CONCORD, N.C. – Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 turned sour for Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell on the 59th lap.
Both drivers were in contention to win Saturday’s race, with Briscoe starting from the pole and leading a race-high 21 laps while Bell led 19 laps. However, an incident between the two while battling for the second position behind eventual race winner A.J. Allmendinger left both drivers a bit frustrated.
Briscoe was attempting to pass Bell through the frontstretch chicane when the two came together, forcing Bell to run wide and miss the second portion of the chicane. Bell stayed in the gas and ran alongside Briscoe through turn one and into turn two, but they made contact and Briscoe spun to bring out the caution flag.
Briscoe rejoined the race at the rear of the field while Bell was penalized for skipping part of the chicane and not coming to a complete stop on the frontstretch, with NASCAR officials sending him to the tail of the field as his penance.
Bell was able to race back through the field to finish 12th while Briscoe rebounded to finish ninth. Neither driver was very pleased in the moments after the race.
“I felt like we had the car to beat all day long. We were able to constantly come back through the field,” Briscoe said. “We had to go for points obviously because of our situation and we were always able to get back. There at the end I felt like I still could have ran down A.J. I felt like we were really good on the long run and that’s kind of where he struggled.
“I still haven’t seen a replay of what happened, so it’s hard for me to say (what happened). It always feels different, I feel like, than the way you actually see outside of the car, so I don’t know what happened. I felt like I was doing everything I could do try to win the race and knew that pass was crucial down there to try to have a shot to catch A.J. and, like I said, I haven’t really seen it so I don’t know what happened.”
Bell said he was going to let Briscoe take the position, but Briscoe forced the issue through the frontstretch chicane.
“The 98 (Chase Briscoe) was really fast and I was going to let him go as soon as he got beside me and then whenever we got into the chicane, he didn’t leave me any option besides running me off the race track,” Bell said. “At that point, I was just going to race him back as hard as I could.”
Bell thought NASCAR would give him a pass for missing the chicane because he felt like he was forced by Briscoe to miss it, but officials penalized him anyway.
“I knew it was a penalty to miss the chicane, but there was a clause in there in the driver’s meeting where if you missed the chicane due to an incident, NASCAR would review it,” Bell said. “I figured that me getting run off the race track and having no other option was a justifiable reason, but I guess not.”
Briscoe felt like the incident was simply the result of two drivers racing hard for a position, but admitted he was a bit confused about the contact and resulting spin.
“It was a racing deal. I feel like we were both trying to win the race and there’s nothing wrong with that. I felt like I got turned down here and that’s what I don’t understand,” Briscoe said. “I mean, we’re both racing for the win and I felt I was doing everything I could. I had no reason to move him off the race track or anything.”
Bell said that if Briscoe felt the need to discuss what happened Saturday, he was welcome to come talk to him at any time.
“We haven’t ever had any issues before. He’s a hard racer, I’m a hard racer. If he has a problem with it, he can come ask me my opinion. That’s that,” Bell said.