SPEEDWAY, Ind.—Chase Briscoe hopes to keep the Indiana 250 trophy in the Hoosier State.
Briscoe, a third-generation racer who grew up an hour south of the Brickyard in Mitchell, Indiana, had aspirations of competing on dirt across the Midwest.
But racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was never on the 24-year-old’s radar.
“I never in a million years would have thought I’d get to turn a lap here,” Briscoe said. “I remember coming here growing up, driving by here and dream of turning a lap here. So, for me, it’s huge especially on a NASCAR weekend.”
Briscoe never expected to be racing for his hero and two-time Brickyard 400 winner Tony Stewart either. In his first full season behind the wheel of the No. 98 Ford Performance Ford in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Briscoe collected his second career win (Iowa Speedway) and posted nine top fives and 19 top 10s in 24 starts. For a rookie, he has a remarkable average finish of 8.2 and is currently sixth in the standings. He'll start ninth on Saturday.
“The championship’s what your goal is, but from a personal standpoint, winning at Indianapolis—especially driving for Tony Stewart—there’d be nothing cooler except for winning the Brickyard (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race),” Briscoe said. “I’ve already had in my mind, if I win this thing, I’m climbing the fence like Tony. I’ll probably start crying. I want to win this race so bad.
“At the beginning of the year, me and my crew chief (Richard Boswell) sat down and kind of circled races, and Indianapolis was the first one I wanted to win. I said if we’re going to put an all-out effort in, that’s the won we need a win at. We going to try tomorrow, and hopefully we get it done.”
With both Briscoe, Boswell and most of the Stewart-Haas Racing team coming into the 2019 season as rookies, the transition was tough initially. But as the team has grown together, the performance has picked up.
“Just getting experience, and obviously now we have the confidence that every week we can run up front and battle for wins,” Briscoe said. “That goes a long way, especially with a young team. As we get experience, it showed that we’ve been able run better and better every week.
“Hopefully, we can continue to do that as the season goes on and kind of surprise people when the Playoffs start.”
The Xfinity Series “Big 3” drivers—Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer (Briscoe’s teammate)—have received most of the accolades this season. Does Briscoe feel he’s at a point to inject himself into that conversation?
“It’s hard to say whether there’s going to be a ‘Big 4’ because no one has won the amount of races those guys have won,” Briscoe said. “I don't think anybody is going to be able to win three or four races when the Playoffs start and be that fourth guy. I think it’s going to be those three guys and someone else kind of laying in the weeds.
“But we’ve been doing that. Over the last eight weeks, we haven’t run worse than sixth or seventh and been able to run out front. We just have to keep doing that. I kind of like that fact that we’ve been doing it quietly because there’s not as much pressure to go and run up front. We put ourselves in position to run out front and people don’t recognize us. People forget about us.
“We’re peaking at the right time. We’re jelling at the right time. We’re hitting our stride at the right time. If we can do that all the way through the Playoffs, then we can be that fourth guy. We’ve proved that the last couple of months. And if we can get to Homestead, I truly believe that we’ll be one of those guys that’s hard to beat. But first we’ve got to get there.”