Saturday’s Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile road course. The Xfinity race will be the second event of a doubleheader Saturday with the NTT IndyCar Series scheduled to run at 12 p.m. ET.
It is a highly-anticipated new venture for series drivers, who welcome the challenge of road course racing at one of the world’s most famous ovals. Unlike the NASCAR Cup Series which will show up and race on Sunday, the Xfinity Series is being given a pair of 50-minute practice sessions because of the change in race course.
For Xfinity Series standings leader and Indiana-native Chase Briscoe it’s a ‘home’ race and the timing couldn’t be better. The driver of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford arrives back home in Indiana fresh off a series-best fourth victory scored last week at Pocono Raceway. And he leads the series points standings by three-points over JR Motorsports driver Noah Gragson in what’s been a robustly competitive season-to-date.
Briscoe has a pair of top-10 finishes in two starts on the traditional Indianapolis 2.5-mile oval the series used previously and he is optimistic about his chances on the road course too. His very first Xfinity Series victory came on a road course at another famous oval – Charlotte Motor Speedway – where he earned the 2018 inaugural Xfinity Series race win. Last season, Briscoe raced to top-10 finishes at all four road course venues – at Watkins Glen International, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road America and the Charlotte ROVAL.
A victory in Saturday’s race at Briscoe’s most-revered track stands to not only extend his points advantage but represent a big sentimental accomplishment too.
“I don’t know what it is about Indiana, but I feel like everybody from Indiana has a special pride about being from Indiana,” said Briscoe, whose team owner Tony Stewart is as famous a racing Hoosier as there is.
“I’m not sure if it’s like that for other states, but there is something about us Hoosiers where we want to see other Hoosiers do well. There’s just a lot of pride in being from Indiana and trying to win for Indiana and, obviously, it’s even bigger when we go to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There is something about a Hoosier at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
One of Briscoe’s most fierce competitors is another driver with a long family history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Austin Cindric. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford is the son of Tim Cindric, longtime team president of the Indy 500’s winningest organization Team Penske.
Not only does Cindric understand and share in the sentimental value of the hallowed Indianapolis track, but he’s been good at the Brickyard and both his career Xfinity Series victories have come on road courses (Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio in 2019). In fact last year, Cindric’s worst finish on the schedule’s four road course races was third-place – on the Charlotte ROVAL. He is definitely considered a master on this venue and beyond that, comes to Indianapolis feeling especially motivated as he still looks for his first win of the 2020 season.
Cindric is ranked fourth in the championship standings, 46 points behind Briscoe. He is one of three drivers among the top-eight still looking for that first trip to Victory Lane. Another with high hopes headed to Indianapolis is veteran Justin Allgaier – a road course winner and also a past champion on Indianapolis’ oval track. He sits a distant seventh in points – 113 points behind the leader Briscoe – but leads the series in stage wins (five) and is second only to teammate Gragson in laps led (344-317) among the series regulars.
A victory this weekend would be the Playoff insurance Allgaier would love to secure after a robust, yet frustrating season start. He is the only current fulltime Xfinity driver with a win on the famous Indianapolis oval and he earned that in 2018, weeks after claiming consecutive road course victories at Mid-Ohio and Road America. The driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet has three career road course wins and has finished top-five in three of the last four races at Indianapolis. Last year he finished ninth or better in all four Xfinity Series road course races.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!