The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs got a lot more interesting on Saturday evening (Sept. 28).
Both drivers led early in the event — Briscoe for a race-leading 21 laps and Bell for 19. Briscoe likely had the best car, but a differing pit strategy put him behind most of the field. The driver of the No. 98 Ford fought hard to work his way back up late.
“I felt like we had the car to beat all day long,” Briscoe said. “We were able to constantly come back through the field. We had to go for points, obviously because of our situation.”
Briscoe then caught up to Bell in the closing laps and attempted to pass the No. 20 on the frontstretch chicane. The result was contact between the two cars as Briscoe ran Bell off the track.
“He [Briscoe] was a lot faster than me at that point, so I was going to let him go whenever he got beside me,” Bell said. “And then, he ran me off the road down in the chicane. I decided I would race him back, and then, all of a sudden, we got put to the back under yellow.”
Briscoe explained why he ran Bell off the track.
“I honestly felt like I could take it all the way to the next curbing because I had ran him down from almost a straightaway,” Briscoe said. “So I thought honestly he was going to give it to me … I was committed at that point. There was nothing I could do to not do that. He obviously stayed in the gas, and that’s what happened.
“I haven’t seen a replay still of what happened so it’s hard for me to say. It always feels different than what you see outside the car.
“I feel like I was doing everything I could to go and win the race. That pass was crucial down there to try to have a shot to catch [race leader AJ Allmendinger].”
According to the rules, a driver missing a chicane has to serve a stop-and-go penalty. But Bell kept going, stayed with Briscoe, and further contact between the two resulted in a spun-out No. 98.
Bell said he didn’t stop to serve his penalty right away because, “In the driver’s meeting … there’s a clause if you miss a chicane due to an incident, they would review it. I figured me getting run off the racetrack with no other way to go is a good enough incident to not stop.”
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” Bell said. “If I stop, I’m going to be 10 spots behind, so yeah.”
The caution flag flew and Bell had to go to the tail of the field to serve his penalty. Briscoe’s team, meanwhile spent a long time making repairs on pit road during the caution. Both drivers never fully recovered; Briscoe managed to finish ninth and Bell was 12th.
“I remember looking to my left in the mirror thinking he was gonna stop, because I knew he had to have went all four [tires off] because I was two wheels over,” Briscoe said. “It was a racing deal. I feel like we were both trying to win the race. There’s nothing wrong with that.
“I feel like I got turned down here, and that’s what I don’t understand. I mean, we’re both racing for the win … I had no reason to move him off the racetrack or anything.”
Despite the disagreement, don’t expect Bell to reach out to Briscoe this week to smooth things over.
“I don’t know what there is to talk about,” Bell said when asked about a future discussion.