In modern-day auto racing, there are three things that are a sure-fire way to the top for a young driver: money, a famous last name, and raw talent. Usually, having both of the first two goes a long way, having just one of the two helps, but just having raw talent alone prompts a longer journey to the top. It’s rare nowadays to find a driver with hardworking blue-collar roots, landing a ride in NASCAR easily, with the Cup Series being no exception. However, Chase Briscoe, driver of the #14 High Point Ford Mustang for Stewart Haas Racing, has become one of the few to break the mold, But how did he do it?
Chase David Wayne Briscoe was born on December 15, 1994, in Mitchell, Indiana. Although he was born into a racing family (his father Kevin Briscoe and his father Randy Briscoe before him), Chase’s father was reluctant to allow him to continue the family tradition. It would take five years, but Kevin relented, allowing Chase to race 410 sprints at the age of 13, hoping maybe it would help the family bond further if he had a change of heart. In Chase’s first season he recorded 17 top tens and a win in the final race of the year. With his first win, he even beat the record for the youngest driver to win a 410 sprint race, which was previously held by NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon.
In 2013, Chase caught wind of the Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge, a racing contest that rewarded the winner with a ride at Michael Waltrip Racing. Chase would go on to win a majority of the on-track races, but would just fall short of the winner, Patrick Staropoli. Ty Norris, an executive of Michael Waltrip Racing at the time, encouraged Chase to continue racing after showcasing such a strong performance in the contest. With that advice in mind, Briscoe packed up his belongings, leaving Indiana behind for Charlotte, North Carolina, in hopes of making connections in the racing world.
One connection Chase made before his big move was with future NASCAR Cup Series winner Christopher Bell. The two had met on iRacing, quickly becoming friends. When Bell received a contract offer from Roush after he had already made a commitment to Toyota, he passed the opportunity on to Briscoe. “I just walked in Roush’s front door,” Briscoe later recalled, “I had the guy’s name, I said ‘Hey is this guy here? I’d like to talk to him and I don’t know how I got a meeting, but somehow I got this meeting.” With only six sprint wins to his credit, Briscoe wasn’t expecting much to come from the meeting but hoped to just put his name in the conversation.
While waiting to hear anything from any race team, Briscoe spent his time volunteering at various race shops, doing everything from working on cars to sweeping floors. Never earning a paycheck for all his volunteering, despite coming into Cunningham Motorsports (one of the few teams who had kept his name in consideration) every morning at 6:45 in the morning and not clocking out until 7:00 o’clock at night. He got by sleeping on friend’s couches, giving them whatever money he had as a form of rent (if he had it at all), and eating dollar menu fast food. After nearly three and a half years though, hoping it would present an opportunity to race (but to no avail), forcing Chase to reach a breaking point, deciding to give up on racing and move back home. However while driving back home to Indiana, just two hours into the drive, he received a call from Cunningham about a test session.
The call resulted in a 20 lap test run at Mobile International Speedway in Mobile, Alabama, and “It was the worse 20 laps of my entire life!” Chase would later recall on the Dale Jr. Download. Thinking he had blown his chance, Briscoe continued to volunteer at Cunningham’s race shop, hoping something might still come out of it. A few months later, Cunningham gave him a second chance with a test session at Fairgrounds Speedway, where he ran faster than both of Cunningham’s two drivers. Impressed by his speed, and his improvement as a racer between his two test sessions, Cunnigham decided to let him run the 2015 ARCA race at Lucas Oil Raceway. A tenth place resulted in a second opportunity to race for the team in the ARCA race at Salem Speedway, where he finished fourth.
After spending nearly three and a half years volunteering, a year of which was spent volunteering at Cunningham alone, and having the chance to run two races for them, Briscoe decided to pay the team owner, Briggs Cunningham, a visit to shake his hand and to tell him, thank you. Despite the team-owner being 20 years his senior, Briggs, and Chase became fast friends that afternoon. Briggs asked Briscoe before the days close what he hoped to do next year to which Briscoe told him, “I would love to try to win you your first championship.” The next day Briggs called Chase, offering him a full-time ride for the 2016 ARCA season, which he took in a heartbeat. He went on to win six races and the first-ever championship for Cunningham Racing.
Riding high from his success in his first-ever full-time ARCA season, Briscoe was the top candidate for the newly formed Ford Performance NASCAR Driver Development Program. In 2017 he was signed on to a two-year contract with Brad Keselowski Racing driving the #29 Cooper Standard Ford F-150 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Briscoe made his truck series debut at Daytona International Speedway, bringing home a third-place finish, after avoiding a chaotic wreck at the conclusion of the race. Later in the season at Dover, Chase earned his first pole position award, and at Homestead-Miami Speedway he would score his first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win.
