Has The Next Great Chili Bowl Contender Arrived?
Jan 12, 2022
Chase Briscoe has a lot happening these days approaching his second full-time NASCAR Cup Series season, but he’s still trying to get back to a level he last approached in 2017.
Back then, the newly-crowned ARCA Racing Series champion took his own Spike Dirt Midget chassis and placed it in the main event of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in just his second appearance at the Tulsa Expo Center. It felt like the start of something special for the third-generation dirt racer, but instead he found himself upside down on his lid 15 laps into the race, eliminated from contention.
It has remarkably gone downhill from there.
A year later, he wasn’t able to escape his E-Main and then missed the feature by one spot in both 2019 and 2020. Last year, he looked like one of the contenders in his heat and qualifier but fell off come feature time.
"It's been a bit of a gut punch for sure," Briscoe said. "You know, that first year I made the race, Rico (Abreu) spins right in front of me, I'm like ninth and I flipped, so I didn't even get to experience the feature …
"In ‘19, I missed it by one spot but you’re excited because you were right there, so you go back the next year and you miss it by one spot again. You feel devastated because you’ve had to sit a whole year to get another shot at it. So hopefully this year, we can make the race and run a little bit better."
Unfortunately, the start to his 2022 week in Tulsa has played out the same as his last Monday prelim appearance in 2021. He finished second in his heat, won his qualifier and finished 11th in the feature after starting fifth.
"Kind of the same thing as the last three years," Briscoe said. "Really good in the heat. Really really good in the qualifier… I’m not going to say that we missed it tonight in the feature, but we kind of got chopped early in the race and we got tight, lost two spots when that happened.
"We were seventh at the time of the restart and had a bleeder get stuck on the right rear and lost three and a half, four pounds, and then that was made worse when the track took rubber, and that made us extremely tight."
It’s the same old story -- fast cars, good driving and bad luck.
"But I don’t know, if you take the bleeder out of it, we’re still sixth or seventh, sitting in the back of the B but now we’re going to have to come back from a C-Main. We’re going to have to dig out of a little bit of a hole, and we can, but it’s not going to be easy by any means."
With that said, Briscoe still expects to make the feature. He has expected to make the feature every year he has come here.
"When you reach a certain level, I don’t think you come here and expect anything less," Briscoe said. "It’s why we’re here."
He has a multi-car effort, but he’s still racing against the likes of Keith Kunz Motorsports with its 15-car effort and other championship winning organizations like Clauson Marshall Racing, Dave Mac Motorsports, RMS Racing, RAMS Racing and Alex Bowman Racing.
That amount of data is incredible, and a part-time team like Briscoe’s just doesn’t have the same notebook or resources, even if he thinks they’re still close.
"Our notebook is so small," Briscoe said. "We raced two races a year before this. And that's kind of been our mantra and even with all that, I feel like we've had one of the best cars here up until the feature. We make changes that we're not totally sure is going to work because we're up against Keith and he has 15 cars they can bounce 15 different ideas off of. They just know what works and what doesn't."
The obvious solution is to just race more, which is something he plans to do, early this year and into the summer.
"I made a schedule the other day and it was 22 races, all done by July," Briscoe said. "I want to make the (NASCAR Cup) playoffs and that’s going to be the priority getting closer to the fall, but the good thing about dirt is all the midweek races on the national touring side.
"You can race anywhere in the country almost any day of the week."
And it’s not just Midget and Non-Wing Sprint Car racing, but also Winged and Dirt Late Model racing too.
"I really feel like all of it makes you a well-rounder and just more complete racer," Briscoe said. "You see what Kyle (Larson) has been able to do and he’s shown that this doesn’t have to be a distraction and it can make you better on Sundays too."