HARRISBURG, N.C. — In an era of auto racing that far too often features a buy-a-ride mentality, Chase Briscoe is a breath of fresh air.
Only four years removed from sleeping on couches and volunteering at race shops, the 24-year-old, third-generation sprint car racer from Mitchell, Ind., is preparing to chase the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship with one of the sport’s top teams — Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi.
Briscoe was a confident teenager with absolutely no asphalt racing experience when he rolled the dice. He packed his bags and traveled to North Carolina in hopes of becoming a stock car driver.
Eventually, he was faced with a stark reality.
“I’d been down here for two-and-half to three years and I didn’t have a hint of a ride. I was just kind of volunteering and didn’t really know where to go,” Briscoe said. “I’d been going back and forth to Indiana maybe once a month, trying to race a sprint car here and there. I didn’t have a chance of going stock car racing. I didn’t have a sponsor or any family money.”
At that point, Briscoe had thrown in the towel and was actually on his way back to the Hoosier State when his phone rang.
“I was going back home and try to race sprint cars for a living. I think I was in Kentucky at the time and I got a call from the folks at Cunningham Motorsports,” Briscoe recalled. “They said they had heard about me from a couple of people and they wanted to know if I’d be interested in coming to the race shop to see it and perhaps do some testing for them. Of course, I was playing hard to get, but down deep I was desperate as could be. I went and raced sprint cars that weekend, drove back to North Carolina on Sunday night and met with them on Monday morning.”
In the short time since that 2015 meeting, Briscoe has won the ARCA Racing Series championship (2016) and wheeled a Brad Keselowski Racing truck to victory lane (2017). His diverse 2018 schedule, under the guidance of Ford Motor Co., included a NASCAR Truck Series victory on dirt at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway and his first NASCAR Xfinity Series triumph on the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
This season, Briscoe’s amazing journey will continue as the full-time driver of the No. 98 Ford Mustang. The team has announced that Nutri Chomps, a brand of rawhide-free dog chews, will be Briscoe’s primary sponsor for the first 13 races.
“Chase Briscoe is the kind of person we’re looking to develop with our Xfinity Series program,” said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing. “Young, hungry and talented is the best way to describe Chase, and there’s no better place for him to learn and, ultimately, succeed than here at Stewart-Haas Racing. I know he’s looking forward to this opportunity, and we are too.”
Unlike Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, Briscoe never generated national headlines in sprint cars or midgets. So how did this local short-track racer end up on the fast-track to becoming a NASCAR star?
“My story is probably one in a million. I was blessed to be the kid that was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time with the right people,” Briscoe said. “Obviously, you have to be winning at whatever you’re doing. But to me, the biggest thing is to treat everyone like you want to be treated. That goes such a long way behind the scenes because you never know when a crew guy that worked on a sprint car team that you drove for one time might know someone that owns a big company. You never know when you might need someone to say a good word about you.
“So me; I always try to treat everyone like I want to be treated and I try to be the nice guy. In today’s world, what you do off the track is a big deal, too.”