INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Chase Briscoe parked the No. 98 car on the front straightaway at Indianapolis, climbed out and scaled the catch fence with some crew members. He even kissed the bricks.
It was the kind of celebration that made team owner Tony Stewart proud.
The 25-year-old who grew up dreaming of racing at the Brickyard, just like Stewart, made a late pit-stop for tires pay off by retaking the lead, holding off AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric for the frantic few final laps and becoming the first Xfinity Series driver to win on Indy’s road course.
Justin Haley finished second, 1.1717 seconds behind Briscoe.
“I just can’t believe I won at Indianapolis,” Briscoe said. “It’s still not as prestigious as winning on the oval, but to be the first to do something here, it’s still special — especially when you grow up less than an hour away from here.”
Noah Gragson wound up third while Allmendinger and Cindric faded to fourth and fifth as they battled and bumped around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile course over the final two laps.
It wasn’t exactly the scene Briscoe envisioned.
He would have preferred doing a burnout in front of his family, friends and roaring fans for home-state winner. Instead, the roughly 250,000 seats were completely empty, his family watched from their home and a handful of crew members joined him on the fence.
“I wish fans were here,” he said. “That’s tough. I wish they could have been here to share that because it may never happen again.”
Not if Briscoe keeps driving like this.
He’s won the last two Xfinity races and three of the last four overall. He leads the series with five wins this season, and his seventh career win will be remembered as much for how it happened as where it happened.
“I thought it was a great show,” Haley said after getting to witness the battle from behind the leaders. “I really enjoyed it, it was fun to come and learn and I was really excited to be here. It’s my home track, it’s Briscoe’s home track.”
And yet Briscoe, admittedly, nearly blew it.
After winning stage two and leading most of the final stage, he and the other leaders pitted under yellow with eight laps to go. On the restart, he passed three cars heading into the first turn with Allmendinger and Cindric, the son of Team Penske President Tim Cindric, in full chase mode.
Instead of pulling away, though, Briscoe made a rare mistake and suddenly the three cars were running almost side-by-side. They came speeding down the front straightaway with three laps left and Allmendinger eventually passed Briscoe as the three cars headed toward the first turn.
He wasn’t in the lead for long.
“I kind of did a dirt-track slide into them and I looked around and suddenly there was no one around me,” Briscoe said.
That move allowed Briscoe to regain the momentum as the battle for track position continued behind him.
“We were kind of chasing down the top three and had a bad pit stop,” Haley said. “So when they started racing, it made me able to catch them quicker.”
Nobody could catch Briscoe, though, as he raced toward his post-race party plan.
“Every week, I’ve talked about how the fans make winning fun and the last couple times, I didn’t really celebrate because I don’t get hyped up,” he said. “But to win here at Indianapolis, driving for my hero, with (interim crew chief) Greg Zipadelli in my box, it’s just unbelievable.”