INDIANAPOLIS –The final restart was shaping up to be a battle of Denny Hamlin vs. Chase Briscoe. Joe Gibbs Racing vs. Stewart-Haas Racing. Could the hold off a road racing ace in AJ Allmendinger who was restarting one row behind them as well as the best two cars all day in Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott?
Once the green flag dropped for the final time, it was an intense battle into Turn 1. No one was going to give an inch and it cost Briscoe the most at the time. He went off course and ran through the infield grass portion of the north end section of the race track.
“There at the restart, everybody is trying to out-brake each other getting into one and we all kind of missed it to a certain extent,” Briscoe said of the first turn incident between the two. “I was getting ran wide and had nowhere else to go. I knew I was going to go through the grass. It was just a matter of do you go through it slow or gas it wide-open and hope you get through it.”
Unfortunately for him, NASCAR felt strongly that he gained an advantage by going through the grass and assessed a stop-and-go penalty. Third place AJ Allmendinger knew that was coming and was told to set his sights on chasing down Hamlin for the win.
Hamlin, also knew. Briscoe, well no one told him…yet.
Briscoe, knowing that his playoff hopes likely rested on crossing the yard of bricks first as well as him racing on his hometrack (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) driving for his favorite boyhood race who also calls IMS his home track and knowing that he could pay Hamlin back for his view of the incident, well that combo helped spark this wild outcome.
“I don’t know if there would have been a penalty if I had gone through it slow but that was my only chance to win the race at that point,” Briscoe continued. “I went for that and stayed on him tight and knew (A.J. Allmendinger) was right behind me. He was on newer tires. A lot of guys were getting lazy through that turn and would just swing it out wide and leave the bottom wide open.”
That meant Briscoe was aggressive going down the backstretch in hoping to get to Hamlin’s bumper. He looked to pass him in the Turns 7-8 combo but instead spun him.
“So I was kind of all over him (Denny Hamlin) in the esses and when I went to go underneath him I just clipped him in the right rear,” Briscoe said of his viewpoint of the incident. “He was already trying to get back to the left so it just turned him right around. It is unfortunate for them. They were probably going to win the race if (Allmendinger) didn’t get to him.”
Most wondered why Briscoe was even pushing that hard. He wasn’t going to win and he took out the driver who likely was. Some questioned on if that was intentional for how Hamlin pinched Briscoe in Turn 1. Briscoe says that he never would have done that intentionally as he maintains that he didn’t know at that point that he was even penalized. It wasn’t relayed down to him yet by his spotter.
“For us we got a penalty and I don’t even know where we finished. It is frustrating to be that close. You can taste it and imagine what it would be like and then it gets taken away. I have a lot to be proud of. I feel like I showed that I belong here and I will get another chance next year.”
Hamlin says that he felt like initially Briscoe did the move out of desperation to get into the playoffs and felt like that was no way to win a race.
“I didn’t think I’d get crashed coming to the white,” Hamlin said. “I thought we were going to have a great day and take back the points lead but instead it turned around.
Hamlin, says that he’s not going to payback Briscoe in the future but does say he will race him a bit differently from this point forward.
“I’m not going to harp on it,” he said. “You have to live with the result because you can’t change it. He can’t change it. I can’t change it, right? I got crashed. He made a mistake. It happens. I think he was in desperation mode like he said and it came at my expense. Certainly if roles were reversed down the line, and he’s going to be here a while, probably not going to cut him any breaks in the end. It all comes back around. It doesn’t mean I’m wrecking him. It just means I won’t cut him any breaks from here on out.”