Briscoe returns to ‘old ex-girlfriend’ Iowa, longing for glory days

By Matt Crider | Staff Writer

NEWTON, Iowa — The last time Chase Briscoe saw Iowa Speedway, he was experiencing bliss in Victory Lane.

He eventually moved on from the NASCAR Xfinity Series and got a new job. Since he left Iowa behind, the track had a makeover and prepared to entertain a more prestigious group of friends.

“This has always been my favorite racetrack,” Briscoe said Saturday. “It’s different now. It’s kind of like an old ex-girlfriend. You haven’t seen her in a long, long time, and you come back and you see her 10 years later and she’s kind of the same but it’s not near as cool anymore. For me, it’s kind of bittersweet. It’s still Iowa but it’s not near as fun as the old Iowa.”

Briscoe returns behind the wheel of the No. 14 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing as the NASCAR Cup Series makes its debut Sunday on Iowa’s 7/8-mile oval.

The track has fresh asphalt in the corners, which changed the amount of grip available to the drivers and cars.

“The old track was by far the best racetrack I think I’ve ever raced on in my entire life,” Briscoe said. “You could run from literally the dead bottom all the way to the wall. It was rough. It was worn out. It was slick. It was just perfect. And now they’ve repaved it. It’s way faster. It’s one groove. You can’t really move around anymore. It’s not rough anymore. 

“So it’s still the same Iowa in the sense of the shape and everything else, but how it races is totally different. Tomorrow when we race, we will never get above the second — for sure the third — lane. It’s just never going to happen.”

Briscoe finished in the top 10 in all three of his Xfinity starts at Iowa, driving Fords for Jack Roush and Fred Biagi. He improved each time, culminating in a victory in July 2019. 

He has two other national series starts at the track, posting a top-10 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2017 and a win in the ARCA Menards Series in 2016.

“There’s some things I feel like the old track you could do that still kind of correlate over but not a whole lot, so it’s going to be interesting,” Briscoe said. “With the repave, it’s just completely changed what made Iowa so unique out of every other racetrack. Hopefully as it wears and stuff, it will go back to that.”

Carson Hocevar also raced at Iowa in 2019.

“I was here in an ARCA car. You could just run the top the whole time; you could run the bottom,” Hocevar said. “Always put on really good races. I’m sure the bumps were bad and all, but give us at least an option if we want to try the fence.

“You saw it in [Cup] practice: If you get two lines to racing and everything else is dirty and never been touched, the second you get out of that lane you’re just going to crash.”

With or without new asphalt, Indiana native Briscoe is glad NASCAR brought the Cup Series to Iowa.

“When the Cup Series comes, you have all the big names. There’s  a reason the Cup Series gets the most TV viewership compared to the Xfinity Series,” Briscoe said. “It’s just a different level when you bring the Cup Series in. This is a track that I feel has deserved a Cup race for a really, really long time, just from a track standpoint — the turnout’s always really good and I feel like it races well.

“Every time I ran in the lower series, it was packed. You come here for an ARCA race, it’s almost sold out. It’s been cool to see. This part of the country — it’s such a great motor sports pocket.”

Briscoe qualified sixth and Hocevar 20th for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 350. Kyle Larson claimed the pole with a lap of 136.458 mph.

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