Finally feeling confident in himself and his racing abilities, Briscoe felt more than ready for what the 2018 season had in store for him. However, everything changed in an instant when B.K.R shut down operations at the end of the 2017 truck series season, leaving Chase without a ride for the following season. Opportunities came in for the driver, one in particular with Hendrick Motorsports, but Briscoe had to turn them down due to a lack of sponsorship. Settling for a part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series Schedule, Briscoe split his time between two different teams, driving the #60 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, and the #98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing, the latter of which he would go on to win the inaugural race at the Charlotte Roval for. He also returned for a one-off race in the truck series with Thorsport Racing at Eldora Speedway, which he won in a photo finish against teammate Grant Enfinger. Good luck fell once again on Chase Briscoe’s shoulders when Stewart Haas Racing signed him on for a full-time ride in the #98 for the 2019 season after he had won for them the year prior. Despite only earning one win at Iowa Speedway, Briscoe qualified for the 2019 Xfinity Series Playoffs, doing so after 10 consecutive top 10 finishes. He’d go on to finish 5th in the points after a 3rd place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With the 2020 season looming on the horizon, many figured that Chase was poised for another stellar season in Xfinity Series, however, behind closed doors trouble was brewing. With a lack of sponsorship, the threat of losing his ride loomed over Briscoe’s head. As the season inched closer and closer to starting Briscoe was left unsure what he was going to do, “I honestly contemplated spotting… I was like what’s my backup plan here?” He expressed on the Dale Jr. Download. Luckily though, in January of 2020, just a month before the start of the new season, HighPoint.com came on board to help Briscoe run the full-time Xfinity season for Stewart Haas Racing. And what a season it would be for Brscioe as he would go on to secure victories in both the spring and fall at Las Vegas Motorspeedway, as well as at Homestead, Pocono, Indianapolis, Dover, Bristol, Kansas, and Darlington, the latter of which proved to be the most important win in his career thus far. Just the day before the race Chase’s wife, Marissa, unfortunately, had a miscarriage. With tears in his eyes, he held off NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, for the win.
In the final race at Phoenix, Briscoe found himself among the final four in contention for the Xfinity Series championship. After spinning with just two laps remaining, he would finish 9th, capping off an emotional season with a fourth-place point finish. He won nine races overall, more than any other driver that season, won the most races by any Ford Driver in the series, and scored the second-most wins by a non-cup driver since Sam Ard in 1983. And from all this, he managed to take over the reins of the #14 Cup series car from Clint Bowyer for S.H.R. for the 2021 season.
Briscoe’s first Cup season started slow and was full of rookie mistakes, but still had its share of shining moments. He did particularly well at the road courses, earning his first top 10 of the season at the inaugural race, at Circuit of the Americas, where he finished sixth. In preparation for his first cup race at Sonoma Raceway, he returned to the ARCA Menards Series West for the first time since 2013, racing in a car owned by Stewart-Haas, serving the same number (#14) and crew chief (Johnny Klausmeier) as his cup ride. He absolutely dominated the race, winning it after leading every single lap. He’d earn his second top 10 of the season at Road America, finishing 6th.weekend. Briscoe also ran the ARCA Series race at Watkins Glen, in preparation for his Cup Series debut at the track, but only led nine laps before having to exit the race due to a suspension issue, finishing in 23rd. Despite this, however, he earned his third top ten of the season in the Cup Series race, finishing 9th.
However, despite his well runs at the other road courses, it was his run in the inaugural Cup Series race on the Indianapolis Road Course configuration that really was his stand-out moment of the season. After leading a majority of the early stage and running in the top five most of the race, Briscoe found himself on the front row of the final restart with the then winless-that-season, Denny Hamlin. At the drop of the green, Briscoe was forced off the track in turn one, but he rejoined the race, cutting the track, and earning a penalty in doing so. Briscoe later spun out Hamlin on the same lap, causing controversy to arise as to if Briscoe knew he had been penalized or not. What ensued from there was a fight of words, and some back and forth comments on social media between the rookie and veteran driver.
The end of the season concluded with Briscoe finishing 23rd in the points standings, and winning the Rookie of the Year award. The most rewarding experience for the driver however came with the birth of his son. After going through a miscarriage the year prior, on October 2, 2021, Brooks Briscoe was welcome to the world.
In modern-day auto racing, without funding or a famous last name, it’s very hard to find yourself landing a top ride on raw talent alone. Chase Briscoe, however, broke the mold, fighting through financial, mental, and emotional strain to do so. Where Briscoe’s career will go from here is yet to be known, but as it is written now, it’s truly been one of a series of fortunate (and sometimes unfortunate) events.
Featured image credits to @chasebriscoe_14 on Instagram.