really wish we could have gotten a win. I’m glad Duke and Ronda Thorson got a win, I really wish it could have been this No. 98 team. Man, that close. It’s a shame. A heartbreaker here, but I’m really proud of the effort here.”

Dirt stalwart Stewart Friesen recovered from a Lap 28 spin to finish third while defending Eldora winner Matt Crafton took fourth and three-time NCWTS winner this season Brett Moffitt rounded out the top-five.

Noah Gragson earning his spot into the field through the last-chance-qualifier finished sixth, John Hunter Nemechek claimed seventh, while Seavey who led 53 laps in his debut slipped to eighth on older tires.

“I’m not sure there was much I could’ve done there,” said Seavey. “Right at the beginning of that second stage, you could kind of feel the track was getting a little abrasive and maybe taking a little rubber off the tires. My truck gained a lot of grip there in the second stage and I just slowed down because I knew everybody was going to take tires and I had already taken mine.

“I assumed I had to try to take as much as I could, but at the end of the day, you know we had 50 more laps and I think just overheating the tires and got kind of eaten up there those last couple restarts.

“Overall, (the) experience was as good as I think it could’ve gone without those last couple cautions there at the end.”