Everyone knows the story by now. Chase Briscoe set out a lofty goal prior to the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season, believing he needed to win at least eight races to continue his NASCAR career.
Briscoe did that and then some.
Entering the Xfinity championship race at Phoenix Raceway, Briscoe had chalked up nine wins, leading nearly 1,000 laps (which he’d soon eclipse). Throughout the duration of the 32 races, the No. 98 Ford showed the most speed.
Then Phoenix — a track Briscoe has self-admittedly struggled at — happened.
Briscoe started the race in second and grabbed the lead from Justin Allgaier early. The No. 98 went on to win the opening stage, his series-high 13th of the season.
In the second stage, Austin Cindric‘s No. 22 came to life, winning the stage, ahead of Allgaier. Briscoe wasn’t far behind in third but became looser and looser as the race went on. The No. 98 car even hit the wall twice during stage two, while battling Noah Gragson.
During the second half of the race, Briscoe remained in the back half of the top five but was trapped one lap down (as was fellow Championship 4 competitor Justin Haley) when Joe Graf Jr. pancaked the wall with 30 laps to go during a cycle of green-flag pit stops. The No. 98 team was the free pass and restarted sixth on older tires.
While Cindric and Allgaier pulled away, Briscoe was running in sixth when, he spun in turns 3 and 4, making slight contact with the wall. But his championship chances were virtually over.
Briscoe finished a disappointing 10th, placing fourth among Championship 4 competitors.
“Just a frustrating day,” Briscoe said post-race. “This is by far not my best racetrack. We started the race, and for me leading laps here, I was like, ‘This is different.’ I was so loose at the beginning of the race, and as the night came I was getting freer and freer. I don’t know how many times I would about wreck into [turn] 1 and hit the wall.
“I’ve got to do a lot better job coming here. There’s something this place that I just really struggle at. I’ve got a lot of homework to do. Definitely frustrated to finish fourth in the championship after the year we had. But overall to win nine races, it’s been a phenomenal year.”
Briscoe’s year will conclude with nine victories, a career-high 16 top-five finishes and 1,032 laps led. Unfortunately, like his future Stewart-Haas Racing Cup Series teammate Kevin Harvick (who also has nine wins and isn’t in contention to win the title), his standout season ends up short of his quest for the championship.
“It isn’t what you wanted, but we’ll keep our heads high and just proud of this whole team to be able to work with me these last two and a half years,” Briscoe said. “From where we are now to where we started is a huge difference. … We’ll come back next year.”
Come back next year, indeed. Briscoe will return to SHR, but rather move up to Cup, taking over for a retiring Clint Bowyer. He will compete for Rookie of the Year, something his teammate Cole Custer did this season by making the playoffs.
“It’s nice to know that I’m going to the Cup Series and all these things, but it sucks to run fourth in the championship after the year that we had, but that’s how it works,” Briscoe added. “I didn’t execute and they did a better job, so go on to next year.”