Chase Briscoe made an enormous splash in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020, an impact big enough to land him a promotion. After a nine-win season that launched him into the Championship 4, Briscoe’s stock rose as one of the sport’s bright young talents.
The hard work paid off for 2021. At age 26, Briscoe will wheel the No. 14 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, replacing Clint Bowyer for his rookie campaign.
Frontstretch recently caught up with Briscoe about the offseason, the pressure that comes with jumping into a new series, connecting with fans on Reddit during the COVID-19 pandemic and his approach to an inaugural Daytona 500 start.
A second part of this interview will be posted Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Zach Sturniolo, Frontstretch: This offseason has been unlike any other for you, knowing the next NASCAR car you jump into will be a competitive Cup car. Did that change anything you did this offseason?
Chase Briscoe: No, not really. I feel like offseason-wise, it’s kind of been pretty similar as far as the stuff I’ve been doing. Learning my team I would say definitely has been different, but not because of the step up. It’s because of COVID. I’m still in the same organization obviously, but I’m in a different building. On the Xfinity [Series] side, there’s 19 people. On the Cup side, there’s 350 people. Just trying to learn all those faces and names when you can only see their eyes because they have a mask on, it’s been tough.
It’s getting real! 😬 https://t.co/YlJyjLIwvj
— Chase Briscoe (@ChaseBriscoe_14) February 5, 2021
And then normally I’m the type of guy that I like taking my guys out to lunch once a week, just hanging out with them and building that relationship. And I’ve not been able to do that with COVID. There’s so many restrictions with the team and all these things. I would say from a preparation standpoint, that part’s been different. But outside of that, it’s really been pretty similar. I feel like I’ve maybe watched a little more video than I normally do, just trying to get prepared and trying to see what certain guys’ tendencies are in certain situations and just things like that. But outside of that, there’s really not been too much of a change.
Sturniolo: A lot of people don’t realize that 350 people work on the Cup side as opposed to just 19 in Xfinity. You’ve always come across as very personable with all team members. How do you build relationships with these crew guys?
Briscoe: It’s been tough and, like you said, I do like having that personal relationship with everybody at the company. I want them to feel like I care about them and want to know about what they’ve got going on in their life and it’s tough because I’m not even really allowed to go to the shop. So it’s been a challenge, to say the least. I probably haven’t done a great job.
I don’t even know if you can do a great job with all the circumstances we’re kind of dealt right now. It’s odd. I wish I knew there was a way to go do it. They don’t want us hanging out outside of the racetrack or anything like that. So, really the best opportunity I have to build a relationship with my new guys is at the racetrack, and obviously it takes a little while until we can get there.
It’s probably not going to be the best situation as far as them knowing me and me knowing them at the start of the year just because of COVID and everything else. But I think by a couple weeks into the season, we’ll be gelling pretty good and at least have a relationship built with my crew chief and engineers just from going to the simulator.
Sturniolo: From the outside looking in, it seems like this promotion comes with some pressure, and I know there’s always the self-induced pressure. What have you been able to do to avoid that pressure and just have fun with this process?
Briscoe: There’s always pressure, internal or not. And I think there’s obviously pressure whenever you move up to a new series to perform and show you deserve to be there. But I feel like personally, I enjoy the pressure. I think you just have to keep in perspective there’s a reason why you got there and you can’t let that pressure get the best of you. You’ve got to know down deep that you deserve to be there, that you’ve earned the opportunity, and you’ve just got to keep that in mind.
It’s obviously going to be tough. There’s going to be a lot of struggles this coming season – potentially the next two years after that. Typically, it seems like a rookie or a new guy into the Cup Series, it takes about 100 starts until you’re week-in, week-out competitive. There’s going to be a lot of challenges. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs. But you’ve just got to keep it in the back of your mind that you’ve been successful in the past, that you deserve to be there and there’s a reason they chose you to be in that seat and you’ve just got to stay confident. That’s such a big key in it all.
Sturniolo: Something interesting that you said right there is it takes a lot of guys about those first 100 races to prove where they’re most competitive or to really rise to their potential. Do you have a goal for your first 100 races?
Briscoe: I just hope I make it to 100 races. I don’t have a goal. Truthfully, I do just want to try to make it to 100 races. Just because I made it to the Cup Series doesn’t mean I’m going to stay here for the next three years. I’ve got to perform and prove my worth.
Sturniolo: You’ve gotten a lot of support not just from the fan base but from your competitors as well. You mentioned [Feb. 1] a conversation you had at Circuit of the Americas with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. What has that kind of respect from competitors meant to you through your journey?
