DARLINGTON, S.C. – An emotional week for Chase Briscoe got just a little bit better on Thursday afternoon at Darlington Raceway.
Days removed from learning his wife, Marissa, had suffered a miscarriage, Briscoe was able to hold off reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch to win the rain-delayed Toyota 200 at Darlington in thrilling fashion.
“This is for my wife. This has been the hardest week,” Briscoe said after he climbed from his race car with tears flowing down his face. “When I took the lead, I was crying in my car. This is more than a race win. This is the biggest win of my life after the toughest day of my life. To be able to beat the best there is is so satisfying.”
Briscoe took the lead for the first time at the start of the final stage from Justin Allgaier. Busch, who won the second stage, was penalized for speeding on pit road prior to the restart and was forced to start at the tail of the field.
Wheeling the No. 98 for Stewart-Haas Racing, Briscoe led Allgaier for much of the final stage while Busch worked his way back through the field. With 19 laps left Allgaier was able to get alongside Briscoe and the two battled for the lead for the next lap.
Allgaier was able to clear Briscoe and take the lead despite bouncing off the turn two wall. Briscoe tucked back into second, but the race wasn’t over for the Indiana native as the caution flag waved with 15 laps left when Michael Annett spun from fourth in turns three and four.
“Justin got by me and that caution saved me obviously. My pit crew did a phenomenal job getting me back out in the lead,” Briscoe said.
Everyone hit pit road for tires at that point, with Briscoe beating Allgaier off pit road to regain the race lead. Busch, meanwhile, came out of the pits in third and put himself in position to challenge for the race lead.
The green flag waved with nine laps left and almost immediately the action got intense as Allgaier and Briscoe made contact before they got to turn one. Briscoe, in the preferred high lane, was able to pull clear and hold the lead while Busch got around Allgaier for second.
Briscoe built a half-second lead in the next few laps, but with three laps left Busch cut the distance down and was suddenly right behind Briscoe. As Briscoe charged out of turn four towards the white flag he made contact with the outside wall, allowing Busch to get to his inside as they raced to turn one on the last lap.
Through turns one and two the two made contact again, with Busch pinching Briscoe into the outside wall. Despite that Briscoe held serve and emerged from turn two with the race lead and Busch in his mirrors.
“I just kept making a lot of mistakes down there,” Briscoe said. “Getting into one I knew that there was no way he was gonna drive in deeper than me. I wasn’t gonna let it happen. He was gracious enough to at least leave me a little bit of a lane and it was a heck of a race.”
Busch tried one last time to challenge Briscoe through turns three and four and managed to get alongside Briscoe coming out of turn four, but it wasn’t enough because Briscoe again had the preferred outside line and the momentum.
At the checkered flag it was Briscoe beating Busch by .086 seconds to earn his second Xfinity Series victory of the season, the fourth of his career and, from an emotional standpoint, the most important victory of his young life.
“I’d even told Marissa Wednesday that I’m going to win this thing for you,” Briscoe said. “I think we both laughed about it not really believing it, but I told her it would be a huge thing for us. We just experienced the lowest of lows and this would be the high that we needed right now.”
Busch said that Briscoe’s bad run coming out of turn four on the penultimate lap forced him to take the low line down the frontstretch into turn one.
“He got such a bad run through three and four and got really loose on exit and actually got into the fence a bit that I had no choice but to try to go to the bottom,” Busch said. “I wish he would have slowed his momentum just a little bit more because then I would have been clear of him and I wouldn’t have had to deal with him.
“He was just enough there that I was probably as much clear as Chase Elliott and I were last night that I thought about getting up and getting in front of him,” Busch continued. “I thought better of it and tried to stay low because I was loose already. Once his forward momentum got to my right side it got me super loose and drug me up the race track into him.
“We touched each other a little bit. I guess he touched the fence just a little bit. We got through their luckily. I either thought I would have the lead and everything was going to be cool or we were going to be crashed. Fortunately we weren’t crashed and I didn’t have the lead.”
Allgaier finished third, with Austin Cindric and polesitter and stage one winner Noah Gragson completing the top-five.
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