Takeaways from Pocono: How Chase Briscoe's competitors helped him to an Xfinity Series win

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Let’s get this out of the way: Chase Briscoe did a heck of a job to chase down Ross Chastain for the win in Sunday’s Xfinity Series race and then hang on for the win.

He also got some help from a lot of the guys he was racing.

Briscoe was leading the race with 20 scheduled laps to go when he spun because of a flat tire. He didn’t hit the wall and was able to get the car to pit road where his team changed all four tires. Because Briscoe took his car straight to the pits he pitted when pit road was closed, he was assessed a penalty that required him to start at the end of the field for the ensuing restart.

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Twenty-one cars were on the lead lap for the restart after Briscoe’s caution. He should have started behind all those cars and each of the cars that were a lap or more down but still on track. Instead, he restarted 12th.

That position helped him easily move through a depleted field to catch Chastain for the lead in just 13 laps after his spin. Briscoe then went on to lead the rest of the 91-lap race.

So what the heck happened? Let’s attempt to explain.

Was it a simple mistake and did NASCAR forget to penalize Briscoe? It says no. Briscoe’s penalty is on the post-race penalty sheet. Instead, NASCAR said that Briscoe’s competitors moved aside to let him restart 12th in line instead of behind more than 20 of his competitors.

Yes, really.

It’s a hard concept to grasp on the surface. Why would a team move over for someone else? But the Xfinity Series is a contrast of a few teams with healthy budgets and a lot of teams with budgets that can only afford Ramen noodles.

Those teams on a limited budget are sometimes worrying about preserving their own equipment vs. getting a good finish. Waving a faster car ahead on a restart isn’t uncommon. But in this case, nine lead lap cars, per NASCAR, elected to allow Briscoe to start ahead of them while every other car a lap down also chose to do so. It’s a scenario that isn’t unfathomable but certainly uncommon. And that’s putting it nicely.

And in this case, it likely gave Briscoe the win.

Nothing’s impossible, but it’s a lot harder to see Briscoe getting a win if he has to past 20+ cars to get to Chastain instead of just 11. And it’s hard to see why the practice of moving over for cars on restarts shouldn’t be amended either.

It makes sense why a slower car would want to get out of the way pre-emptively. Especially when there are self-preservation considerations to consider. But a NASCAR penalty should take precedent. Each time a slower car moves over for a driver, he’s both benefiting the driver he’s moving over for and penalizing the drivers who that driver is chasing. It’s an action that has ripple effects up and down the field.

The simplest fix to avoid a situation like this in the future is for NASCAR to simply prevent slower cars from moving over for cars facing a penalty that forces them to restart behind everyone else. It helps the drivers at the front of the field and also creates an equitable penalty structure across all races where the end of the field actually means the end of the field. There’s no guessing game wondering where a driver will actually restart based on how many slower cars cede position.

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nascar/sprint/drivers/205/" data-ylk="slk:Kevin Harvick">Kevin Harvick</a> walks down pit road during a weather delay during the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, June 28, 2020, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Kevin Harvick walks down pit road during a weather delay during the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, June 28, 2020, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Kevin Harvick: 12 top 10s in 15 races

Kevin Harvick’s on an impressive run. Harvick has finished in the top ten in 80 percent of Cup Series races this season.

His average finish of 7.3 is on pace to be the best average finish for a driver in a season since Jeff Gordon had an average finish of 7.3 in 2007. You have to go back to Dale Jarrett’s 1999 Cup Series-winning season (6.8) to find a driver with a better average finish than what Harvick is posting in 2020.

Harvick’s success is magnified when you consider how much better he’s been than his teammates this season. Aric Almirola is 11th in the points standings, Clint Bowyer is 13th and Cole Custer is 26th. Combined they have half as many top-five finishes (6) as Harvick does. 

Brandon Jones: First to worst

Brandon Jones might have become the first driver in NASCAR history to go from winning a race to finishing last in another race less than two hours later.

Jones won the rain-delayed Truck Series race on Sunday morning. And then he crashed out of the Xfinity Series race on the first lap.

Congrats on making history (we think), Brandon.

Justin Haley gets two-lap penalty for crash

NASCAR decided to get aggressive in policing aggressive driving on Sunday.

Justin Haley was penalized two laps for this incident with Riley Herbst.

Yeah, it looks like a blatant crash. But when did NASCAR suddenly become concerned with blatant crashes by cars racing for position? It’s not easy to remember the last time a driver got penalized for crashing another driver he was racing for a spot on the track. Remember, Matt Kenseth was laps down when he crashed Joey Logano at Martinsville.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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