Briscoe Didn’t Flip Out After First Xfinity Win

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 3 2019
Chase Briscoe finally got to spray some champagne after winning at Iowa. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By John Sturbin/Senior Writer

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – One week removed from his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of 2019, Chase Briscoe was talking about signature celebratory moments.

“What I remember is Carl Edwards doing the back flip,” said Briscoe, whose win on Iowa Speedway’s bullring last Saturday locked him into the season-ending Playoffs. “Kyle (Busch) does his own signature thing (bow accompanied by a wave of the checkered flag).

“I didn’t personally see it but you always hear about Alan Kulwicki doing the backwards (Polish Victory) lap. And I remember Tony Stewart always climbing the fence like Helio Castroneves. But I would say Carl’s is probably the most significant. Not very many people can do a back flip in general; anybody can climb a fence. I always joked maybe I should do a somersault or something.”

Instead, the 24-year-old native of Mitchell, Ind., has chosen to acknowledge his Christianity and a power higher than even Stewart, his NASCAR Hall of Fame team co-owner.

“I’m a pretty relaxed guy,” said Briscoe, driver of the No. 98 Ford Performance Ford Mustang fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi. “I don’t get too excited and I feel like kinda my signature thing is just getting down on one knee and praying and thanking God. Just something simple. Some people might not understand the significance of it, some people do.”

Briscoe recalled that is how he marked his first Xfinity Series win last Sept. 27 when he beat Austin Cindric on the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. “I was kinda in a dark place and really questioning myself and felt thankful for the opportunity and gave Him thanks,” said Briscoe, whose faith is based in the First Church of God. “It was well-received. I did it last week as well and it went over well again.

“So, I’m not faking my faith. I’m not here to hide it. I’m proud of it. I’m not going to shove it down people’s throat but I feel like how I do it is quiet. People can respect it or don’t have to. But it’s kinda going to be my thing, I think.”

While his victory in Newton, Iowa, guaranteed Briscoe’s post-season participation, it didn’t vault him into the rarified air shared by the series’ “Big 3” of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer. The three have combined to win 13 of 19 races this season, leaving Briscoe & Friends to scrap for the occasional victory and stage points with seven races left in the regular season.

The great equalizer(s), however, could begin to unfold Saturday afternoon during the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International. The 82-lap/200.9-miler on The Glen’s 2.45-mile/11-turn natural terrain layout (2:30 p.m. NBC-TV; radio coverage on MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is the first of four Xfinity races to be run on road-courses as the schedule winds down. Reigning Cup Series champion Joey Logano of Team Penske won last year’s race here, but is not competing today.

 After exiting New York State’s Finger Lakes Region, the series will turn left-and-right at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio (Aug. 10); Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Aug. 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval (Sept. 28).

Last season’s four road-course events saw SHR’s Custer emerge as King of the Twisties. He posted one top-five and three top-10s compared to Bell’s one top-10 for Joe Gibbs Racing and none from Reddick of JR Motosports, who since has moved to Richard Childress Racing.

Of the three rising stars, Custer has the most experience at WGI. He has two series starts at The Glen, posting one top-10 (sixth in this race last year) and an average finish of 9.0. Both Bell and Reddick made their series track debuts at Watkins Glen last season. Bell started 11th and finished ninth. Reddick, who went on to win the 2018 Xfinity championship, qualified 27th and drove to an 11th-place finish.

Briscoe, meanwhile, turned his first laps at The Glen Friday afternoon in a pair of practices topped by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Kyle Busch. Briscoe was 13th in the opening session, turning 21 laps with a best effort of 119.212 mph. In comparison, Busch’s chart-topping lap in his No. 18 iK9 Toyota Camry was 121.259 mph after 14 laps. Briscoe moved up two spots to 11th after the second/final practice at 119.951 mph. “Rowdy” Busch remained atop the ladder at 121.862 mph.

“Kyle’s going to be hard to beat,” said Briscoe, who also counts two career NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series wins on his resume. “I mean, he’s one of the best-ever and he’s in a really good race car. I know our team knows we’re not racing him for the win but we’re going to do everything we can to get the best finish. And if we can take one strategy-wise we’ll try to do it but we’ve got to put it in perspective who we’re racing against, especially with my inexperience.”

