The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will hit the dirt on Friday at the historic Knoxville Raceway. The Corn Belt 150 Presented by Premier Chevy Dealers will serve as the first ever event for one of NASCAR’s top-three divisions held on the historic Knoxville, Iowa half-mile clay oval. This race, held at a venue more noted for Sprint Car and Late Model competition, will be the second dirt race of the season for this series after having already raced on the clay covered high banks of the Bristol Motor Speedway earlier in 2021.
The NCWTS previously raced on dirt at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway from 2013 to 2019.
NASCAR Cup Series rookie Chase Briscoe will be among the 40 entrants in Knoxville on Friday night as the Stewart-Haas Racing regular will pilot the No. 04 truck for Roper Racing on the black Iowa soil. He hopes to join Martin Truex Jr. as a Cup driver who has scored a win on dirt this year in a truck after Truex won in Bristol. And the racer who won nine NASCAR Xfinity Series races last year is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m definitely excited to get to Knoxville, the Sprint Car Capital of the World,” Briscoe declared in a recent NASCAR media availability. “I’m excited to go there and I’m excited to see how Knoxville races in the truck series. I think it’s going to be a really good layout for the trucks with how the stock cars react on dirt. I think it will be a really good track. I think Eldora is almost the perfect track for those, but if the track is prepped right, Knoxville could be something that we haven’t seen in a long time on dirt in a stock car with a big cushion and things like that. I’m excited to get there, you know, anytime I get to go run on the dirt it’s always a good time.”
But more than simply racing on dirt, the 26-year-old from Mitchell, Indiana hopes that his entry as well as that of other NASCAR stars throughout this season as well as last in various dirt racing events can help to bridge a divide that has existed for decades between dirt racing and NASCAR.
“I just think it’s good for the sport, especially over these last couple of years, with Kyle Larson running as many Sprint Car races as he has,” Briscoe explained. “I feel like you’ve seen more Sprint Car people who, in the past, wouldn’t really watch NASCAR but now they do because they have people to cheer for and root for on the NASCAR side. And it’s the same with NASCAR people that probably never would have watched a Sprint Car race, now they can watch guys on Sunday go race Sprint Cars at the local track or whatever. It gives them a reason to go where they probably wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for that so I think it’s a really good crossover for our sport and Sprint Car racing, or dirt track racing in general. The more fans we can get, the better for all involved.”
Like others who compete in NASCAR, Briscoe traces his racing roots back to dirt. He believes that those who cut their teeth on that type of surface should have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills at the top levels of stock racing just as those who specialize in pavement short track racing or road course racing do.
“To me, at least in the Cup Series for example, the Cup Series guys are considered the best in the U.S., or wherever you want to say. And if they are the best, I want to see them challenged in every discipline,” the driver of the No. 14 Ford on the Cup Series said. “We have a short track, we have a road course, we have a super speedway, we have a mile-and-a-half, but we didn’t have a dirt track for the longest time. Growing up as a race car driver, you’re typically a short track racer, a road course guy, or a dirt track guy. In the past, the dirt guys haven’t been able to go to their discipline and let other people try it. We’ve always been going into other people’s discipline so I think it’s important to have that dirt race, at least one, for that reason.”
Briscoe first fell in love with racing while learning the trade on dirt. Whenever he can rekindle that flame, he wants to seize the opportunity.
“I grew up dirt racing, so for me, anytime I can go back and run dirt I want to do it,” he insisted. “It’s something I really enjoy doing, it’s a passion of mine. I want to be able to go and run the dirt races NASCAR has and give my support of it because I think it’s something great for the sport. It’s something that we need in NASCAR to have that gap between the dirt stuff and the NASCAR world(closed). For as long as I can do it, I’m going to go run every dirt race I can that’s in NASCAR.”
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And more, Briscoe believes that any seat time makes a driver better.
“I think you’re a better race car driver whenever you’re racing so even last week going and running the Sprint Car on Thursday then going to Road America, I felt like it just made me sharper even though the cars are totally different and the disciplines are different, you’re always learning as a race car driver. For me, just being able to race as much as I can, especially with how we don’t have practice anymore, getting any seat time is better than sitting at home.”
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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