Chase Briscoe keeps moving closer to championship goal
LAS VEGAS — While few may have expected Chase Briscoe to make it this far in the Cup playoffs, he looks ahead to a championship he could win in four weeks.
“I think you need to think about it,” said Briscoe, who starts 16th in today’s Round of 8 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).
“If you can’t think about it, you probably don’t think you have shot in the first place. I feel like we have a shot.”
He has a one-in-eight shot. That’s better than the start of the season when he was one of 36 drivers with a chance.
Not many forecasted him as a title contender after scoring only three top-10 finishes last year in his rookie campaign. But Briscoe started well this season, placing third in the Daytona 500 and winning at Phoenix in March. His struggles, though, soon followed.
He entered the playoffs with one top-10 finish in the last 18 races in the regular season and then failed to score a top 10 in any of the three races in the opening round.
But in this unpredictable season that has seen the playoffs just as chaotic, Briscoe advanced because two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch suffered two engine failures in the round and was eliminated, as was former champion Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon.
An example of how these playoffs have followed no logical path, Briscoe scored three consecutive top 10s in the second round to earn the last transfer spot, eliminating reigning champion Kyle Larson by two points.
“This whole thing is unpredictable,” Briscoe said. “The playoffs in any sport, you see teams all the time that have not been the greatest in the regular their season kind of squeak in and they make this huge run to the playoffs when it matters the most. It’s the team that is the best in the playoffs, not the whole season, at least in this format.”
That gives Briscoe hope.
“I feel like we’ve really turned it on in the playoffs,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been racing my best races throughout the playoffs, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
Should he do well Sunday, it would help lighten the mood at Stewart-Haas Racing, which has been penalized by NASCAR each of the past two weeks.
After Talladega, Kevin Harvick’s car was among two taken back to the R&D Center for further inspection. Series officials found an impropriety with the rear deck lid. NASCAR suspended crew chief Rodney Childers four races and fined him $100,000. Harvick was docked 100 points.
After last weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval, NASCAR penalized Cole Custer and his team for manipulating the finish when he slowed dramatically on the final lap when Briscoe was nearby. NASCAR fined Custer $100,000 and 50 points and indefinitely suspended crew chief Mike Shiplett. Stewart-Haas Racing is appealing the penalty.
And this week, SHR’s Xfinity hauler, carrying the cars and equipment for Riley Herbst had an accident on the way to Las Vegas. No one was seriously injured.
“It’s been a rough tough couple of weeks for Stewart-Haas Racing,” Briscoe said. “Glad that we could be that one kind of light. … Definitely trying to keep the spirits up there.”
Nothing would be better for the organization than Briscoe advancing.
He can see it.