Chase Briscoe has been the class of the 2020 Xfinity Series field.
With nine wins in 32 races, the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing team has been a contender week in and week out from the 2.5-mile trioval at Pocono to the half-mile bullring at Bristol and the road course at Indy—his home track. Briscoe has displayed his versatility on a variety of venues on his title quest.
In what has undoubtedly been the most bizarre season in stock car racing, one more challenge stands between Briscoe and his first NASCAR championship—the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 at Phoenix Raceway.
“I felt like we made some good gains the last time we were there,” Briscoe said of the one-mile track. “I feel like the results didn’t necessarily show the speed that we had. We had a miscue on pit road towards the end of the race and had to go to the back and got back to sixth, so I felt speed-wise we were pretty good. Statistically, it’s not my best racetrack, but we still won nine races this year. The confidence is high.
“I feel like we’ve been the best team all year long and there’s no reason why we can’t go to Phoenix and be the same way. I feel like we’re going in there with nothing to lose and everything to gain. We’ve just got to go there and do our normal deal no different than all the other 32 races. If we just go there and focus on the 98 car and nobody else, I feel like we’re gonna be in the hunt at least at the end and as long as you’re in the hunt, you’ve got a chance for it, so that’s what we’ll try to go do.”
Briscoe has never finished outside of the top 10 in three starts at Phoenix. His average finish is 6.7. Despite running just one full Xfinity Series season last year, the 25-year-old third-generation racer has been a quick study during his short NASCAR tenure.
Although Brad Keselowski offered Briscoe a full-time truck ride in 2017, the road has been far from smooth for the young driver. For the last few years, there have been no guarantees.
“It’s unbelievable and crazy to think about,” Briscoe said. “Whether you go back five years when I was literally just walking into random race shops trying to let me volunteer and sleep on couches. And even going back to literally this weekend last year, I had no ride.
“And now to have a 25 percent chance to win the championship and won nine races this year and be going into the Cup Series next year for not only my dream team, but my dream number, all of those things are just so crazy to think about.”
It wasn’t until January when Briscoe actually solidified his deal with the No. 98 SHR team—even though he had support from Ford Performance as one of its development drivers. Last month, SHR announced Briscoe will replace Clint Bowyer behind the wheel of the No. 14 Ford.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey the last five or six years and I’ve certainly been blessed to be able to get to this point, and the way it’s all happened and came full circle has just been really unbelievable to think about,” Briscoe said.
While Briscoe has celebrated immense success on the track, he’s suffered tremendous heartbreak in his personal life. Over the past seven months, Briscoe and his wife Marissa have experienced two miscarriages—the latest just over a week ago. But the devout driver refuses to dwell on the loss. He’s grateful for the support they have received from friends and fans throughout their journey.
“We’ve just kind of been open about it and I feel like it helps me to go to the racetrack,” Briscoe said. “If I was going through that and nobody knew what I was going through or just the stress or whatever at home just makes it a lot easier for me to have people know what’s going on, instead of trying to hide it.
“It’s definitely been a very unfortunate week, it’s been a tough week, it’s been really hard on Marissa and obviously it’s been hard on me as well. We’re trying to stay positive and get through this week, and then figure out what we’ve got to do going forward.”
Still, Briscoe remains optimistic. For now, his focus is on winning the 2020 Xfinity title. And Marissa, his biggest fan, will be at Phoenix to cheer him on.
“I feel like I’ve always done a good job at kind of keeping the two separate and, truthfully, it doesn’t motivate me more but just helps me get in the race car and get away and really focus,” Briscoe said. “I feel 100 percent ready to go this week, no different than any other week.
“I feel like no matter how high the high is on the racetrack it never compares to the low, but it does help balance it out a little bit. It would be obviously great to win the championship. I don’t know if it necessarily gives me any more motivation one way or the other. I’m going every week to win the race no matter what happens during the week, so it would be great to win the championship, but I don’t think that necessarily helps the low of lows.
“It has been a really unique season for everybody just with Covid and everybody has kind of had a rough year, and it’s been no different on our part, but there are people that have had a way worse year than we’ve had, so I’m just very fortunate that we had the potential and the possibility to kind of have those high moments still because there are a lot of people that are stuck at home that can’t do anything, where they can achieve any of those things. So for us to be able to kind of have something that can potentially offset the lows certainly helps.”