LAS VEGAS—Winning was worth the wait for Chase Briscoe in the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Briscoe won the first stage of the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, but NASCAR red-flagged the action on Lap 50 when rain saturated the track. Still, the weather didn’t damper the spirits of the 25-year-old driver from Mitchell, Indiana.
When the race resumed on Sunday, Briscoe remained in contention. With an assist from his pit crew on the final stop for service, he was able to wheel the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford off of pit road first and maintain the lead for his first win in Sin City and the third of his Xfinity career.
"The race was really weird," Briscoe said. "I feel like every time I came to Vegas you can run up to the wall or even run the middle really well and the bottom kind of goes away after seven or eight laps. At the beginning of the race I felt like I was really, really good and I had clean air obviously and we lost the lead and my car completely changed. It took a total 180 and it was hard to tell if it was really just dirty air doing that or the sun going down. At the end (Austin) Cindric obviously ran away with it there for a while and then when I was able to get the lead I kind of ran away with it and it seemed like tonight was the fastest I’ve ever felt like I’ve gone around Vegas just because we had so much grip and so much speed around the bottom.
"It was almost like driving a truck how hard you could drive the thing, so clean air was crucial just because it was so hard to make a pass. I probably gave up a ton of time trying to make the top work and even trying to make the middle work and pass guys and just had to try to stay disciplined to run the bottom and obviously it would prevail.”
Austin Cindric finished second followed by Ryan Sieg, Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton, Brandon Jones, Michael Annett, Justin Allgaier, Riley Herbst and Ross Chastain.
The race resumed on Lap 51 and Briscoe regained the lead. Allgaier came to life in the No. 7 Brandt Chevy and led the final 15 laps of Stage 2 for the segment win with Cindric, Briscoe, Annett and Burton in tow.
Cindric appeared to be in contention during the second half when he led three times for 36 laps. But his progress stalled when Noah Gragson dumped polesitter Myatt Snider on the front stretch to ignite the fifth and final caution on Lap 163.
The No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing team gave Briscoe the lead in the pits and he held serve over the final 36 laps for his first win of the season. Crew chief Richard Boswell is impressed with the growth he's seen in Briscoe over the last two seasons. The driver's victories have come at three different style tracks--a road course, a short track and an intermediate.
“Yeah, from an on-track standpoint absolutely," Boswell said. "I think the one thing that a lot of people don’t get to see is just the humbleness that comes with him and his positive attitude and his way to relate to all the guys and sponsors and everybody, so from an off-track and on-track standpoint that’s what I’m most impressed with is just his ability to relate with the people.
"On-track, you hit the nail on the head. He’s good everywhere.”
Burton scored his second top-five finish of the season and his first on an intermediate track.
“Mile-and-a-halves are not necessarily my strong suit just for the fact I haven’t run them as much as I have short tracks growing up and all that," Burton said. "Just trying to learn it and get better at it. Felt like my team executed well today better than we did yesterday. We worked better as a team today. That was good to learn from what we did on Saturday, get a chance to look back at it and now have a better result because of it.
"Felt pretty good about it. Not what we wanted, obviously we came here to win and didn’t quite make that happen. I think we’re building momentum and hopefully, we’ll be a force to reckon with soon.”
Briscoe maintains the lead in the Xfinity Series standings by seven points over Gragson.
"It’s so early, but definitely it’s nice to get a win early," Briscoe said. "I think obviously we were hoping that we could get a win at some point in the year, we expected to, but to get it before Phoenix is definitely nice just because we can go there and kind of try some stuff because I feel like that’s one place I need to get way better at.
"That being said, it’s nice to take the point lead. It doesn’t mean as much this early in the season like you said, but it’s a good confidence-booster for all the guys and it goes a long way when you’re that first garage stall with your guys and their work ethic and everything else. We knew that we could go win races, but to get one this early in the year I think it’ll go a long way, especially on this west coast swing. It’s hard to stay motivated and for us to win the first one that definitely goes a long way.”