By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Winning can provide the biggest opportunity for a driver, more so when the competitor is part-time. That’s been the case in the NASCAR Xfinity Series all of last season when drivers such as Ross Chastain and John Hunter Nemechek won for Chip Ganassi. For one driver, it turned into a full-time gig at Stewart-Haas Racing and that driver was Chase Briscoe.
At age 24, Briscoe has dreams of someday running the Knoxville Nationals, but for now, it’s making the most of an opportunity in NASCAR after cementing his name in history as the first-ever Xfinity winner at the Charlotte Roval, beating the likes of road aces Austin Cindric and Justin Marks on Sept. 29, 2018.
With this practice being an instant success for several regulars, Briscoe told Motorsports Tribune that winning as a part-timer is as impressive than doing it as a full-time driver, but it can provide its challenges if the opposite would’ve occurred.
“If you’re winning it helps and make you more desirable,” said Briscoe. “I think it’s more better on your resume if you win in a part-time schedule because it’s harder to do. At the same time, when you’re part-time, people forget about because you’re not out there every weekend. There’s some pros and cons, but I’m more excited to be full-time than part-time that’s for sure.”
Beforehand, Briscoe’s career was in a box due to multiple circumstances that held him back. The first being the shutdown of Brad Keselowski Racing, which Briscoe won his first Truck Series race in the team’s swan song at Homestead in 2017. The second being a part-time competitor for the first time in his NASCAR career last season. He ran for both SHR and Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 Ford Mustang, where in the latter, he couldn’t show his full potential due to rotten luck with three out of his four DNFs being in that ride, all due to crashes.
Then came his specialty, dirt track racing at Eldora Speedway when he had a classic duel with temporary teammate Grant Enfinger. Both didn’t give an inch and coming to the final turn on the final lap, Briscoe held him off to bring ThorSport Racing the win in his first Truck start since his victory at Homestead.
“Eldora meant a lot of me personally because I grew up being a dirt sprint car guy,” said Briscoe. “It’s kind of our version of Daytona, so anytime you get to race, let alone win there is really special.”
The Mitchell, Indiana native followed it up by saying both triumphs meant a lot to his racing career but scoring the Roval victory will have a meaningful impact because he wasn’t expected to win in the No. 98 Ford.
“Being the first-time winner at the Roval is pretty special,” said Briscoe. “There’s only one person that can be the first time and it meant a little more because I didn’t expect there to win. Whereas Eldora I kind of felt like I had a chip on my shoulder because I was one of the few dirt guys in the field. Looking back, the Roval will mean more than Eldora, but they’re both pretty special right now.”
As a part-timer, Briscoe kept himself busy by running all types of cars all over the country. Whether it’s the prestigious Chili Bowl to endurance sports car racing at Daytona International Speedway, he’s a classic textbook versatile racer.
“Last year I probably ran 70 races, I think I ran 10 sports car races, probably 30 sprint car races and I think 17 Xfinity races, and a couple other things,” Briscoe on the number of races he ran in 2018. “I think it helps anytime you’re jumping in and out of race cars, I feel like it makes you better. That’s why (Kyle) Larson’s so good because he’s constantly racing something.
“This year I don’t get to run as many sprint car races as I would like, but I think it helps down the road. To me, anytime you’re getting any laps is helping, so hopefully I can do a little bit more this year.”
Going into Saturday’s NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona, Briscoe will have a pit sign honoring Dick Briscoe featuring dad’s sprint car and hopes it could spark a lot of interest from NASCAR fans to see his passion for sprint car racing.
“I grew up around sprint cars, with my family owning them since 1976 and even with me owning one now. Sprint cars is what I’m so passionate about, I love them,” said Briscoe. “They’re always going to be special to me, even with the pit sign. A lot of people don’t even know about sprint cars and them seeing that pit sign might spark an interest.”
When the announcement was made during the offseason that Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi assisting the effort, Briscoe felt confident that its only just the beginning of a strong powerhouse in the Xfinity level as teammate Cole Custer is among the favorites to win the championship in 2019.
“It’s huge,” said Briscoe. “Obviously last year winning he Roval was a big deal and I feel like that’s what pushed the season being full-time. I’m super excited and ready to go for a couple of months know. Tony (Stewart) and everybody at SHR with Fred have really good race cars. Cole proved that by winning the Owners Championship, so it’s going to be a real fun year. We have really fast race cars and should be able to go contend for a lot of wins.”
Briscoe showed great pace in Friday’s opening practice, clocking in at 45.812 seconds (196.455 mph), which put him on top of the leaderboard.