Saturday's motors: Briscoe wins Xfinity race on wacky Charlotte roval

Associated Press
Chase Briscoe poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Concord, N.C. — Chase Briscoe is climbing his way through Ford Racing’s development system by racing any kind of car on any kind of track. That exposure gave the Indiana native the wherewithal to attack the new roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway as if it was America’s favorite dirt track, the one owned by hero Tony Stewart.

Briscoe treated the roval, a hybrid of Charlotte’s speedway and an infield road course, as if it was Ohio dirt track Eldora Speedway. Stewart’s track hosts sprint cars and NASCAR’s Truck Series, and Briscoe won there this summer for one of the few positive races in a season he’s found to be a struggle.

Briscoe snapped that streak Saturday with his first career Xfinity Series victory, in the first race of the weekend on the roval. It was a breakthrough moment because Briscoe had not even sniffed a victory in his 13 previous races,

“I feel like my career was getting really bad this year, and I needed to get my stock back up,” Briscoe said. “We’ve wrecked a lot of race cars and I think my best finish was ninth, so I was really down on myself personally.”

Briscoe was thrilled to get the win on such a challenging new track that he treated like it was Eldora.

“Winning really two of the most different races we have all year between Eldora and the roval, honestly, they had a lot of similarities because we didn’t have very much grip,” Briscoe said. “It’s huge to me. Everybody had to adapt to it and figure it out, and I don’t know that I’m necessarily the best at it, but I felt like I just tried not to hit anything, and this thing hardly has a scratch on it.”

Briscoe beat Justin Marks, a part-time NASCAR racer who said this week this race is his last one dabbling in these cars. After his runner-up finish, Marks said he may also end his full-time gig in sports cars because he wants to shift his focus to the business side of motorsports.

His final scheduled NASCAR race is Sunday in the Cup car and Marks is pleased to be going out on the roval. He likened it to the road course in Montreal and applauded NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports Inc. for gambling on the new event.

“If we’re going to reinvigorate this fan base and we’re going to regain some positive momentum on our side, we’ve got to think outside the box and do things like this,” said Marks. “The track itself is challenging. It’s a really challenging course. But you want to challenge this group of drivers. You want it to be hard for them.”

Briscoe, who won in a Ford fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing, led the last 24 of 55 laps.

The event was the lead-up to Sunday’s critical Cup playoff race, in which four drivers will be eliminated from title contention.

Saturday was also a playoff race for NASCAR’s second-tier Xfinity Series but Briscoe is not part of the playoffs so the victory did not move a driver into the next round. The race next week at Dover International Speedway is an elimination race, and Christopher Bell is the only driver advanced into the second round. The field will be trimmed from 12 to eight contenders after Dover.

Formula One

Valtteri Bottas beat Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, setting a strategy conundrum for their Mercedes team.

Bottas was 0.145 ahead of Hamilton and 0.56 ahead of third-placed Sebastian Vettel, who is second in the standings, 40 points off Hamilton.

Hamilton was fastest in the first two qualifying sessions but went wide on his last fast lap and had to abandon his challenge.

Mercedes must decide if it’s willing to sacrifice Bottas’ hopes of a first win this season to boost Hamilton’s shot at the championship. Bottas said he wanted to win but would consider the overall situation.

“My approach to the race tomorrow is definitely just trying to win the race. You can’t have any other goal starting from pole, so that’s going to be for sure the aim,” Bottas said.

“But of course we’re here as a team, we’re fighting for the world championship. Also Lewis is leading the championship with a bit of a gap to Sebastian and a very big gap to me, so always need to keep those things in mind.”

Hamilton leads with 281 points to 241 for Vettel in second. Bottas is fourth with 171 points.