Briscoe Rallies Back, Clinches Xfinity Rookie Honors

0
113
Briscoe Rallies Back
Chase Briscoe captured NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie-of-the-year honors on Saturday. (HHP/Alan Marler photo)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Chase Briscoe clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, as well as fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings, with a furious rally back during Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300.

Briscoe actually locked up top rookie honors after stage two, but was running third in the second half of the race when he hit the outside wall in turn one at Homestead-Miami Speedway, cutting a right-front tire on his No. 98 Ford Mustang and putting his hopes of a strong finish to the season in jeopardy.

However, Briscoe, crew chief Mike Shiplett and their Stewart-Haas Racing crew went to work, dug their heels in and patched Briscoe’s car back together in order to give him a shot at redemption.

From there, Briscoe took that shot and ran with it, coming all the way back from outside the top 15 to finish right where he was before his turn-one incident.

Briscoe took the checkered flag third for his 13th top-five and 26th top-10 finish in 33 races this season, a solid record and one that Briscoe was quick to note his appreciation for after the race.

However, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t disappointed in the final outcome at Homestead.

“I felt like honestly, when the green flag pit stop came, I came out right behind (Justin) Allgaier and (Noah) Gragson and lost three and a half seconds to Reddick just trying to race those guys. If you take that away, I think towards the last 10 or 20 laps, I was about eight seconds back,” lamented Briscoe. “I knew I wasn’t going to catch them, so I tried to just save my stuff. If I could have got around Allgaier and Noah quicker, then I could have reeled them in. I thought even with the damage we had a shot.

“A caution would’ve for sure benefitted me, but it would have hurt the 00 (Cole Custer). They were out of tires because of that loose wheel,” he continued. “So he would have ran dead last because he would have had no tires left.  I was definitely wanting a caution, but for the big picture for them, I was hoping that we didn’t get a caution. It was weird though; I felt like our car was really good, not necessarily at the beginning of the run, but as soon as it moved all the way to the wall about 15 laps in.

“It just depended on when the caution might have come, if I would have had anything for (Reddick).”

Though Briscoe’s first season produced a win at Iowa Speedway and a playoff berth alongside Custer, his teammate and the championship runner-up, he doesn’t have a confirmed seat for 2020 as of yet.

Briscoe Rallies Back
Chase Briscoe (98) battles Cole Custer during Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.(HHP/Alan Marler photo)

“I know they’re still working on trying to find funding to make it happen, but as of right now, I don’t have anything,” noted Briscoe, who edged Austin Cindric by just eight points for fifth. “Obviously I was wanting to win the race tonight. I feel like if I had done that, it would have made everything a lot easier. But I felt like we showed speed, and I feel like if we do get to go back next year, I feel like we could be serious championship contenders.

“Hopefully they can iron out everything and we can work together and try to figure something out, but right now they’re still working on all that.”

Asked if he’s optimistic that things will fall into place for him, Briscoe didn’t give a direct answer, but feels like he showed enough this season to earn his place in the Xfinity Series.

“I think it’s day by day right now,” Briscoe said of his situation. “I think one day is a lot better looking than the other. But I feel like I’ve proved enough this year that if they want me bad enough, they’re going to find a way to make it happen. … I felt like the second half of the year I proved that I deserved to be here, and hopefully I showed enough in their eyes.”

Briscoe becomes the sixth driver to win the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series rookie-of-the-year award (2017) and then follow it up with Sunoco rookie honors in the Xfinity Series later in his career.

He joins Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones and William Byron in that exclusive club, an opportunity he relishes, even if he felt there’s a lot more he can improve on.

“If I had to rate (the year) on a 1 to 10 scale, I would say it was like a six-and-a-half,” Briscoe said. “I felt like at the beginning of the year, I kind of struggled to understand what I needed in these race cars, and truthfully how to drive them and the feel I was looking for. The biggest thing was that I couldn’t feel the right rear ever. As the season went on, we kind of switched from trying to say do what Harvick ran the year before and what Cole was running and just try to build more of a setup to what I felt better about.

“Iowa was really the first race that we decided to do that, and that was the race we won. It seemed like from then on out, we were a serious contender every week,” Briscoe explained. “Looking back at these playoffs, especially, I felt like we could have realistically won three or four of the races, and weird stuff happened. The Kansas deal … the Roval was one where I think I could have ran down Allmendinger, Dover I think we led the most laps and didn’t catch a caution, and then tonight just getting into the wall.

“I think the end of our year was definitely better than the first part of the year, but overall we definitely have more to improve on and I can get way better as a driver, I feel like. I just need a chance to.”