NASCAR Cup Series
Chase Briscoe Captures First Cup Series Win at Phoenix
Mar 14, 2022
The final laps of the Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday embodied everything NASCAR hopes to feature in this new era.
Chase Briscoe outdueled Tyler Reddick and Ross Chastain in a four-lap shootout to determine which next generational star would claim their first victory at the highest level. The battle featured a past decade powerhouse in Stewart-Haas Racing versus a resurgent Richard Childress Racing and emerging contender in Team Trackhouse.
While a spec racing platform comes with benefits and detriments, the primary positive on Sunday was that all three twentysomethings were essentially racing on a level playing field.
Briscoe won because crew chief John Klausmeier landed on the right setup, their over-the-wall pit crew consistently gave the No. 14 track position and the driver was able to drive deeper into the corner on the final restart than everyone else.
He was willing to take the wall down if that’s what it took.
"I was committed at that point," Briscoe said of the final restart. "If I lifted, I was going to get beat because then Ross has the lead. There is no way I was going to be able to pass him back."
It was similar to Briscoe's statement Xfinity Series victory in June 2020 against Kyle Busch at Darlington Raceway.
"I felt like God was with me because there’s no way when I won Darlington, when I hit the fence, that I somehow gained speed," Briscoe said. "Then today, there was no way I wasn’t going to knock the wall down at the angle I was at. I was up in the marbles. Somehow it stuck. I was able to clear him."
Another intended benefit of a spec racing platform is the promise of lowering the barrier of entry to compete.
While Briscoe, Reddick and Chastain advanced to Cup in absolutely the most challenging ways imaginable, purely on merit and without the tremendous aid of family riches, NASCAR hopes its new car makes this the new normal.
It hopes the level playing field rewards talent above engineering and provides incentive for teams to seek out the best young talent. Through four races, the top four drivers in laps led this season is a rewarding mix of young drivers with gritty backgrounds who had their hard work rewarded in their various pathways to the top.
Ryan Blaney, 190
Chase Briscoe, 121
Tyler Reddick, 90
Ross Chastain, 83
Sure, Blaney is a second-generation Cup Series driver whose father Dave had an admirable decade at the highest levels. That reputation helped Blaney the younger connect with the right people at an early age, but he won at every level en route to joining Team Penske.
Briscoe and Reddick come from dirt backgrounds, Sprint Cars and fenders respectively, but weren’t going to make it to Cup unless they impressed the right people. Reddick won early and often in Late Models, K&N and Trucks.
Reddick is the youngest driver to start on pole in the World 100 at Eldora Speedway. His 2011 win at East Bay made him the youngest Lucas Oil Late Model winner at 15-years-old. Winning the Xfinity Series championship in 2018 for JR Motorsports genuinely impressed Richard Childress -- who made the young driver a centerpiece of his future competition plans.
Briscoe’s story is well known by this point too.
"I was driving with half my stuff back from North Carolina back to Indiana," Briscoe recalled again on Sunday night. "I called my mom, I remember, an hour before, I was bawling. I was over it. Felt like I had been kicked so many times, had no opportunities. An hour later I get that phone call."
That phone call was to test an ARCA car for Briggs Cunningham. That test turned into a full-time ride and a series championship.
"Leading into 2020 I was going to get dropped," Briscoe said. "I had no sponsors, no nothing. Ford was in a weird situation -- they didn’t want to fund (a driver development program) anymore.
"My dad, wearing a No. 98 Chase Briscoe hat in the middle of downtown Vegas, Mike Lindberg, the CEO of High Point, randomly walks by and says, 'Chase Briscoe' and gives my dad a business card. A week later he is committed to sign up for Xfinity. Three days before that I was going to get dropped."
Ross Chastain is legitimately an eighth-generation watermelon farmer. He helped his dad on the family farm in Alva, Florida until he was 13. He raced Pro Trucks around the Gulf Coast, Peninsula and Panhandle.
He never had the money to consistently race high level Late Models. He impressed so much driving lower caliber equipment that he eventually gets recognized by the top tier of NASCAR owners.
There are many different pathways to the Cup Series, and this isn’t to place one above the other, but it is very American Dreamish for Briscoe, Reddick and Chastain to do it their way and do it against each other at Phoenix.
It’s the way the Blaneys did it too. This is the way Josh Berry and Daniel Hemric are hoping to forge their careers over the next decade. It’s the reason Stewart-Haas Racing signed Ryan Preece as a reserve driver even if it didn’t have a place for him this year.
It’s why Hendrick Motorsports did the same with Alex Bowman. These are proven winners worth building this next generation around and every team wants them.
"For me, I don’t come from backing," Briscoe said. "I have to go have results otherwise nobody wants me to drive the race car. It’s definitely a relief to win a race. You can run second, third, but people want to win at the end of the day. You have to win races to stay here.
"This isn’t a guarantee. This could be my only win. I hope not. It shows I was capable of being at this level, but you still have to keep working. There’s 39 other guys that are going to try to do their best next week. We can just continue to do what we need to do. Today we put a whole race together. We’ve proven now to ourselves that we can do it. Hopefully that confidence carry through."