Cole's Corner

Points are top priority for Briscoe in quest for Cup postseason debut

By Cole Cusumano

There was a point this season where Chase Briscoe felt an early sense of certainty about making his first playoff appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series. Those feelings have now begun to fade.

Since Briscoe’s maiden Cup victory at Phoenix Raceway in March, nine different drivers have won, bringing the season total to 13 with seven races remaining until the playoffs. With 220 laps led, a stage win and four top-10s, the Stewart-Haas Racing product is hardly lighting up the stat sheets, but knows he should be in a much better position during his sophomore campaign.

“We’re trying to prepare for the playoffs, but at the same time trying to make sure that we’re still in (contention) with how many winners there are now and how many races are left,” Briscoe told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Now that we’ve got so many, the stress is picking back up. I think these next five-to-six weeks are going to be crucial to see where you need to improve physically and mentally.”

One specific area of emphasis for Briscoe throughout the season has been putting together a complete race – something he believes hasn’t been executed since winning at Phoenix. However, that’s not to say the opportunities haven’t been there.

First there was the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race, where he led 59 laps and settled for a 22nd-place finish after wiping out on a last-lap effort for the win. Briscoe pushed the limits once again with two to go in the Coca-Cola 600 and spun while challenging for the lead.

Risk versus reward has been a common theme for Briscoe throughout his racing career, so his objective before the postseason is simple.

“For myself: limiting mistakes and not putting myself in bad positions,” Briscoe said. “You really have to kind of look at the bigger picture – especially come playoff time – because each point matters so much, but if trying to get that one-point costs you two or three spots or even worse, then is it really worth trying to go for that one spot?”

One way Briscoe is seeking to become more complacent without hoisting a trophy is by maximizing stage points. In order to be more successful in this department, the 27-year-old believes in prioritizing qualifying setups over race trim in the limited practice sessions going forward.

Fortunately for Briscoe, he’s had a top-10 starting spot at 3-of-4 short track races this season, including a pole at World Wide Technology Raceway.

“At the beginning of the year, we did a really good job of getting stage points,” Briscoe said. “These last couple months we haven’t really gotten hardly any. That all comes back to qualifying and having a good car in practice. Normally, if you start up front in that first stage, you’re going to get good stage points.” 

If there was ever a weekend to prioritize qualifying, it would definitely be at a place like New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Track position is always a premium at Loudon given notoriously lengthy green-flag runs, but it could be even more crucial in 2022.

Short track racing has produced a less than stellar product for those watching at home, but drivers have had their hands full with the 670-horsepower package at these venues. To put in perspective how tough it is to pass with this setup, there were only five lead changes at Martinsville Speedway in April.

The good news for Briscoe is he has a win and top-10 in two short track events this season. The other two he finished 11th and started from the pole. Find out how he fares in the Ambetter 301 from Loudon on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.

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