Chase Briscoe may be one of the purest race car drivers in the NASCAR garage.
From a sprint car background, racing is in his blood. The 24-year-old Mitchell, Ind., native has raced and will race almost anything and everything with wheels on it. He’s won races in the Gander Outdoors Truck and Xfinity series and parlayed his 2018 success into a full-time ride for 2019 with Stewart-Haas Racing.
Briscoe spent some time with Frontstretch at Bristol Motor Speedway to discuss his beginnings behind the wheel, how he got into NASCAR with the help of a well-known friend, the moment he was ready to give it all up, racing for his childhood idol in Tony Stewart, how last year’s ROVAL victory did wonders for his career and more.
Davey Segal, Frontstretch: You’re the youngest driver ever to win a 410 sprint car race, and you beat Jeff Gordon’s record. How cool is that?
Chase Briscoe: I don’t know if the record still holds, but anytime you can beat anything Jeff did is obviously a pretty cool deal. I was 13 years old, my rookie year running sprint cars and was able to win literally the last race of the year.
Segal: And that was with a motor from 1993?
Briscoe: Yeah, we didn’t really have nice stuff. I would just run a lot of my dad’s old sprint car stuff. Especially my rookie year, they figured I’d be tearing up quite a bit of equipment. That motor I ran all the way to my last year running sprint cars before stock cars. It’s a little bit easier in the non-winged world to run an older motor than the winged side, but for what we were doing, it still had 730 horsepower. We were down 100, but the track was so slick you were able to get away with it. It was good enough to.
Segal: Let’s stay there for a bit. Tell me a little about your background in racing. I know it’s on dirt.
Briscoe: My grandpa started owning sprint cars in 1976 and had a lot of the big names in sprint cars. Steve Kinser, Dave Blaney, Rich Vogler, Jack Hewitt. A lot of really big names in sprint cars drive for him. And then my dad ran for 22 years and had a really good career, won 200 races. Sprint cars were all I knew growing up, that’s where I was at every weekend. Still every off weekend I get I try to go sprint car racing. Even when we’re here at the track, I’m watching it on the computer or my phone. It’s definitely my first passion for sure.
Segal: What do you think of this new push within the sport for dirt racing? It seems like Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell are leading it, but you’re in the thick of it, too.
Briscoe: It’s really cool. I wish we could get more guys driving over here that would go over there and try it. It seems like there’s a lot more interest now not only from drivers and crew members but from fans and wanting to see what it’s all about. I feel like NASCAR’s done a good job trying to cross-promote each side. Both sides benefit from it. Anytime those two can meet, I think it’s a good deal for both communities.
Segal: Let’s go back to 2015. You wound up getting an ARCA Menards Series ride via Christopher Bell, then tested with Cunningham Motorsports and it took off.
Briscoe: Christopher was obviously a Toyota man from the beginning, and he had an offer from Roush Fenway [Racing] at the time to do a developmental deal. I knew he was going to turn it down, so I literally went to Roush, walked in the front door and was like, “hey, I don’t know who I need to talk to.”
Segal: It’s nice to have friends like that.
Briscoe: For sure. Cunningham had reached out to RFR the following week about a test and asked if there was anybody they’d be interested in taking. Roush said my name from that meeting, Cunningham had heard my name that same week, so they’d heard my name twice in that week and said, “OK, we’re going to figure out a way to get a hold of this kid,” so they called me, I went there and volunteered there for a year before I finally got in the car. Continued to volunteer throughout before I got the full-time ride there. Cunningham Motorsports and the Cunningham family, if it wasn’t for them I definitely wouldn’t be a stock car racer, that’s for sure.
Segal: So how long from start to finish was that process?
Briscoe: I want to say I was 21 when I started racing ARCA. And I moved to North Carolina straight out of high school at 18. I was sleeping on a couch for three years before I finally got in a racecar.
Segal: Was that tough?
Briscoe: I was actually moving back to Indiana the weekend I got the call to go test for them.
Segal: So you were ready to give it all up?
Briscoe: I was literally driving back to Indiana, kind of done. Just so happens I got the call, I think I was in Kentucky, while I was driving. I went to Indiana that weekend, raced sprint cars and came back the following Monday.
Segal: Last year, your win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL seemed to catapult you to the next level in some minds of being worthy and in contention for a full-time ride. It obviously helped, but how big of a deal was it to you?
Briscoe: I think it was honestly everything. My Xfinity numbers from last year aren’t anything to brag about. We struggled all year long. Obviously the No. 60 car had its own struggles it seemed like whoever was driving, but even my other races in the No. 98 we ‘d always get caught up in a wreck. I think I had three top 10s all year. I was really down on myself. Ford was really believing in me, but I could tell they wanted to see better results than what we were running. So to go to the ROVAL and get that win was the icing on the cake and parlayed into what we’re doing now.
