DARLINGTON, S.C. — Emotion is part of what makes sports intriguing.
That’s especially true for auto racing, where emotions can — and often do — run wild under difficult circumstances.
However, sometimes the emotions that flow after a race are the kind that makes us all stand up and take notice, the kind that make us remember the warriors on the race track are human. That was the case on Thursday afternoon at Darlington Raceway.
Chase Briscoe is enduring one of the most difficult times of his life. The 25-year-old Indiana native found out on Tuesday that his wife, Marissa, had miscarried their unborn child.
“I was on Facetime with her when we found out and then to see her face and for me not to be able to be there and try to comfort her, that was really hard for me personally and to try to figure out how I can be there for her,” Briscoe recalled.
What made it worse was the fact that Briscoe was hours away, sitting in his motorhome at Darlington Raceway watching it rain while his beloved wife was grieving. He wanted to be there, he wanted to leave the race track that very second and get home to his wife.
But he couldn’t do that. He knew he couldn’t. So he stayed until NASCAR said there would be no race because of the rain. Briscoe then went home to be with his wife so they could grieve the child they never got to know.
Fast-forward to Thursday and Briscoe was back at Darlington Raceway. He admitted his mind wasn’t completely in the game, even when he was racing at more than 160 mph around the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval.
When he took the lead with 50 laps left, the emotion overflowed and he said he began crying in the race car. In that moment, everything he and his wife had been dealing with became too much to keep inside.
“At the initial start, I was all over the place emotionally, and then when I had the lead with 50 to go I was just making so many mistakes because I was literally crying inside of the race car,” Briscoe said.
So he cried. And then he got back to work.
It wasn’t going to be easy. Nothing worth having is. With 19 laps left Briscoe was battling Justin Allgaier for the lead. Allgaier got the better of him and Briscoe thought the race was over, but a saving grace came in the form of a spin by Michael Annett a few laps later.
Briscoe had another chance, but his pit crew had to be there for him when he needed them most. His pit crew responded with a monster pit stop that got Briscoe off pit road first, ahead of Allgaier and Kyle Busch.
The lead was his, but the race was far from over.
The green flag waved and the race was on with nine laps left. Briscoe and Allgaier banged wheels as they raced toward turn one, but Briscoe emerged with the lead. Behind him, Busch raced by Allgaier into second.
“I just had a feeling it was gonna come down to me and him,” Briscoe said of Busch.
He was right. Busch stalked Briscoe for several laps, waiting for his moment to pounce. That moment came coming out of turn four as they raced to the white flag. Briscoe made a mistake and bounced his Ford Mustang off the outside wall, killing his momentum.
Busch saw an opening and took it, quickly diving to Briscoe’s inside as they raced under the white flag toward turn one. The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion looked like he might just have enough to pass Briscoe.
“Getting into (turn) one I knew that there was no way he was gonna drive in deeper than me. I wasn’t gonna let it happen,” Briscoe said.
Briscoe held his line on Busch’s outside and managed to keep his car alongside Busch’s just enough to prevent Busch from sliding up in front of him. From there Briscoe’s momentum took over, propelling him alongside Busch through the corner.
The drama was already at a fevered pitch, but when Busch slipped under Briscoe and the two made contact the drama increased even more. The contact forced Briscoe into the wall, but he kept his foot in the gas and somehow emerged from turn two with the lead and Busch behind him.
The race still wasn’t over. There were two corners left and Busch wasn’t going to just give up and let Briscoe go. That’s simply not his style.
Busch drove his Toyota deep into turn three and tried with everything he had to get a run on Briscoe. He emerged from turn four alongside Briscoe, but Briscoe had the preferred line and momentum.
Briscoe had won. And all the emotions came flowing back.
“I was balling my eyes out the last quarter lap once I knew I beat him off of four and all the way around the cool down lap,” Briscoe said. “Honestly, the last six or seven laps looking out my mirror and seeing Kyle it was just like a Hollywood story.
“I didn’t realize it was gonna be as close as it was, but I had a feeling that it was just meant to be and I wasn’t 100 percent sure I was gonna beat him, especially when it got down to two to go, but I had a peace about it and whatever happened, happened, I was gonna be OK with it.”
Briscoe emerged from his race car in tears knowing what he had done and what the victory would mean not just to him, but to his wife, who was stuck watching the race from home like every NASCAR fan in the United States.
Emotionally, what Chase and Marissa Briscoe are going through is unimaginable. The victory on Thursday won’t magically fix anything, but at least for a moment, things were a little bit better.
“It doesn’t make it any easier, but definitely is a nice touch,” Briscoe said.