Chase Briscoe wrapped up a NASCAR Xfinity Series season he rated as a six and a half on a 10 scale with Rookie of the Year honors. Now the question is, what’s next?
The 24-year-old from Mitchell, Ind., said on Saturday night that Stewart-Haas Racing has yet to inform him whether he’ll be in the No. 98 Ford again next season. Earlier that same day, team co-owner Tony Stewart admitted the organization was still working on its program after announcing Cole Custer would move into the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020. Custer and Briscoe were full-time teammates this year after Briscoe ran just five races with SHR in 2018, splitting the season with Roush Fenway Racing.
“I know they’re still working on trying to find funding to make it happen. But as of right now, I don’t have anything,” said Briscoe. “Obviously I was wanting to win the race (Saturday). I feel like if I did that, it would have made everything a lot easier. But, we showed speed, and I feel like if we do get to go back next year, we could be serious championship contenders.
“Hopefully, we can work together and try to figure something out.”
Briscoe believes the situation is day by day, one day looking better than another.
I feel like I’ve proved enough this year that if they want me bad enough, they’re going to find a way to make it happen,” he said.
When it comes to what he did to prove he deserves to be there, Briscoe pointed to the second half of the season. In the 17 races after the summer return to Daytona, Briscoe, crew chief Richard Boswell, and the team went on a tear, scoring nine straight top-eight finishes including a win at Iowa.
Briscoe collected 15 top-10 finishes in that span in addition to two poles and 182 laps led. During that stretch, Briscoe’s average finish was 6.7. Had it not been for an accident at Texas in the penultimate round of the postseason, Briscoe might have had a shot at making the Championship 4 and contending for the title.
“One thing we’ve got to do better is just practicing good and starting the race good,” said Briscoe. “We kind of struggled the first two stages, but by the end, we were always right there.
“I think a lot of that comes from just me having more confidence in what I’m doing and kind of knowing what to expect. That’ll get better. And the other thing is just executing at the end of the races, not making mistakes.”
Some incidents Briscoe encountered were out of his control. Take Kansas: Racing Christopher Bell for the lead, both ended up wrecked when the lapped car of Garrett Smithley came off a corner and into their path.
In the Homestead season finale, though, Briscoe pointed out (that) he drove the car too far into the corner and caught the wall.
Limiting mistakes and executing at the end will be Briscoe’s priority should he get another season in the series. Green flag pit stops are another variable; one Briscoe doesn’t have much experience with. Pavement racing is still something he’s trying to master, and at the beginning of the year, he admittedly struggled to know what he needed in his car, how to drive it, and just what feel he sought.
Finding a setup built more around the former K&N Pro Series and ARCA driver’s style helped turn things around. Realistically, he thinks he could have won three or four races in the playoffs had it not been for some outside circumstances.
“The end of the year was definitely better than the first part of the year,” said Briscoe, “but overall, we have more to improve on, and I can get way better as a driver.”
Briscoe finished his rookie year fifth in the championship standings.