Chase Briscoe’s career is definitely heading in the right direction.
The Indiana native has won nine times in the Xfinity Series this year and has already qualified for the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway to run for a title. As if that wasn’t enough to make 2020 a memorable year, Briscoe got the news last week he’ll be elevated to the Cup Series next season to take the wheel of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 entry, replacing Clint Bowyer who heads to the FOX broadcast booth.
In the Round of 8 opener at Kansas Speedway, Briscoe exceeded the lofty goal he set for himself before the Xfinity Series campaign began when he proclaimed eight wins was his target. Now, he still has two more chances to get to double digit victories.
"I think a lot of it was just seeing what the big three guys did last year," Briscoe said of last year’s Xfinity trio of Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell when asked why he landed at his eight win target.
"I felt like towards the end of last year we were able to run up front with them pretty consistently every week. We would be leading races and something would happen or we finish second, third area. So I knew we were going to be able to contend for wins and with those three guys moving up, it obviously created a lot more opportunities to go win so that was just kind of my mindset."
While some doubted Briscoe could rack up enough trips to Victory Lane to hit his mark, the prediction became a major storyline throughout the season.
"Never in a million years did I think it would get talked about it like it did," he said. "It definitely blew up way more than I ever expected it to, but now that we got to eight I’m glad I said it and it kind of worked out the way it did."
Briscoe also didn’t expect to get the call to the Cup Series as soon as he did. But when Bowyer decided to pursue a television career, it created an opportunity SHR filled by putting its talented Xfinity Series driver in the vacated seat.
Briscoe got the news at dinner meeting he had at team owner Tony Stewart’s house that included his parents in attendance.
"I wasn’t expecting it," Briscoe said.
"(Sponsor) HighPoint had been signed up for nearly two weeks and they’ve been lying to me for two weeks about all this and had it all planned. So it was really cool how Tony did it. He had hidden cameras everywhere. He said you’re only told you’re going to Cup for the first time one time and he wanted it to be special and have all my family there. So it was pretty unbelievable the amount of effort he went through to do it all and glad that he did it because it’s certainly a day I’ll never forget."
The chance to drive at NASCAR’s top level was made even sweeter for Briscoe having Stewart as his owner. The three-time Cup Series champion has been Briscoe’s idol since he followed in his footsteps as a short-track driver around the dirt tracks in his native Indiana and throughout the Midwest.
"I think for me, Tony was the only NASCAR guy that you could literally watch on Sunday, but then I might go to a local dirt track he was racing there," Briscoe said of his idol. "In the Chili Bowl he was running there. So for me growing up, I always was just pulled to him because he was always racing dirt sprint cars, dirt midgets, dirt late models and all these things. I knew he was from Indiana right down the road from me."
There’s still an Xfinity crown to try and win but Briscoe already has his eyes set on what lies ahead next year and beyond.
"I’m looking forward to it," he said. "It’s going to be a huge step. It’s going to be a big learning curve. There’s just so many things that are different. Those guys are so good over there. I’m looking forward to the challenge.
"…I think the schedule for next year bodes well for me just between the dirt race now and quite a few road courses. And it seems like some of the tracks I struggled at aren’t on the schedule anymore, you only go to once so I’m looking forward to it. It’s certainly going to be a big step, but one I’m looking forward to."
It’s good to be Chase Briscoe.