By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
It might’ve been a chaotic final stage for third-place finisher Chase Briscoe, but he’ll leave Homestead-Miami Speedway knowing he’ll be this year’s Sunoco NASCAR Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year.
Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford Performance Ford Mustang was strong in the opening two stages in Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300, battling with the Championship 4 contenders. Briscoe wound up scoring the stage win over his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and title contender Cole Custer.
The Mitchell, Indiana native backed up his momentum with fifth in the next stage. As a result of scoring 16 stage points and already having a strong gap over John Hunter Nemechek going into Homestead, he locked Rookie of the Year honors over the likes of Noah Gragson and Justin Haley.
“It’s good. There’s a lot of great race car drivers that have won that, obviously,” Briscoe on winning ROTY. “It’s pretty neat to get it in the Truck Series and now the XFINITY Series, so hopefully one day I can try to do it in Cup.”
However, all the positives went away on Lap 123 when initial reports of a right front tire went down.
Briscoe quickly denied the claim after the race, saying that he simply hit the wall by pushing it to the edge, resulting his No. 98 Mustang to hit the Turn 3 wall which resulted for the race’s seventh caution to come out.
“I was pushing really hard and I just pushed a little bit too hard and got in the wall,” Briscoe said. “That obviously cost us.”
Fortunately, the damage wasn’t catastrophic as Briscoe charged on and quietly claw his way back to third. The No. 98 team’s effort meant Briscoe wrapped up 2019 with his 13th top-five of the year and taking sixth in the final points table.
Briscoe said he would’ve liked to race against race winner and series champion Tyler Reddick, but he was simply unstoppable riding on the fence.
“I was pushing really hard on the fence and I got by Cole and I finally had clean air and I tried just getting a little bit more and I was already on the limit,” Briscoe said. “That kind of put us behind the eight ball, but we were able to drive back up.”
Additionally, Briscoe felt his final pit stop under green just didn’t worked out as he, Justin Allgaier and others lost tremendous time over Reddick and Custer, ending any shot of capturing his second win of the season.
“That green flag pit stop just didn’t go our way,” Briscoe said. “Me, Allgaier and I can’t remember who else, but I lost so much time to the leaders that it made it almost impossible to catch them.”
Furthermore, while Briscoe isn’t sure if his car was a winning machine during the last stretch of green flag racing, he’s still proud of his entire team for the amazing comeback as his future in the Xfinity Series remains unknown going into 2020.
“It’s hard to say with all the stuff going on strategy-wise in one guy’s pit, but I’m really proud of all our Ford Performance guys,” Briscoe said. “It was a really good season and a good note to end on.”