By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval has brought positive memories for Chase Briscoe in his NASCAR career. Back in 2018, Briscoe scored his maiden Xfinity Series win at the circuit. Fast forward to 2022, the Roval became the site of his playoff hopes staying alive.
During Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400, Briscoe was among four drivers who were below the cutoff line. He was ninth in points, trailing eight-place Daniel Suarez by 12 points.
Due to the Roval’s wild characteristics, survival was paramount for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver.
As the race came to a close, it appeared the game of survival wouldn’t favor Briscoe who got turned by Austin Dillon.
It was at this point where Briscoe ultimately credited his crew chief Johnny Klausmeier for allowing him to keep fighting. Even if it meant rubbing people the wrong way in order to advance into the next round of the playoffs.
“Johnny just did a really good job of giving me the ball there at the end and letting me have tires and just trying to go for it,” Briscoe on Klausmeier. “I’m sure I made a couple people mad there at the end, but I had no idea. Hey just kept telling me every point is gonna matter here, so I just kept trying to pass everybody I could and got lucky that a couple of those holes opening up, but I’m just proud of my team.”
The main talk may be focusing on Christopher Bell’s clutch win to move onto the Round of 8 after being below the cutline entering the race. As for Briscoe, the rollercoaster afternoon ends on a high note as he crossed the line in ninth. Good enough to dethrone defending Cup Series champion Kyle Larson out of next round by two points.
“That was a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Briscoe. “To be easily in and then that caution came out and the 3 just dumped me. Thinking we were out again. I knew at the end there it was gonna be chaos. I feel like all respect goes out the window every time we have a caution at the end of one of these things.
“Nobody believed we were gonna get past the Round of 16 and here we are in the Round of 8 and three really, really good racetracks for me coming up, so I’m looking forward to them.”
Another benefactor to Briscoe moving onto the next round was his teammate Cole Custer. That’s a result of channeling his inner Sergio Perez at Abu Dhabi last year by playing the blocking game that propelled Briscoe to a top-10 finish.
Coming to the backstretch chicane, Custer blocked Dillon to the point he slowed down, allowing Briscoe to dive onto the bottom and gained two spots which proved beneficial for him, but detrimental to Larson’s quest for a second title.
Following the race-extended 112-lap contest, NASCAR issued a statement that while they’ll review Custer’s radio communications regarding competing at 100%, the outcome of the cutoff race will stand. Briscoe moves on and Larson doesn’t.
“NASCAR is reviewing data, video and radio transmissions from the 41 car following its incident on the backstretch during the final lap. NASCAR will communicate the results of the review early this week. Any potential penalties would not affect the Round of 8 field.”
Controversy aside, Briscoe’s top-10 rally marked the seventh of his season, the fewest among the remaining title contenders.
“I was making good ground. I knew (Austin) had literally wrecked me two laps before and I was wanting to give it back to him because I was so mad and then I just knew I had to go. It’s a tough spot for the non-playoff guys,” Briscoe explained. “The 43 (Erik Jones), I kind of put him in a really bad spot and put myself in a bad spot too, but I was just shoving him because I had to get going knowing that every spot was gonna make the difference.
“My team came over the radio and told me I was one point out and that was the 43 car that I needed to pass, so I kind of shoved him out of the way and then the 3 got by both of us and then I had the back straightaway to do a Hail Mary and luckily somebody caught it and I was able to move on.”
Regardless of the outcome, Briscoe’s emotions ran wild knowing his title hopes remain alive. More so that a strong stretch of races could put him in the Championship 4 at Phoenix, the site of his only Cup win to date back in the spring.
In his eyes, the Roval outcome felt bigger than his Phoenix triumph knowing the bigger picture as the season is near its conclusion.
“I feel happier than I ever have when I’ve won a race before, truthfully. I know what this team is capable of, especially in this next round,” Briscoe on moving onto the Round of 8. “Homestead, I feel like, is by far my best racetrack. Vegas, I’ve been able to have a lot of success there and Martinsville we were really fast.
“If we can get to Phoenix, we know we have a good car there, too. To have a one in eight chance to win a NASCAR championship is an unbelievable feeling and I think that’s why it feels even bigger than a win.”
Entering Las Vegas, Briscoe is seeded in eighth at 4009 points, trailing fourth seed Bell by nine points for the cutoff spot.
Coverage of the South Point 400 begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Denny Hamlin is the defending fall race winner while Alex Bowman, who missed his second straight race due to concussion-like symptoms, won this year’s spring race.
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