Growing up around the dirt tracks of Indiana, Chase Briscoe held great admiration for fellow Hoosier Bryan Clauson.
Briscoe—and many aspiring young racers—wanted to be just like “BC."
Clauson lived the dream. The Noblesville, Ind., native honed his skills on short tracks, won a USAC championship, dabbled in stock cars and eventually worked his way up to the Indianapolis Motors Speedway, where he qualified for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing—the Indianapolis 500—three times before he passed away in 2016 at 28.
“Bryan was somebody I always looked up to,” Briscoe told RacinBoys.com. “For me, he was always the 13-, 14-, 15-year-old kid racing against my dad. Then growing up and getting to race against Bryan—he was just always such an unbelievable talent.”
That’s why racing in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 USAC Midget event means the world to Briscoe.
“The race, being in Indianapolis, is special to me, but just to race in Bryan’s honor is something I want to do every year as long as I can,” Briscoe said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to run the event last year (due to Covid-19). “But I’m super excited about this year. I think it’s going to be a great event with a lot of promotion behind it. Just really excited to get there.”
Briscoe will pilot the No. 5 Penny Lane Child Care midget in the event scheduled for August 18-19.
“I’m going to run with my family equipment again,” Briscoe said. “I just bought a new King chassis a couple of weeks ago. They’re based out of New Zealand, so it’s something totally new for us. We have Penny Lane Child Care from Bloomington, Indiana coming aboard—which is just 25 minutes up the road between my house and Indianapolis.
“Whenever I’ve run Indy in the past, I always have tremendous support from a lot of people from my hometown who’ll come up for the race. That always makes it really special. I can’t wait to get back on the dirt in Indiana—especially at a place that’s so special.”
Currently, Briscoe is competing for rookie honors in NASCAR’s Cup Series behind the wheel of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford—previously driven by his team’s co-owner, Tony Stewart. During Stewart’s retirement tour in 2016, IMS created a makeshift dirt track in Turn 3 of the 2.5-mile oval and provided him with a midget—so the former IndyCar and three-time Cup champion could come full circle and return to his racing roots.
Clauson and Sarah Fisher joined Smoke on the track as part of the event. The experience so thrilled Clauson that he suggested IMS create a more permanent structure for dirt racing. Two years later, track president Doug Boles brought Clauson’s vision to fruition. In 2018, the BC39 USAC Midget race debuted.
Briscoe competed in the first two BC39s. But his most memorable experience at the Motorsports Mecca at16th & Georgetown came last year when he won the inaugural Xfinity Series’ Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard.
“For me, with the exception of winning the Daytona 500—I would even put it about whenever I get my first Cup win, if I get one—Indy was just that special to me,” Briscoe said. “If I could win the Cup race at Indy or the Daytona 500, that would probably top it. But just winning at Indianapolis was something that…in a million years I never thought I’d have the opportunity to race there, let alone win there.
“To do it in the way it was done, obviously everyone would be lying if they said they didn’t wish they won on the oval. But it’s still Indianapolis Motor Speedway whether it’s at the dirt track, the parking lot or wherever. And to do it for Tony Stewart, who was my hero growing up—and to have his crew chief Greg Zipadelli on the pit box (laughs) when it happened—that was just the coolest thing ever.”
On one of racing’s biggest stages, the only scenario which would have enhanced his achievement is if Briscoe had had an audience to share the moment.
“The only thing that will forever hurt is that I didn’t get to experience that with fans and friends and family,” Briscoe said. “Now, I have to win another one so I get to do that.”
Briscoe’s appreciation for racing at the Brickyard amplifies Clauson’s dream of having a dirt track exist on such hallowed ground. Even at 49, Jeff Gordon felt like a kid again when he climbed behind the wheel of a midget prepared by Bryan’s father Tim and made laps on the quarter-mile Dirt Track at IMS.
While it might be a while before Briscoe follows the footsteps of fellow NASCAR Hoosiers Gordon, Stewart and Newman (all of whom have won a Cup race on the oval) a victory in next month’s Verizon 200 would lock him into the Cup Playoffs. As the only Cup driver with a win on the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit, Briscoe is optimistic entering the August 15 race.
“I think the road courses are our best shot at a win,” said Briscoe, who finished sixth at both Circuit of the Americas and Road America. “Our results all year show that.
“But it would be a pretty incredible place to get our first win, for sure.”