CONCORD, N.C. - Chase Briscoe earned his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at one of NASCAR’s toughest new venues – winning Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 200 on the new infield road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Briscoe ran flawlessly over the final 25-lap segment and easily bested Justin Marks to become the first driver to win on the new layout – a 2.28-mile, 17-turn layout that utilizes both an infield road course as well most of the traditional oval – noting after the race that his No. 98 Biagi-DenBeste Racing Ford didn’t have a scratch on it.
Austin Cindric finished third, followed by Ryan Preece and Christopher Bell.
Briscoe’s first series victory comes in just his 14th-career start. Since making his series debut earlier this season at Atlanta, Briscoe has tallied four top-10 finishes driving for Roush-Fenway Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste Racing.
“Honestly, I can’t believe it. We were so far off in practice. The car was great. The driver was not,” said Briscoe. “I watched a lot of video, a lot of on board stuff trying to get better overnight. It seemed like everyday we came back we’d pick up a second and I knew when we got in the race and I got around guys I could see more of what they were doing and where they were beating me. That was really the biggest key there is just getting around other cars and seeing what they were doing different.
“I was holding back tears the last couple of laps. This year has not been by my standards anywhere near where it needs to be. We’ve wrecked a lot of race cars and I think my best finish was ninth, so I was really down on myself personally. I was just waiting for the caution to come out. I knew it was gonna come at some point and the restarts were crazy getting down into one. Luckily, the good Lord upstairs didn’t bring caution and we were able to hold on.”
Saturday’s race was the first competitive test for the new infield/oval road course – a hybrid layout that has had crew chiefs and drivers up and down both the Xfinity and Cup Series garage struggling to wrap their heads around how to set up their cars for the varying track conditions.
Chief among their concerns was the long, sweeping opening turn into the road-course section of the track – a natural bottleneck that had the potential to take out half the field.
Theirs fears would prove to be well-founded, but after pole-sitter Austin Cindric led the field through the opening lap without incident, everyone seemed to breathe easier.
Cindric held the top spot until he looped his No. 22 Ford on lap 13, handing the lead to Daniel Hemric who went on to win the opening 15-lap stage.
After electing not to pit, Hemric held the top spot through the start of the second stage before Briscoe tracked him down and made the pass for the lead with 35 laps to go.
With four laps to go in the second stage, Briscoe gave up the lead to come to pit road alongside Hemric and Cindric while Bell took over the lead and held on to win the stage.
Between segments, Bell brought the field to pit road while Briscoe stayed out along with the rest of the top 10 drivers – putting Hemric and Marks on Briscoe’s bumper for the restart.
Barely a lap into the final stage, Ryan Truex and Ty Majeski came together in turn one, stacking up nearly a dozen cars including Michael Annett and Brendan Gaughan.
With the race back under green, Hemric continued to put on the pressure on Briscoe until Hemric overshot the frontstretch chicane with ten laps to go, forcing Briscoe to stop on the racetrack to serve a stop-and-go penalty, allowing Marks to take over second place.
With Hemric no longer a threat, Briscoe was able to pull away from Marks over the final laps to win by 1.5 seconds.
Briscoe’s victory was his second of the season after winning the Truck Series race at Eldora back in July – also in part-time equipment.
“It’s pretty special. Winning really two of the most different races we have all year between Eldora and the Roval,” said Briscoe. “Luckily Hemric had his issue and that kind of let me have a little breathing room. I think with two or three to go I came into the final corner and I overshot it and I was starting to get worried, and I think Justin kind of did the same thing with me.”
Justin Marks collected his second top-five Xfinity Series finish in just his third start of the season – all of them on road courses. The 37-year old sport scar specialist announced earlier this week and this weekend would mark his last in NASCAR.
“These Roval races are always challenging for these series to put on, given the confines of the oval, but I thought it was great,” said Marks. “If we’re going to reinvigorate this fan base, we’ve got to think outside the box and do things like this.”
