In the days and months leading up to Saturday’s inaugural Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, Indiana’s own, Chase Briscoe left no doubt how important a victory would be to him.
He sure had to earn this one.
After holding off an aggressive late race charge from the field, the 25-year old Hoosier took the checkered flag, maneuvered out of his No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and joined team members to climb the frontstretch fencing just as his team owner, fellow Indiana native Tony Stewart had famously done after earning Indianapolis victories in the NASCAR Cup Series.
It is Briscoe’s third win in the last four NASCAR Xfinity Series races and fifth of the season – a personal best and current series best mark - and certainly a sentimental accomplishment as well.
“Everybody knows growing up my hero in racing was Tony Stewart and getting to drive for him and watch him win the Brickyard and that was always his signature thing and I just wanted to do it," a smiling Briscoe told NBC Sports after climbing back down the fence. “Honestly, it’s not the same prestige as winning on the oval but you still won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and it doesn’t matter if your racing on the oval, the road course, the dirt track or even the parking lot, it’s special winning here.
“Growing up and coming here all the time it’s unbelievable to think I just won here. So happy.”
“I’m wore out, that fence climb will take a lot out of you," he added. “I’ve dreamed of coming to this race track and just getting to race here so to win here is unbelievable. I can’t put it into words."
Briscoe to beat a pair of road racing’s best in A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Cindric to earn the hometown win. An exciting, action-packed final 10 laps – featuring four lead changes – forced Briscoe to use every trick he had. Ultimately, he held off Justin Haley by 1.717-seconds for the victory as the lead pack cars aggressively traded positions in the last lap.
Noah Gragson finished third, followed by Allmendinger and Cindric, who put up the day’s best challenges for Briscoe. Ross Chastain, Justin Allgaier, Alex Labbe, Michael Annett and Preston Pardus completed the top 10. It was the Floridian Pardus’ first ever top-10 finish.
Early in the event road racing ace Austin Cindric posed a valiant case for this first trophy of the season. After starting 10th he took the lead five laps into the race and held a commanding six-second lead before a caution that closed out the opening stage of racing. It was Cindric’s fourth stage win of the season and certainly confirmed the pre-race favorite was ready to win.
Cindric’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford came out of the pits second to Chase Briscoe’s SHR Ford, but Cindric was called for jumping the ensuing restart. Cindric told his team on the radio that he was hit from behind at the start and did not take off early. But NASCAR officials reviewed the footage and ruled that Cindric would have to serve the penalty. The green flag stop dropped him back to 31st running position but he worked his way back to seventh by the start of the final stage.
That position was right behind another of the sport’s strongest road course drivers, A.J. Allmendinger – who also had a mid-race NASCAR penalty after pitting too early during the race’s first caution.
Their race back through the field to challenge for the win was predictably compelling with Allmendinger coming up through the field and taking the lead for two laps – laps 59-60. Briscoe took the lead going into Turn 1 with two laps remaining and contact among the next group of cars allowed Briscoe to drive off in the final two laps.
“The restarts, I was starting on the outside which I didn’t think was the best scenario," Briscoe said. “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 (Allmendinger) started racing pretty hard and that gave me a chance to get back in there and I threw a slide job into [turns] one and two and I think that was by far the hardest I have run in my life to get a win."