Chase Briscoe, at one time, was on top of the world. But a lot has changed since March 13 when Briscoe drove his Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to victory lane for the first time in a NASCAR Cup Series race.
Back then, Briscoe thought his win at Phoenix Raceway had likely clinched him a playoff spot. Now, however, Briscoe is feeling the heat because 13 other drivers have also won races, and with six races to go in the regular season, the possibility of the series seeing 16 or more winners for the first time is in play.
Going into Pocono Raceway (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET), Briscoe is 10th on the playoff grid. Except that’s not the position that matters. Briscoe is 17th in the overall championship point standings and is the lowest driver in points with one win.
What that means — as Briscoe knows — is that if there are more than 16 winners, there will be a driver (or drivers) who does not make the playoffs. Those on the chopping block will be the lowest in the point standings.
“I’m not really sure,” Briscoe said this week about how he feels as the regular season winds down. “It makes me a little nervous, but I can’t worry about it too much. We just need to do a better job each week because it could definitely come down to a points situation.”
Briscoe sat as high as third in the point standings earlier this year, but the hot start the No. 14 team had has cooled. Of the four top-10 finishes Briscoe has, three (Daytona, Phoenix, Martinsville) came in the first 10 races. So did most of the 226 laps Briscoe’s led this year (187).
Briscoe’s best finish in the last 10 races is fourth in the Coca-Cola 600. But he’s also had four finishes of 20th or worse.
“We just need to try and capitalize on the stages and just maximize our day, because we’re racing for those final spots against guys that have won and guys that are running really well,” said Briscoe. “We can hope it’s just repeat winners the next few weeks and that helps, but there are too many tracks left where anything can happen.
“It would be nice to go get another win and take ourselves out of that position, but it’s just not that easy. You really have to put a whole race together with no mistakes and hit the right setup. It’s definitely nerve-wracking that there are six races left and only two guys without wins in (the playoff field). That’s what makes it exciting, though.”
Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. hold the final two spots on the playoff grid currently on points. Blaney is third in the point standings and Truex is fourth.
Briscoe finished 24th and 21st at Pocono last season when it was a doubleheader weekend. Of the upcoming six races, Briscoe has two road course races to look forward to while Richmond is the only track teams will have previously visited with the Next Gen car. Daytona on Aug. 27 is the final race to set the playoff field.