Cindric’s third-place finish allowed him to make up some ground in the Xfinity Series playoff standings – jumping from 11th to ninth and just nine points out of eighth place cutoff to advance to the next round.
“I’m the one driving the car and if I spin out by myself the only question is, ‘Why are you driving so hard?’”, Cindric said. “We just didn’t have the ability to hold on to the rear tires long enough and I was just pushing it too hard to get my 10 points. I lost five of those, so if I miss the next round by five points I can blame myself, but we’ll go on and go to Dover.”
Bell continues to lead the playoff standings – with a win in hand – followed by Hemric and Tyler Reddick. Justin Allgaier 12th after a crash with Ryan Sieg and fell from third to seventh with one race remaining before the Round of Eight begins at Kansas Speedway.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course – Concord, NC
Drive for the Cure 200 – September 29, 2018
1. (9) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 55.
2. (4) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, 55.
3. (1) Austin Cindric # (P), Ford, 55.
4. (10) Ryan Preece, Toyota, 55.
5. (13) Christopher Bell # (P), Toyota, 55.
6. (7) Matt Tifft (P), Chevrolet, 55.
7. (6) Cole Custer (P), Ford, 55.
8. (14) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 55.
9. (3) Tyler Reddick # (P), Chevrolet, 55.
10. (2) Daniel Hemric (P), Chevrolet, 55.
11. (15) Ryan Reed (P), Ford, 55.
12. (16) Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 55.
13. (5) Alex Labbe #, Chevrolet, 55.
14. (17) Elliott Sadler (P), Chevrolet, 55.
15. (12) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 55.
16. (11) Ryan Truex (P), Chevrolet, 55.
17. (18) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 55.
18. (19) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 55.
19. (25) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 55.
20. (23) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 55.
21. (21) Lawson Aschenbach, Chevrolet, 55.
22. (22) Brandon Jones (P), Toyota, 55.
23. (29) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 55.
24. (28) Josh Bilicki #, Toyota, 55.
25. (36) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 55.
26. (30) Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 55.
27. (34) David Starr, Chevrolet, 55.
28. (37) Chad Finchum #, Dodge, 55.
29. (35) Spencer Boyd #, Chevrolet, 55.
30. (33) Dylan Murcott, Chevrolet, 55.
31. (40) Vinnie Miller #, Chevrolet, 52.
32. (24) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 50.
33. (26) Katherine Legge, Chevrolet, 50.
34. (8) Ty Majeski, Ford, 49.
35. (32) Bayley Currey(i), Toyota, Engine, 37.
36. (27) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, Suspension, 37.
37. (20) Andy Lally, Chevrolet, Accident, 34.
38. (31) Landon Cassill, Dodge, Engine, 30.
39. (39) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Brakes, 20.
40. (38) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, Suspension, 6.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 81.267 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 32 Mins, 35 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.478 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 10 laps.
Lead Changes: 4 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Cindric # (P) 1-13; D. Hemric (P) 14-17; C. Briscoe 18-26; C. Bell # (P) 27-31; C. Briscoe 32-55.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) C. Briscoe 2 times for 33 laps; A. Cindric # (P) 1 time for 13 laps; C. Bell # (P) 1 time for 5 laps; D. Hemric (P) 1 time for 4 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 21,00,9,22,42,18,2,3,7,61
Stage #2 Top Ten: 20,00,9,18,1,90,61,23,98,01
Top 12 in Points: 1. Christopher Bell – 2132 (5 Wins); 2. Daniel Hemric – 2099; 3. Tyler Reddick – 2090 (1 Win); 4. Cole Custer – 2083; 5. Matt Tifft – 2082; 6. Elliott Sadler – 2080; 7. Justin Allgaier – 2080 (5 Wins); 8. Ross Chastain – 2078 (1 Win); 9. Austin Cindric – 2069; 10. Ryan Truex – 2054; 11. Ryan Reed – 2053; 12. Brandon Jones – 2050.