The Absence of Bell, Larson is Felt, but Chili Bowl Keeps Rolling
Jan 9, 2023
In 2017, Chase Briscoe, still a Sprint Car racer turned Stock Car prospect qualified for the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals main event.
He flipped and finished last, but it felt like the start of a stretch where the third-generation racer would contend for the Golden Driller each January.
That hasn’t been the case.
The next four years saw Briscoe get eliminated by the B feature as the first driver below the cut line. Last year, he was cut in the C Feature. You can pretty much bank on the Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR Cup Series driver having a shot at the feature each year, but that’s not the goal for the 28-year-old.
"For me, this is the most confident I have ever felt coming into this place," Briscoe said.
But he's said that before too.
"Yeah, but this is the most I have raced since 2018 on dirt, and where I was from then to now, I just feel like a much better race car driver," Briscoe said. "I am so much more experienced. I've gotten older, wiser and you learn so much race craft each year.
"This is a new car and when we tested it (at Millbridge) it was the most confidence I've ever had in a Midget ever."
It's also the most comfortable he's been -- literally.
"My knees used to be jammed up in the cockpit," Briscoe said. "I was crammed in there but this one allows me to drive harder and I hope it shows in the results. You say I've said some of this before, but last year was the least comfortable and confident I've been coming here and it feels night and day different today as we sit here."
With the absence of Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, that opens up two more A feature spots, and that’s not lost on Briscoe either.
"I think everyone in this building will say they're happy upon winning it but you also want to say you won it by beating the best," Briscoe said. "That's what makes it so special to win -- beating 400 other teams and they're all the best.
"They're definitely two of the best to ever race a Midget here. It doesn't put an asterisk on this year but if you win, you want to beat them. They have set the bar here.
"On practice day, you use them to set your pace and see where you stack up. I hope they come back, but without them here, there is a greater opportunity to make the feature and win it too."
Is this an A feature or bust year for Briscoe and his new car at the Chili Bowl?
"I treat every year as a feature or bust, honestly," Briscoe said. "I made it the one year and the next three years, I miss it by one, so there is an extra urgency because I'm really down on not making it.
"The year I did make it, I didn't really savor the experience because I was upside down on my lid 15 laps into the race. I definitely want to make the feature and take the time to enjoy it."
Briscoe said, he's only recently began to truly appreciate how prestigious making the main event is.
"Like, you talk to (Brian Walker, Walkapedia) and he tells you there's only 64 guys here out of the almost 400 that has made the feature in this race and it shows you how hard it is."
Briscoe, as has become customary, will make his march towards the A Feature on Monday night's card. He hopes to be in the mix for a podium but really feels this car and his race craft is capable of racing for an immediate transfer spot.