Chase Briscoe pulls away late in Phoenix for first NASCAR Cup Series win
AVONDALE, Ariz. — Chase Briscoe jumped out of his car and was obviously emotional, kneeling by his number 14 for a few seconds before a few crackles in his voice during his post-race television interview.
Briscoe, 27, took his balls last season as a NASCAR Cup Series rookie. Now that’s a winner.
“It’s unbelievable – I cried the whole last lap,” Briscoe said.
Briscoe earned his first Cup Series victory, executing two excellent restarts over the final 20 laps to pull away from Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick on Sunday at Phoenix Raceway. Briscoe’s childhood idol was NASCAR great Tony Stewart, and the Indiana native now drives Stewart’s car for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Briscoe channeled some of Stewart’s late-race moxie during an intense battle between three drivers who had never won in the Cup Series. It’s further proof of parity across the series in Next Gen cars, with four drivers winning the first four races this season.
Chastain and Reddick – both driving Chevrolets – made things interesting in the closing laps, but Briscoe’s Ford was just too strong. On the final restart with four laps to go, Briscoe, 27, started on the inside, dove low to the apron in dogleg and was able to hold off the rest of the field.
Briscoe was one of the top drivers in the Xfinity Series in 2019 and 2020 before being invited by Stewart-Haas Racing to take over No. 14. He had just three top 10 finishes as a rookie and finished 23rd in the season standings.
But he got off to a strong start this season with a third-place finish at Daytona in February.
Now a win.
“You humble yourself very quickly in the Cup Series and learn how good everyone is,” Briscoe said. “These guys, even the ones running 30th, are some of the best race car drivers in the world. You learn very quickly that you have to go to work and understand.”
Briscoe – who said Phoenix was one of his least favorite tracks ahead of his Sunday success – acknowledged there were some tough times late on, especially during the restarts.
Although he didn’t take the win, it was a breakthrough for Chastain’s TrackHouse Racing team. Chastain credited crew chief Phil Surgen for providing him with a comfortable car up front.
“He gave me exactly what I needed,” Chastain said. “We missed out on a place. But I’m so happy.”
Reddick was among the fastest Cup Series drivers all season, but missed out on his first victory. He struggled with leg numbness in the Next Gen car for the first few weeks, but didn’t seem to have any issues on Sunday. He had back-to-back top-10 finishes after finishing seventh in Las Vegas last week.
Ryan Blaney started on pole and dominated the first half of the race, winning stage two after leading 138 of the first 185 laps. He settled for fourth place. Kurt Busch finished fifth.
Kyle Larson won the series championship last year after a fall win at Phoenix, but engine trouble ended his day early. He finished 34th. It was the end of a frustrating day for Larson, who qualified seventh but had to move to the back of the starting grid due to unapproved steering wheel changes.
Harrison Burton (unapproved adjustments) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (engine) also started from the back.
BUSCH TAKES THE DIVE
One of the hot topics before the race was how many drivers would use the 110-foot-wide apron at the Phoenix Raceway dogleg turn.
Most said they would wait to see how others fared with the Next Gen car. The wait didn’t last long: Kyle Busch dove to the apron in the opening laps, taking a few spots in the process. From then on everything was business as usual with several cars on the apron, especially during restarts.
STEWART’S BIG DAY
Tony Stewart’s team not only won a Cup Series race on Sunday, but also won a drag race.
Three-time Funny Car season champion Matt Hagan gave Tony Stewart Racing its first victory in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida. Briscoe said he briefly spoke to Stewart by phone after his win in Phoenix.
“He was very excited,” Briscoe said. “You could hear dragsters exploding in the background. I just said, ‘Thank you’.”
HARVICK IN THE TOP 10, AGAIN
Veteran Kevin Harvick – who has won nine times in Phoenix – couldn’t find Victory Lane on Sunday. But he finished in sixth place, which was his 18th consecutive top 10 on the track.
This tied Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most consecutive top 10 finishes on a track.