By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
An encouraging rally by Chase Briscoe saw him go from starting Saturday’s Hooters 250 six laps down to finishing seventh after the 167-lap madness wrapped up at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Before the 37-car field responded the call for the green flag, Briscoe had some issues during the pace laps as some led fall off the right side of his No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Mustang. The debris delayed the start and Briscoe was forced to enter pit road and figure out the issue.
Meanwhile, the rest of the 36 drivers took the green flag without the him. It wouldn’t be until Lap 7 when the No. 98 Mustang entered the track, already trailing leader Ross Chastain six laps. However, Briscoe had a blistering machine that rivaled or even was as good as the leaders.
Multiple cautions helped Briscoe’s cause to ultimately cut down his lap deficit and by the end of Stage 2, he was trailing two laps over stage winner Noah Gragson.
Deep into the final stage was when Briscoe got himself back on the lead lap. This occured during green flag stops where he stayed out up until 17 to go, giving up the sixth spot which was the highest position he ended up being.
Once he got fresh tires and fuel, Briscoe moved up from 15th up to 12th when the final caution came out for Ryan Sieg cut a left rear tire and spun out in Turn 1 with 7 laps remaining.
Briscoe said a pivotal role into the rally goes to his crew chief Richard Boswell for the strategy that could’ve worked out had a caution came out much earlier.
“I think we may have been seven laps down at first before we pulled out, but I knew that we were gonna have good speed. For the most part, everything kind of went our way, but we just had to get a little crazy on strategy,” said Briscoe. “Boswell has always been really good about thinking outside the box and with the speed we had in the car we were able to take tires and restart with 20-lap old tires and still hold our own.
“If we would have got a caution before we did the green flag pit stop, then I feel like I could have still won the race and that would have been quite the story.”
Briscoe didn’t pit as they ran out of set of tires, but took the wave around to put himself back on the lead lap and restarted 11th in the two-lap shootout. As Harrison Burton scored his second career Xfinity Series win in thrilling fashion, Briscoe crossed the line in seventh.
With practice sessions not happening in the foreseeable future, Briscoe knew the lack of track time bit him today, especially with how strong the car was all day.
“Having no practice is tough because you miss little things like that, but on the same side no practice and the amount of speed we’ve had each and every week is just a testament of how good our race cars are and how good of a team we have,” said Briscoe.
“It was definitely a frustrating day, but we can’t hang our heads. We had another really good, fast race car and we just made a silly mistake this week and forgot something.”
It’s the 25-year-old’s fifth top-10 finish out of the last six races, but lost the championship lead he’s held the last four races to third-place finisher Gragson.
Briscoe felt he gave away a win at one of his favorite tracks and with tomorrow’s Contender Boats 250 starting earlier, nothing is guaranteed and mistakes cannot happen.
“We still have to put it all together and not make any mistakes. We’ve got to go through all of our things and cross our t’s and dot our i’s, and hopefully put a perfect race together,” Briscoe on the upcoming 167-lap race. “That’s something we haven’t done since Darlington and we’ve given wins away, truthfully. The last two races now we were by far the best car and made one mistake and it cost us. These races aren’t easy to win. You have to do everything right and we’ve kind of been living proof of that.
“It doesn’t matter how much speed you have if you make mistakes in this series, you’re not gonna win these races and we’ve just got to clean everything up. Fortunately, we still have some time before the playoffs start where you can’t afford to make mistakes like this.”
Now trailing Gragson by 18 points, Briscoe is slated to start ninth due to the top-15 finishers being inverted. Live coverage of Sunday’s race begins at Noon EST on FS1.
UPDATE: Due to the weight coming out of Briscoe’s car, crew chief Richard Boswell, car chief Nick Hutchins and engineer DJ Vanderley have been suspended for four races, beginning with Sunday’s race at Homestead. There will be no point penalties or fines for the infraction.