Chase Briscoe hasn’t watched a replay of last year’s NASCAR Cup Series race from the Indianapolis road course, but it’s not really necessary.
Briscoe lived the final few laps and knows quite well what happened. For those who do need a reminder, in the span of a few short minutes off the final restart, Briscoe went from being in contention for the win, not knowing he was facing a penalty for cutting the course and then spinning Denny Hamlin, who was leading the race.
“I think there’s a lot of takeaways from last year,” the Indiana native said Friday as he returned to the track. “I felt like that was the one race that kind of changed my confidence level, just knowing that I was capable of performing at this level — leading laps and battling for a win. But yeah, I haven’t watched the race back. I’ve seen the highlight a couple of times, but I haven’t watched the race back going into this weekend or anything like that.
“I’ve tried to forget about it, truthfully, so I haven’t watched it back. But I definitely can remember a lot of that race, for sure.”
Hamlin finished 23rd and said afterward that while he didn’t think the contact was intentional, it was bad judgment on Briscoe’s part. However, Briscoe repeatedly said he didn’t know he was under penalty and had he known, he wouldn’t have tried to pass Hamlin.
Briscoe, who finished 26th after leading 12 laps, was called for cutting the course after he went off into the grass in Turn 1 and missed Turn 2. The contact between him and Hamlin, in which Briscoe tagged Hamlin in the bumper, was going into Turn 10.
Since that Indy race a year ago, Briscoe has claimed Rookie of the Year honors and won his first Cup Series race. A triumph at Phoenix Raceway in March should clinch Briscoe his first playoff berth if he doesn’t fall behind any new winners in the final five races of the regular season.
One way to ensure Briscoe isn’t left on the outside is by adding a second victory. While Briscoe would love to do that at his home track, it’s for no other reason than its meaning and not because he needs to redeem himself.
“I feel like I come here differently every year,” Briscoe said. “I was talking to Tony [Stewart] about it one time [and] it seems like if you’re from Indiana — at least for me, and I feel like Tony was the same way — you just rise to this different occasion for whatever reason. I wish I could harness that every other weekend of the year, but you just have so much pressure. Not pressure from anybody, it’s just pressure on yourself.
“You as an Indiana guy want to perform here, and it seems like the fans really get behind having an Indiana guy at Indianapolis. For me, I feel like I definitely put a little more emphasis on this race from just an internal pressure side, but I’m not coming here with revenge.
“I will say this whole week I’ve been determined — I want to win every practice, every qualifying. Between Xfinity and Cup, just coming to Indy, you want to do that as an Indiana guy. There’s no revenge from last year. I just put a lot of pressure on myself every time I come here to perform.”