For Chase Briscoe, Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway may have had one of the season’s longest closing laps.
A seemingly peaceful road course race descended into trouble as two late cautions completely altered Chase Briscoe’s chances of making the playoffs.
Briscoe wasn’t in contention for victory as the race entered a two-lap overtime, but he still had a mathematical chance to progress in the series playoffs based on points, though he would probably need some assistance.
Austin Cindric, who was also competing for the last transfer spot, spun out in front of him, and Briscoe eventually gained some as he overtook both Austin Dillon and Erik Jones as they entered the backstretch chicane for position.
With a ninth-place result, Briscoe, who had began the overtime outside the top-20, moved up to the eighth and last playoff berth, two points ahead of Kyle Larson, the defending champion.
“What a wild day. I told my guys before we took the initial green in the race, there’s a difference between thinking we could move on and knowing we could move on,” Briscoe said. “This team never gives up. I told them I was never going to give up.
“It took every bit of it there at the end. To be easily in (early in the race), then that debris caution comes out. Still, I thought we had a really good shot of making it in. Get wrecked on the backstretch. Crazy at the end of these races, especially the road course race, how much can change so quickly.”
As the race came to a close, Briscoe claimed he was beginning to think he wouldn’t place high enough to progress but then he witnessed Cindric spin out.
“I thought then maybe there’s still a chance,” he said. “We had so much fresher tires than anybody. Johnny (Klausmeier, crew chief) pumped them way up to qualifying pressures, let me go attack, have the ball in my hands.”
Christopher Bell’s choice to pit late in the race for new tyres also enabled him to pass Kevin Harvick on the last restart and take the victory. Tire strategy was largely ignored for most of the race because of a lack of cautions.
The semifinal round will begin in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway the following weekend, and then there will be races in Martinsville, Virginia, and Homestead, Florida.
“Looking forward to the Round of 8. A lot of really, really good race tracks for me,” Briscoe said. “If we can get to Phoenix, we know we got a good car there, too.”
Briscoe, who took first place earlier this year at the championship race’s host city of Phoenix, is optimistic about the upcoming round.
“NASCAR is reviewing data, video and radio transmissions from the 41 car following its incident on the backstretch during the final lap. NASCAR will communicate the results of the review early this week. Any potential penalties would not affect the Round of 8 field.”
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