INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s own Chase Briscoe put on quite a show in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard, the first NASCAR race held on the infield road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Briscoe, from nearby Mitchell, Ind., beat Justin Haley’s Chevrolet to the finish line by 1.7171 seconds. Noah Gragson’s Chevrolet was third followed by A.J. Allmendinger’s Chevrolet in fourth and Team Penske’s Austin Cindric in fifth.
It was Briscoe’s fifth win of the season in 13 races. Only Sam Ard’s six wins in his first 13 races of the 1984 season is a better mark than what Briscoe has done this season.
“Everybody knows that I grew up and my hero in racing was Tony Stewart,” Briscoe said after climbing the fence and kissing the bricks. “To get to drive for him and watch him win the Brickyard, that 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. It doesn’t matter if you are racing on the oval, the road course, the dirt track or even the parking lot, it is special when you win here. Growing up, coming here all the time, it is unbelievable to think that I just won here. I am so happy to get HighPoint.com in victory lane again. I am worn out.
“That fence climb will take a lot out of you.”
From a career standpoint, this victory was significant, but the winning driver still believes his Darlington win after his wife was told she had a miscarriage is still more personal.
“From a personal standpoint, Darlington meant a ton just because of what I was going through,” Briscoe said. “I have dreamed of coming to this race track and just getting to race here. To win here is unbelievable. I can’t put it into words. To get our sponsors in victory lane and driving for Stewart-Haas at Indianapolis. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
It was an outstanding battle that culminated with a restart with seven laps to go. Briscoe was in the lead fighting off Allmendinger and Cindric.
With four laps to go, Briscoe drove too hard into one of the turns in the infield section and Allmendinger took advantage, taking the lead as Cindric moved into second.
Cindric drove his Ford into the rear of Allmendinger’s Chevrolet, but the crafty veteran was able to maintain the lead. The top-four cars – Allmendinger, Cindric, Briscoe and Gragson – were locked into a tight group with fenders rubbing and tires smoking. It was even three-wide coming down the frontstretch with three laps to go and Briscoe regained the lead entering turn one.
Allmendinger and Cindric continued to beat and bang on each other and that allowed Briscoe to open a wide gap. Haley took advantage of the situation, closing the gap on the lead pack before moving into second as Gragson followed in third. Allmendinger and Cindric faded to fourth and fifth after damaging their cars in the battle for the lead.
“It was a very adrenaline packed and nerve wracking run,” Briscoe said of the battle at the end of the race. “I don’t get too worked up in the race car but I have put a lot of pressure on myself for this race. I didn’t want to see the caution at the end because I thought I had a good enough lead that I didn’t think anybody was going to catch me. Anytime you have a late race restart, you never know what can happen. I was a little worried.
“I had an awesome restart and got the lead but then I saw Allmendinger get behind me. He is so good in the braking zones and really pressured me a lot,” Briscoe continued. “I felt like I was doing a good job and then I was doing the same thing I had been doing every time into turn 10 and I just randomly wheel hopped for whatever reason. I don’t know what happened. I was so mad and frustrated with myself. I tried to maintain composure. I knew those guys were going to race each other and once they started racing each other it let me close the gap back. I think if it was just Allmendinger or just Cindric that got out front I would have never caught them. Them racing each other was my saving grace. I don’t know what happened. We went three wide into one and I threw a dirt track slide job in there and was able to clear both of them.”
The race prior to that was relatively incident-free, except for a few minor cautions. The final seven laps, however, lived up to the expectations NASCAR had by moving the Xfinity Series from the oval to the road course at IMS.
“I think I had the Good Lord on my side for sure,” Briscoe said of the conclusion to the race. “The restarts, I was starting on the outside which I didn’t think was the best scenario. It seemed like holes were opening up. I wasn’t very good when guys were right behind me because I needed the back of my corner to be really good.
“You can’t do that when they are right behind you, especially Allmendinger. He is so good in the braking zones. I did give it away in a sense over there. Cindric and him started racing pretty hard and that gave me a chance to get back in there and I threw a slide job into one and two and I think that was by far the hardest I have ran in my life to try to get a win.”
Briscoe entered the season saying he needed to win eight races in Xfinity to help land a NASCAR Cup Series ride in 2020. He is rapidly closing in on that target.
“We aren’t going to stop at eight if we get there, that is for sure,” Briscoe said. “We are really rolling right now. I think today is a statement win. 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.
“I am so blessed to be driving this race car. I am a luck guy that gets to drive it and it is truly a blessing. I hate that there are no fans here. I get to see so many of my fans, friends and family here that I don’t get to see anywhere else. Kind of bittersweet to win here but I know they are all watching on TV. I can’t believe we won at Indy.”
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