I think it was even more important because Ford had sent me to run so many IMSA and road course races to try and get me better because that was one of my really and struggles, I feel like. To see the difference and development was a pretty big thing. Anytime you win it makes you more desirable. It didn’t hurt by any means winning at Stewart-Haas.
Segal: You’d won at Eldora Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway before, but coming from dirt racing and winning on a road course, it kind of proved to people that this dude can drive everything.
Briscoe: Road courses are definitely the last thing I grew up doing. It was funny, on raceday I was talking to guys how it seems like sprint car guys are really good road course racers. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, you even look at Kyle Larson, it just seems like it’s because you’re countable slipping and sliding. In the past I felt like I was almost too aggressive on road courses. I just slowed down, didn’t go 100% every lap, and it clicked with me a little bit. Slowing down to go fast is the key.
Segal: You were a Tony Stewart fan growing up; what’s it like to race for him now?
Briscoe: It’s pretty wild. Tony was my guy growing up, still is. I’m a diehard fan. In my room at my house in Indiana, I have a Tony Stewart blanket that covers the window, his stuff everywhere. It’s kind of surreal getting to drive for him now. We just went to a Pet Expo a couple weeks ago and I got to fly on Tony’s plane coming back. It’s like, “man, what in the world is happening?” It’s nuts to me. I’ve certainly been blessed, and like you said, it’s the perfect scenario for me growing up a Smoke guy, being from Indiana, a sprint car guy, it’s icing on the cake to say I’m driving for SHR, and hopefully I can continue to be here.
Segal: Did you meet him before you started driving for him?
Briscoe: Yeah, he and my dad were actually pretty good friends growing up. They raced sprint cars a lot; I remember meeting him when I was 6 or 7 years old, being so nervous I couldn’t event talk. Even back four-five years ago, when I would see him at the track I’d get super nervous and get shy.
Segal: Are you still starstruck at all?
Briscoe: Not as much now because I’m around him a lot more. I still try to say the right thing; I want to make sure he likes me. It’s been really cool to have Tony; before Daytona we fire up the engines, he leans into my car and he was telling me advice. It was pretty crazy.
Segal: What would the younger Chase Briscoe tell the older Chase Briscoe now if you told him he’d be driving for his idol?
Briscoe: I think he’d think he was lying to him, to be honest with you. Even going back to my sprint car days, if you look at my resume, I didn’t do technically anything special to be here. You look at Larson or Bell’s resume, USAC champions — I’ve won six or seven sprint car races, so I don’t know if I have the resume as some other guys do, but I’ve been so blessed to have so many doors open for me at the right time. We’ve been able to run good when it counts.
Segal: You recently tweeted a wild video of you at GoPro Motorplex. That was insane.
Briscoe: Oh yeah, the Scandinavian Flick.
Segal: Is that what it’s called?
Briscoe: That’s what I call it. I’d seen it on some rally video some time. Austin Cindric was there, and I told him, “hey, get your phone out, I’m going to put on a show for you right here,” and he’s like, “get it as sideways as you can,” and I was like, “I’m going to do it one-handed, too.” So we were just messing around. That go-kart, I bought it three weeks ago from [Cole] Custer, and this thing is as old as can be, motor barely runs, tires on this thing are dry cracked, rotted, probably 10 years old. So you’re just sliding around. It’s a good time.
Segal: Do you have any nicknames?
Briscoe: My dad was always Risky Brisky when he was racing sprint cars. He was always on the gas, doing wheelies.
Segal: I might start calling you the Scandanavian Flick.
Briscoe: The newspapers called me Frisky Brisky one time.
Segal: You’ve been tweeting about March Madness a lot. You a big college hoops fan?
Briscoe: I actually go to as many basketball games as I can. The NCAA Tournament didn’t come to Charlotte this year, but we went and watched the ACC Tournament, and that was fun.
Segal: Any other sports?
Briscoe: I don’t like pro ball. I’ll watch it, I’ll watch the playoffs typically. I like baseball, I go to quote a lot of the Charlotte Knights games. I’m not a diehard baseball guy, and football I like the [Indianapolis] Colts.
Segal: Your wedding was originally scheduled on a bad date and you had to fix that entire situation, right? What happened there?
Briscoe: We rescheduled to the 30th, the following week. I was telling Marissa, “look, the banquet is always in December and on a Saturday,” because she was wanting it to be Dec. 14 or something like that, and that’s normally the weekend the banquet always is. So I told her if we do it in November on a Friday, we should be plenty good, no problems whatsoever. Then the banquet gets announced, it’s in November, on a Friday and on the date we picked. We ended up getting it pushed back and ended up working out. I think it’s the same day we got engaged, so it worked out well. I didn’t plan it that way, but it worked out.