By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Another instance of “what might’ve been” for Chase Briscoe following a fourth-place finish in the five-plus hour Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday.
Similar to the battle with Tyler Reddick in the Bristol Dirt Race early in the season, Briscoe was in the mix for the win. Only this time, Briscoe was chasing down Kyle Larson and with four laps left in regulation, Briscoe made his move to get by Larson for the top spot.
Briscoe couldn’t fully clear Larson before the exit of Turn 1 as his No. 14 Ford Mustang got too tight and lost the top spot to Larson. However, the determined Indiana racer wouldn’t be denied as he didn’t lose much ground.
Then on Lap 398, flashbacks of Bristol reared its ugly head. He lost it after diving low on Larson, sending the race into overtime.
Heartbreak city for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver as a solid result appeared to be gone. That was until the restart were the leaders went four-wide before all hell broke loose. As guys like Austin Dillon and Joey Logano crashed out, Briscoe made it through the madness.
Suddenly, a lost night turned a much-needed good points night as he scored his third top-five of the season. His first since winning at Phoenix Raceway but it wasn’t what Briscoe was thinking about after 413 grueling laps (619.5 miles).
Instead, it’s about being denied again at a second career NASCAR Cup Series win.
“We just had a really really good Mahindra Tractors Ford and just super proud of everybody at SHR,” said Briscoe. “We’ve obviously struggled really bad the last month and a half and to have a good car like that today and had a car capable of winning and I threw it away, plain and simple.
“I’m glad we were able to at least get back to fourth. It’s unfortunate. There are 100 different things I would have done differently if I could re-do it again, but obviously you’re racing in the moment and made a mistake and went too far. We’ll come back next week and see if we can cap it off.”
Briscoe explained as the race was coming to a close, his Mustang felt a lot better than it did in the daytime. From there, the greatest challenge was dethroning Ross Chastain and later Larson from the top spot. With amazing restarts, the car was strong as long as clean air was on his side.
“I was kind of timid around the fence. We kept getting track position. On restarts we were really really good, but I could never get clean air,” Briscoe explained.
“I felt like if I could have got ahead of (Chastain), I was a little bit better on the long run. I could have maybe held him up on the short run. I had a shot at him.”
While Chastain was a victim of the first overtime restart incident, Briscoe continued explaining how difficult is to force Larson into a mistake while battling for the lead.
“We threw a couple sliders and then (Larson) was able to get out front and kind of the same thing, our car was really good on the long run. It seemed like if the guy could take the wall away from you, it was just really hard to do anything, but my car was really good almost one lane off and I just kept working Kyle really hard and waiting for him to make a mistake, but he’s the greatest of all-time, in my opinion,” Briscoe on Larson.
“He just doesn’t make very many mistakes. I was able to drive it in so much deeper into one than him kind of all race long and felt like that was my opportunity if I could just get to his left-rear quarter panel on exit I would typically make people tighter.
“I drove in just as deep as I had been the whole race and I don’t know if he came off the wall because he’d been running so close on entry and as soon as I drove in there it just spun me out right away. I’m glad we were able to get back to fourth, but we definitely had a lot better race car than fourth.”
The Cup Series will now head to another wild card event — Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
It’ll be the first time the sport’s top level will race at the 1.25-mile oval. For Briscoe, it’s not his first rodeo as he competed in the Truck Series five years ago, finishing second to John Hunter Nemechek.
Live race coverage of the Enjoy Illinois 300 begins Sunday, June 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1. The race consists of 240 laps.