Briscoe in a league of his own on Xfinity tour



In 2021, NASCAR celebrated the Big 3 in the Xfinity Series. 

But this year, you could call Chase Briscoe the Big 1.

In just his second full season on the NXS tour, Briscoe, 25, has scored five wins, seven top fives and 10 top-10 finishes in 13 races behind the wheel of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford—and he’s just getting started.

“We are really rolling right now,” Briscoe said after winning the inaugural Indianapolis Grand Prix on Saturday. “I'm so blessed to be driving this race car. I am a lucky guy that gets to drive it, and it is truly a blessing.” 

When NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway first announced the Xfinity Series would run the road course for its annual event, the Mitchell, Indiana, native circled the race on his calendar. There was nothing Briscoe wanted more than to win in front of his hometown friends. 

Unfortunately, that was impossible during the COVID-19 pandemic, at least where the friends were concerned, given the absence of fans at the track. But nothing could stop the Hoosier from celebrating the greatest win of his career by climbing the fence and kissing the bricks.

“Everybody knows that I growing up my hero in racing was Tony Stewart,” the third-generation racer said of his current team owner. “To get to drive for him and watch him win the Brickyard, that was always his signature thing, and I just wanted to do it. Obviously, it is not the same prestige as winning on the oval, but you still won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

“It doesn't matter if you are racing on the oval, the road course, the dirt track or even the parking lot, it's special when you win here. Growing up, coming here all the time, it's unbelievable to think that I won here. I'm so happy to get (sponsor) HighPoint.com in victory lane again. I'm worn out. That fence climb will take a lot out of you.”

Entering Saturday’s race, Briscoe was hardly the favorite, with AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric—two of NASCAR’s top road racers—in the field. But Briscoe had won the inaugural Charlotte Roval Xfinity race in his 14th career start while running a part-time schedule for Roush Fenway Racing. 

Briscoe has learned to summon his reserves when the pressure is on. His second win of the season—when the Xfinity Series resumed in May at Darlington—came just days after his new bride miscarried the couple’s first child. Briscoe kneeled in gratitude for the victory after climbing from the car and has subsequently incorporated the gesture into his celebratory routine.

Despite operating for the past four weeks without crew chief Richard Boswell, who was suspended midway through the double-header at Miami Homestead Speedway last month after ballast fell from the car, Briscoe has gone on to win three of the last four races with back-up crew chief and SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli. 

Having witnessed Briscoe’s promise in the Xfinity Series, does Zippy see a future for the driver in Cup?

“Oh, without a doubt,” Zipadelli said. “I think he is still young and has a lot to learn but I am very, very impressed with how quick he is learning how to race these stock cars. I hope he is a part of Stewart-Haas for a long period of time. He's a good kid and we would love to see him on the other side with us.”

“There are some people that, when it is time to close, I see that a lot in him, he finds a little bit extra. He has a lot of confidence but isn’t getting cocky, which I love. Most of all, he is just a good race car driver. 

“You watch guys and guys go fast, and then you watch guys that go fast and can pass cars, and guys that go fast and it takes the driver to learn how to pass or get by guys. He just has a natural understanding of racing. He does a good job racing guys and does a really good job of passing. A lot of these race tracks, with the aero and things of that nature, the good guys learn that, and they carry it out. Really, he is just a good-hearted kid with a lot of will and want to win.”

Briscoe will be reunited with Boswell this weekend for the NXS doubleheader at Kentucky Speedway. In 2019, his only start at the 1.5 mile track, Briscoe finished fifth. He has two wins on intermediate tracks this season and an average finish of 7.6.

Before the 2020 season began, Briscoe said his goal was to win between eight to 10 races in order to be successful. The prediction wasn’t bravado. The humble driver was just looking to set an objective to prove his staying power in the sport. Regardless of the outcome, don’t expect Briscoe to slow down should he hit the eight- or 10-victory mark.

“I think, realistically, we should have seven,” Briscoe said. “I threw away Atlanta, and then Homestead it felt like we had one get away with the lug deal. Every single race track we have gone to we have been in the hunt. It is pretty unbelievable to think we have gone to 13 races and have had a chance to win every single one of them. 

“I know it sounds so cliche to say it is a testament to the guys, but it really is. (At Indy) we had practice but every other week we don't and to show up and be that good week in and week out just shows how good they are at their jobs. To be three guys down from our normal crew, it just shows the strength and depth of Stewart-Haas Racing. 

“On pavement especially, you are only as good as the race car you are in. You can’t make up for a big gap like you can in dirt. I feel like I am blessed to be able to be that guy. Multiple people can get in good race cars and win, but it takes good people and a good environment to do that, and I feel like we have a great team.”

 

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