So, what were Briscoe’s first impressions of WGI, whose storied history includes hosting the U.S. Grand Prix and Formula One heroes Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Mario Andretti (among others) from 1961 to 1980?

“It’s definitely nothing like Eldora,” said Briscoe, who finished seventh in Thursday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby Truck Series race in Rossburg, Ohio, after winning two stages and leading a race-high 94 laps. “It’s (The Glen) fast. It’s a road-course like I’ve never ran before. It’s technical in its own way but it’s not as technical and precise as other places.

“It’s really high-speed and I think the unique thing about this place is a lot of road-courses we go to don’t have any banking in the corners. This place has banking in almost every single corner so I feel like this plays into a little bit more of an oval style compared to a road-course. There’s still the same road-course techniques _ heavy braking and everything. But this place is really, really fast _ way faster than I expected and a little more narrow than I expected it to be.

“I‘ve never really liked road-courses…I like driving them, I just never understood how to get those final tenths. Even this weekend, I don’t understand how Kyle can go that fast. Cindric’s really good and winning on the Roval builds a little bit of extra confidence, but I’ve still got to get a lot better on these road-courses if I’m going to run up front consistently.”

Briscoe ran 17 Xfinity races last season for Roush Fenway Racing (12) and Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi (five). Briscoe’s 2019 season has been solid overall, but he and his team have hit their stride of late. In 19 starts Briscoe has put up one win (Iowa-2), eight top-fives, 14 top-10s and an average finish of 8.9. He currently is seventh in the point standings. Briscoe also is second in the series’ Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, four points behind leader Noah Gragson of JR Motorsports.

Briscoe said the outcome at Iowa was significant on many fronts, including validation of his victory in the inaugural race on the CMS Roval. 

“We weren’t the best car (at Iowa) _ Bell was the best car _ but we were clearly the second-best car all day long,” said Briscoe, who led only seven laps en route to the checkered flag. “It definitely was a good confidence-builder for our whole team. Our team’s really, really young and inexperienced in some ways so it was nice for them to prove to themselves that they can win as well. Hopefully it’s the perfect time. I feel it bodes well going into the Playoffs but it’s perfect leading into these (road-course races). These are the races where you can do more strategy than you can anywhere else.”

Briscoe, who is paired with crew chief Richard Boswell, also has emerged as his own fiercest critic, dismissing the suggestion he might be ready for a fulltime Cup ride with SHR or another organization.

“I just need a lot more work and a lot more experience,” said Briscoe, who has logged 36 Xfinity Series starts since his debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 24, 2018. “There’s a couple tracks on the schedule I’ve never even been to still yet. I’ve got to get a lot better and being able to go to these places for a second and third time will be a big benefit. Iowa was the first time I’ve ran a race this year for a second time and it was our best race of the season. I for sure need to get more experience before I feel like I’m ready for Cup. I would love to go do it but another year in Xfinity would be a big benefit.

“I have to get better at relaying to the team what I need and knowing what I need to go fast in the race. I don’t know what I don’t know. We go to some of these races and I don’t know if it’s going to swing loose or swing tighter. Being able to go talk to (SHR Cup teammate) Kevin Harvick has been a big help and trying to understand where I need to have my balance at the end of practice. I feel like we’ve been doing a lot better job these last couple of weeks but there’s always room for improvement.

 “At the beginning of the year we were really good and ran five or so races in the top five consecutively. I thought we were in the conversation and these last couple of weeks we’re getting our way back into that conversation. We’re still not that head-over-heels favorite but I feel like we’re getting a lot closer. We’ve been a lot more competitive throughout the weekends _ we’re not practicing or qualifying in the 15th area. We’re getting stage points now.

“Honestly, I think running Eldora helped just because how you run these road-courses kinda elbows-up, you’ve got to be aggressive and hustle them. That’s what I had to do (Thursday night) so I think it bodes well.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 3 2019
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