Chase Briscoe heads home this weekend for the NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Briscoe, a native of Mitchell, Indiana, goes into the anticipated race (3 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as the points leader after claiming his series-leading fourth win of the season.
The No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing team has put a lot of emphasis on the inaugural road course race knowing how much it means to Briscoe. Since February, Briscoe has put countless hours in the simulator to prepare.
"I’m super excited," Briscoe said on "NASCAR Live" on the Motor Racing Network. "Indianapolis would mean the world to me to win. You know growing up a die-hard Tony Stewart fan and having ‘Zippy’ (Greg Zipadelli) on the box. I mean winning at Indy would be icing on the cake."
Now driving for Stewart, Briscoe remembers watching his car owner win on the oval at Indianapolis in the 2005 and 2007 Brickyard 400s.
"I wasn’t there in attendance, but I was watching on TV fist pumping and going crazy," Briscoe said. "I remember the first one he won and then when he won the second one and he gave the interview about all his real die-hard fans. I was like, man this is my guy. That’s why I love this guy and to see how much it meant to him to win at Indy."
Greg Zipadelli, who was Stewart’s crew chief for his two Indy wins, has been atop the pit box for Briscoe the past three races. He is subbing for Richard Boswell, who is serving a four-race suspension for a safety violation when a ballast dropped from the car in the first race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Zippadeli called the race for two of Briscoe’s wins with the most recent coming last weekend at Pocono Raceway.
"It hasn’t really affected us I don’t think just because the fact that, you know, we don’t have practice," Briscoe said. "In a sense Boswell is still setting the car up. Zippy’s just coming in and calling the race, which he has so much experience doing that."
This weekend, however, teams will get two practice sessions on Friday on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. It will mark the first practice sessions since the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think this week will be our first real challenge of, you know, how we overcome having practice finally," Briscoe said. "It’s a totally new racetrack so we don’t know what to expect anyway. I think that’s what it’s really kind of test us just because we haven’t necessarily been tested because we show up and race so our cars are kind of set up how it is."
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The weekend will see the NTT IndyCar Series in action on the road course for the GMR Grand Prix, which will be held before the Xfinity Series race on Saturday.
"With IndyCar being there it gives the Xfinity Series drivers an opportunity to literally watch it first hand and kind of see what those guys are doing," Briscoe said. "I have a couple friends in IndyCar so I’ll be able to talk to them right before our race and kind of see what they felt like the track was doing or whatever. So I think that is a benefit to have them there the same weekend as us just because we can kind of try to learn from them.
"But in a track since I don’t think their rubber will change a lot. I don’t really feel like it does whenever we go oval racing, except for maybe the first couple laps of a run and other than that it seems like it’s kind of fine. So I don’t know what to expect. I never ran on a road course with their rubber, but I would think it would be pretty similar to an oval."
While a win at Indy would be huge, Briscoe also has his eyes on Kentucky Speedway the following week.
"The next two weeks really are home races for me," Briscoe said. "Obviously Indianapolis is my home race, but Kentucky is really five or six miles closer to my hometown than Indianapolis is. Both of them are really big, but Indianapolis specifically would mean the world to me to win.
‘It’s kind of bittersweet going to Indy without fans. I was really looking forward to seeing all the people I normally don’t get to see. It seems like that race I always have so much fan support that it’s really humbling and I’m going to miss not being able to have that and to go to Kentucky the following week and have the same thing happen. But you know, it’d be pretty cool to win at Indy, and I can’t wait to get there."