By Cole Cusumano
Surely, after winning a series-high nine races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and securing a ride in the infamous No. 14 at Stewart-Haas Racing, expectations for Chase Briscoe’s NASCAR Cup Series bid couldn’t be any higher. With a career-best finish of 19th through two grueling events, it’s obviously too early to get caught up in statistics, but it’s undoubtedly been a learning process for the 26-year-old.
Well on his way to a top-10 finish at the Daytona International Speedway road course, the hood from the No. 14 Ford got ripped up over the windshield with five laps to go, relegating Briscoe to 19th when it was all said and done. While the mishap still stings, it was important to experience, as the transition from Xfinity to Cup cars is quite significant.
“I think the biggest thing is, (in) the Xfinity car, you could hit the fence a couple times and there’s gonna be no issues — the body just bounces right back,” Briscoe told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “The Cup Series it seems like if you just literally scrape the thing you’re gonna have a tire going down and it just kills your aero platform and everything else.”
On Lap 6, Briscoe took an aggressive dive to the inside of Bubba Wallace, lost control of his Mustang and hit one of the turtles, which caused damage to the splitter. This resulted in the hood to give way after nearly 60 additional circuits around the 14-turn road course. He believes had this been the Xfinity bodies, the car would have been fine.
Instead, Briscoe learned vitality of the age-old cliche, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Given the length of competition in the Cup Series, it’s very much about endurance, patience and knowing when the push the boundaries.
“That’s been something that’s been hard for me because in the past if there’s a hole, go for it, where in the Cup Series you kind of have to keep in mind you need your car for the end of the race,” Briscoe said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that’s been a challenge for me is just learning that risk vs. reward and not that you can ride around, it’s just knowing when to try to push a little bit harder and maybe run closer to the wall or dive in under somebody with a chance of potentially damaging your car.
“Every little dent or ding on it is really gonna affect you from a balance standpoint and a speed standpoint.”
Although road course racing vastly differs from competing on 1.5-mile tracks, the concept remains the same and Briscoe is aware of that heading to Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With two victories between the Xfinity and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the 26-year-old knows his way around Homestead, but realizes Cup racing is a different animal. Upon watching film (and from personal experience), it’s no secret running the wall is the fastest way around Miami. But in doing research, he noted that no one really races up there until the last 30-to-40 laps, unless your name is Kyle Larson or Tyler Reddick.
Again, it’s all about being conscious about the risk vs. reward and cognizant of how getting into the wall affects the balance of these Cup cars.
Briscoe’s newfound philosophy will be put to the test in taking the green flag from 30th on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Tune into Fox at 3:30 p.m. ET to see how the Stewart-Haas Racing product fares in south beach.