Saturday’s motors: Briscoe overtakes Bell late for NASCAR Xfinity win in Iowa

Luke Meredith
Associated Press
Chase Briscoe (98) passes Christopher Bell (20) with seven laps to go in a NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Briscoe won the race.

Newton, Iowa — Chase Briscoe passed Christopher Bell with seven laps to go and won the NASCAR Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night for his first victory of the year.

Briscoe’s only other Xfinity victory came last season on Charlotte’s roval. Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford had been close all season, posting seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10s, but the 24-year-old Stewart-Haas driver finally broke through with a victory that felt like vindication.

“It’s nice, for sure, to finally silence everybody,” Briscoe said. “We definitely still aren’t near where we need to be, but I feel like we’ve been way closer, these past couple of weeks especially.”

Bell led a career-high 234 out of 250 laps, but old tires allowed Briscoe to take over and clinch a playoff berth in the No. 98 Ford.

John Hunter Nemechek was third, followed by Noah Gragson and points leader Tyler Reddick.

Cole Custer, who entered the race in third place, got loose and crashed into the wall with 90 laps to go. He was 29th after first and second-place finishes in his last two starts.

Bell, a five-time winner in 2019, has been so dominant at Iowa that he owns the record for the most laps led despite racing the short track just five times.

But Bell missed on tire strategy, and a late restart gave both Hunter Nemechek and Briscoe a shot at the No. 20 Toyota.

Bell drove as hard as he could on the preferred high line, only to watch helplessly as Briscoe slid underneath to seal the win and begin his push to threaten the so-called “Big Three” of Bell, Reddick and Custer.

“We’ve still got to get better if we’re going to beat the big three. But we’re slowly getting into the conversation to be that fourth guy,” Briscoe said.

Bell posted a top speed of 132.855 mph to win the pole for the fourth time this season earlier Saturday, with Briscoe also on the front row. Bell briefly lost his lead during a caution 15 laps from the end of the stage, but he still cruised to his 12th stage win.

The caution flag was dropped after Austin Cindric, fifth in the standings, lost a tire and went into the wall. The wreck knocked Cindric out of the race.

Bell dominated the second stage as well, leading every lap to earn yet another playoff point. But while Bell had the best car of the day, he didn’t have the best tires.

“To be able to hold him off as long as I did and not win the race stings,” Bell said. “It’s kind of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Justin Haley finished eighth in his first race since Nick Harrison, his crew chief, died on Sunday of unknown causes. Harrison was 37.

Chastain wins trucks race

Ross Chastain dominated at Pocono Raceway to win a NASCAR Truck Series race for the third time this season.

Chastain dedicated the victory to popular crew chief Nick Harrison, who died overnight hours after last week’s Xfinity Series race.

“This one’s for you, Nick!” Chastain yelled over the radio as he took the checkered flag.

Chastain has stamped himself a favorite to win the series championship, and he celebrated with an inflatable watermelon he stuffed inside the truck for a victory lap. Chastain always has watermelons around victory lane, a nod to his roots in the family fruit-farming business. The watermelon farmer-turned-racer led 54 laps in the No. 45 Chevrolet.

He grabbed a real watermelon once he hopped out of his truck and smashed it to the ground.

Chastain had a win in the series at Iowa stripped by NASCAR after his truck was found to be too low in a postrace inspection. NASCAR upheld the race-day decision after an appeal. But he had plenty of reason to celebrate at Pocono, giving him a victory to go with ones at Kansas and The Raceway at Gateway in Illinois.

“I’m so dang excited,” Chastain said. “We don’t back down at all. We just keep going.”

Tyler Ankrum was second, followed by Harrison Burton, Christian Eckes and Brett Moffitt.

King’s ink

Bubba Wallace is committed to getting a "champ stamp" of Richard Petty.

Wallace says he’ll get a tattoo somewhere on his body of an autograph of Petty’s signature after losing a bet this week. Petty, Wallace’s boss at Richard Petty Motorsports, surprised his driver in the car at a promotional event and scribbled his signature on the driver’s left arm.

Wallace, whose second-place finish in the 2018 Daytona 500 was the best finish ever for a black driver in that race, posted a photo of the autograph on Twitter and wrote, “43000 RTs and I’ll get it tattooed.” Petty made the No. 43 car famous in his Hall of Fame career and Wallace now drives the same number for the seven-time NASCAR champion.

Power takes Indy pole

Will Power was in a good place in his head and inside the Team Penske Chevrolet as he made the 13 turns around the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Power edged defending race champion Alexander Rossi for his record fourth pole in the event.

Power had a fast lap of 124.757 mph. Rossi, who signed a multiyear contract Saturday to remain with Andretti Autosport and avoid free agency, had a lap at 124.044 in a Honda.

“When I get in that zone, I usually nail everything,” Power said.

Power broke a tie with Michael Andretti for the most poles at Mid-Ohio. He also earned the P1 position in 2010, 2012 and 2017. Power leads the series this year with three poles (St. Petersburg and Circuits of America).

Power has 57 career poles, second overall to Mario Andretti’s 67.

Hamilton starting in front

Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the German Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel’s miserable form continued for Ferrari as he was unable to even set a time and will start from the back.

It got even worse for Ferrari as Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc was unable to start the last part of qualifying, known as Q3, and is set to begin from 10th place on the grid on Sunday.

Ferrari is winless in 10 races this season and that terrible run looks to continue, while Hamilton is aiming for a sixth win in seven. It was a record-extending 87th pole for the five-time world champion, who is 11 wins shy of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91.