Chase Briscoe was granted a dispensation to run a dirt race—in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, at least.
The 24-year-old Mitchell, Indiana, native will join forces once again with ThorsSport Racing to defend his win in the Aug. 1 Eldora Dirt Derby.
Briscoe, who drives the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford in the Xfinity Series, led 54 laps in the No. 27 Ford-F150 at the Eldora Speedway last July. He passed teammate Grant Enfinger on the last lap when the race went into overtime to claim his second-career Truck Series victory.
“I’m really excited,” Briscoe told RacinBoys.com. “It should be fun. Nobody has ever won that race twice—let alone back-to-back—so I’m super excited to try and do that, especially with ThorSport, (sponsor) DIAEDGE, and all of the people that have come on board to help us.
“It’s going to be the same crew, the same crew chief, even the same truck. It should be good. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off last year.”
Crew chief Bud Haefele will call the shots for Briscoe at Eldora. He’ll also be assisted by fellow dirt racer and USAC Triple Crown champion Tracy Hines. ThorSport has won the last two truck races at Tony Stewart’s half-mile dirt track nestled in Rossburg, Ohio, with Matt Crafton having taken the checkered flag in 2017.
Although Briscoe spent his formative years coming to Eldora as a spectator, the third-generation dirt tracker didn’t make his debut at the speedway until he strapped into a truck for Brad Keselowski Racing in 2017. He finished third.
“I grew up not far from Eldora, and I’ve been there tons of times, but I never got to race there until I drove the truck in 2017,” Briscoe said. “My dad and my grandpa wouldn't let me run a sprint car over there. Truthfully, we didn’t have the equipment, so there was no point in trying to go over there. So the only time I’ve raced there is in a truck.
“I would love to race a sprint car there. I think it would be a blast. I’ve just never had the opportunity to do it. I think it might become my favorite if I ever raced a sprint car there.”
Briscoe dropped from sixth to 10th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings following his first DNF of the season last weekend at Daytona. He was caught up in a wreck involving Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick and shot straight into the inside retaining wall near the entrance to pit road.
“It didn’t hurt when it happened,” Briscoe said. “I wasn’t even sore the next day.”
For a kid who only transitioned to asphalt and stock cars full-time in 2016, he has made a lot of progress over the last four seasons.
The former ARCA champ competed full-time for BKR in 2017, then ran a partial schedule with Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 60 Ford he shared with Ty Majeski and Austin Cindric. Briscoe also competed in five races in the No. 98 Ford for Fred Biagi, for whom he scored his first career NXS win in his 14th start at the debut of the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
This year, he’s teamed up with Cole Custer at Stewart-Haas Racing for the entire Xfinity tour. Halfway through the season, Briscoe has posted six top fives and 11 top 10s in 16 starts. He has a solid average finish of 9.8—better than two of the top three drivers in the series.
What does Briscoe have to do to put himself in the conversation with the Big 3—Reddick, Christopher Bell and Custer?
“We have to run better,” Briscoe said. “We have to run better consistently. We’ve had flashes of where we’re good enough to be one of the top four guys, we just haven't been able to do it consistently—especially these last few weeks. They haven’t been our best.
“We’re trying to get better. Everyone is trying to get better. But as you said, I’m already at a huge experience gap compared to those guys. I don't have the laps and the seat time those guys have, so we have to work harder to race with those guys. I feel like once we hit on it, we’ll be able to compete week in and week out. We just haven't been able to hit on what we need to hit on yet.”
Briscoe knows he has to be patient. He was aligned this year with crew chief Richard Boswell, who like Briscoe has yet to run a full season of Xfinity Series competition. And while it’s an advantage having Custer under the same roof at SHR—it has also been a mixed blessing. Custer has twice the experience in the Xfinity Series as Briscoe, and it shows.
“At the same time, it’s frustrating,” Briscoe said. “We have the same chassis, motors and everything, but Cole has more Xfinity starts than I have pavement starts. So it’s hard to swallow, especially when he’s winning all these races.
“This is the first week all week long where we have tried to work like them and tried to go their route setup-wise. I’m sure it’s going to take some time, but hopefully we can work something out and find that consistency that’s been missing.”