Chase Briscoe looks to build confidence with a strong Bristol dirt run

After a miserable start to Chase Briscoe’s rookie Cup season, the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway could not have come at a better time.

Coming off of a remarkable nine-win Xfinity Series season, the 26-year-old has just one top-20 finish in six starts.

For the third-generation dirt-tracker, a return to his roots could jumpstart the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team.

“I hope so,” Briscoe said. “I definitely don’t think it can hurt. I feel like the first couple weeks, with the exception of last week, we’ve had good speed.  Phoenix, I felt like we could have run seventh or eighth area and we had a 24-second green flag pit stop with 50 to go and it just kind of killed us, so I feel like from a speed standpoint we’ve been good up until last week.

“Hopefully, this week will finally be the one week where we can just get the results because we haven’t really been able to show the results side of things.  We’ve had the speed, just haven’t been able to execute, so hopefully this week we can turn it around. Obviously, we need to turn it around quick or we’re going to be in a must-win situation fairly early. We’re almost already to that point, so we’ll see how this weekend goes. We’re gonna try to just go there and do the best we can. That’s all we can do.”

Briscoe is one of the six drivers in the field to win at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series added dirt to its schedule in 2013. Although both tracks are roughly a half-mile—Bristol measures .533-mile—and dirt, that’s where the comparisons end.

“It’s hard for me to really say because I think Bristol is gonna be quite a bit different from Eldora just from the standpoint of how the banking is, how tight the corners are,” Briscoe said. “I think it’ll drive way different. Eldora, I think you can get away with driving the car pretty sideways, where Bristol I don’t know if you’re going to do that at Bristol, truthfully. Until I go out there and do it, it’s hard for me to say it’s gonna be this way or that way. 

“I will say from my Eldora experience I felt like you couldn’t run the car as sideways as you would as a typical dirt car, so I think for guys that have watched other dirt racing but have never raced it, you think you’re going to be so hung out the whole time and all this stuff, instead of sideways and it’s not necessarily the case always in a Cup car or the stock car stuff. They just aren’t meant to be on dirt. They don’t drive very well on dirt, so I would say that would be the biggest thing is it’s hard for me to really say until we go do it just because I do think Bristol is going to drive quite a bit different than Eldora.”

Briscoe and his fellow racers will get their first NASCAR laps on the Bristol Dirt Track on Friday. He and teammate Kevin Harvick are two of eight drivers competing in both the truck and Cup Series. Briscoe will pilot the No. 04 Cory Roper Racing Ford. Since the team is based in Texas, they brought the truck to SHR on Wednesday to fit Briscoe’s seat in the truck.

Briscoe earned his first NASCAR win in trucks with the now-defunct Brad Keselowski Racing at Homestead from the pole in 2017. His Eldora win came with ThorSport in 2018.

“I’m excited to run with those guys,” Briscoe said. “Obviously, it’s a smaller team and in the past I’d always ran with ThorSport, but with their switch it made it hard to even find a Ford in the field. I actually had known somebody over at Cory Roper’s deal, Shane Whitbeck, he was at Brad Keselowski Racing and kind of runs Cory’s truck team. I reached out to see if there was any interest in me maybe running the truck over there at Bristol. There was definitely interest they said, so we put it together.

“I think it’s been cool to see them guys run good. Daytona, Cory almost won the thing, so it would be cool for us to get a win for them or just even have a good run. They’re a small team and it would be cool to get them up front, so that’s what we’ll try to do.”

With the extra seat time, Briscoe is hoping he can get a leg up on the competition this weekend. It’s the first time he’s run double duty since coming to NASCAR.

“The Cup Series is so hard,” Briscoe said. “Everybody is so good. I just try to keep in perspective that Chase Elliott is last champion and it took him nearly 100 races to get a win, so just trying to remember it’s not going to come right away. Every rookie I feel like struggles a little bit and it just takes time to get your feet underneath you. 

“Obviously, it’s no secret right now that we’re kind of struggling as a company, so that’s not helping either, but I feel like we’ve had decent speed and we just haven’t been able to execute. I feel like I”ve learned so much over these first six races that I know I’m going to be twice the race car driver in another six races and by the end of the year it’s going to be incredible growth, so I just have to try and learn as much as I can here early. But it’s definitely frustrating to not even say we have a top 10 right now or even a top 15. I feel like we’ve been capable from a speed standpoint, but haven’t been able to put it all together. 

“The Cup deal is just no joke. Everybody is so good from a driving standpoint.  Everybody’s car is really good…I think the biggest thing for me is you have to be 100 percent on. The Xfinity Series, I could make a mistake or as a team we could have a bad pit stop and you can recover no problem, for the most part, where in the Cup Series you make one mistake and you’re buried the rest of the day.” 

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