Briscoe: It’s been huge. I think you always want to be – I don’t know what the word would be – but appreciated or respected by your peers. And for me, it wasn’t long ago I was watching these guys on TV. I was fans of them. So now to have them as friends and colleagues, that’s been huge. And to have them want me to genuinely succeed is really neat. And I think a lot of that just comes from, they know my story. They know my background, and they appreciate it. I just always try to be, whether it’s with other drivers or crew members or whatever, I just try to be nice to everybody and try to be the guy that everybody wants to help. And typically, nine times out of 10, that’s the best thing to do for me. I feel like that’s a lot of it.
I just am nice to them, act like I care about them and I truly do. I want to see them succeed just like I hope they want to see me succeed. That’s been cool to transition [into] the Cup Series and see a lot of these guys that I’ve always looked up to or have never even raced against come up, talk to me, congratulate me and all these things. It’s been really neat for me.
Sturniolo: On the fan side, I see you’re very active on the NASCAR subreddit and interact just as another user – which I’m sure is how you view yourself. How important has that engagement been for you, particularly over the last year since driver-to-fan interaction has become so limited in the age of COVID?
Briscoe: It’s been huge. Truthfully, I was on the subreddit lurking for, I don’t know, probably a year and a half, two years, and I would always get in there and read, see what people are saying and rumors or whatever. Finally, I decided I was going to make an account because I just enjoyed it so much. Out of all the apps I’m on, I would say probably Twitter and Reddit are at the top. Reddit is just such a unique social landscape, at least in the NASCAR scene, because it is such a dedicated group of fans that genuinely care about the sport. They are very passionate. Like you said, this past year with COVID, the fan interaction was so limited that was really the only way we could go interact with fans. And that’s something that I really, really enjoy doing is just getting on there, whether it’s in person or whatever, is just talking to fans and making them feel appreciated for coming to the racetrack or watching what we do.
For me, Reddit’s been a great avenue. It’s been a great thing for me to get on there and meet new fans and even gain new fans. That was never the thought process going into it; I just enjoyed getting on there and hanging out and joking around with people. It’s been really neat seeing the large majority of the subreddit become fans of mine. I feel like I try and get on there and just cut up with whoever and whenever. It doesn’t matter what the thread is; I’m typically on there [and] I try to read every single thread no matter what it is. And when I comment, it’s legit. I’m not just doing it to do it.
I genuinely like cutting up with people on there and having a good time. It’s just been really neat to be welcomed into that community. There’s a couple drivers on there, but to post as frequently as I do and see how much they appreciate it, I just appreciate them letting me do it because they could have totally reacted different to me coming on there. And they’ve really opened up their arms and embraced me.
Sturniolo: Something else you mentioned [Feb. 1] is that your mindset and goal is to win the Daytona 500. Does that mindset or confidence stem from past conversations with Dale Earnhardt Jr. you’ve spoken about regarding superspeedway racing? How can that help you as you jump into the Cup Series and a different style of drafting as compared to the Xfinity Series?
Briscoe: It’s going to be totally different. The Xfinity Series, just from talking to Dale and even watching it back on TV, there’s really only four or five guys that even understand, I feel like, how the top guys race. And really there’s none of us that have it perfected; we just understand the general idea. We’re still not as intense as the Cup guys and all that. When you go to the Cup Series, I mean you watch on TV. There’s 15 guys that are really, really, really good and it’s just so intense. The speeds are way faster, things happen faster, the blocks are way bigger. All of those things are going to be something that I’ve never experienced. I’m going to get taken to school a lot. And I think as the race goes on, hopefully I’ll get better as I’m around those guys and see what they do in certain situations. I’ve never been able to lock bumpers or bump draft. That’s going to be totally new.
I remember a couple of years ago, me and Brad Keselowski were at a PRI show in Indy and we were racing against each other at Talladega just head-to-head on iRacing, and I mean he schooled me 10 times out of 10. He has so much experience and knows what to do in certain situations and how to set you up and make you think he’s going to do something else. Those are things that are going to take time to learn.
And I think just getting in the 500, if I can run all 500 miles, that’s going to be the most I can learn. And if you’re there at the end of the 500 miles, I think you do have a legitimate shot to win it. You know, I do feel like I’m confident in going into superspeedway racing just after talking to Dale as much as I have and really understanding his mindset on it. But at the same time, how aggressive I was in the Xfinity Series, I don’t think you can do on the Cup side. I think there is a certain sense of you have to ride around and you have to make it to the end.
On the flip side of that, in the Xfinity Series, I could be really, really selfish and I could do whatever I wanted to do. I only had one other Ford teammate out there, where now I have three others at SHR. I have, I don’t know how many, 12 probably other Fords that I have to work with. There’s a certain plan that we’re going to have going into the race. So it’s going to be definitely different for me I think than past races I’ve ran on superspeedways, but I’m excited to get around those guys and really go to school with them and learn.