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Dual Threat Briscoe Dreams of Following Stewart’s Tire Tracks as Hoosier Winner at IMS

Thursday, August 29, 2019 Zach Horrall, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Chase Briscoe

Before the NASCAR Xfinity Series season started in February, Chase Briscoe and his crew chief, Richard Boswell, made a list of must-win races this year. Immediately, Briscoe put the Indiana 250 on Sept. 7 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway No. 1.

Before the NASCAR Xfinity Series season started in February, Chase Briscoe and his crew chief, Richard Boswell, made a list of must-win races this year. Immediately, Briscoe put the Indiana 250 on Sept. 7 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway No. 1.

Winning at the Racing Capital of the World would mean everything to Briscoe, 24. A native Hoosier, he grew up about two hours south of IMS, in Mitchell, Indiana, watching many Indianapolis 500 and Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard races. He still remembers the first time he drove past the massive, 2.5-mile oval, in awe.

“I think for every race car driver, they dream of just going to Indianapolis and especially getting to participate in a race,” he said. “It’s amazing to me that I even got to race there last year, let alone going back this year for the second time. It’s such an honor and privilege to race there. If there was one race I could pick to win, it would certainly be Indy. I just really want to kiss those bricks. Nothing would mean more to me than that.”

Briscoe returns to IMS in his first full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series season. Last year he ran a limited schedule, mostly for Roush Fenway Racing, and scored one of his four top-10 finishes of the season at Indianapolis, placing ninth. He went on to win the inaugural Roval road course race in September at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This year, Briscoe drives the No. 98 for Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste. To him, Briscoe’s team owner isn’t just an accomplished dirt, IndyCar and NASCAR driver. He isn’t just a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. No, his co-owner is his racing hero.

Aside from his father, successful sprint car driver Kevin Briscoe, Chase’s racing hero was Tony Stewart, the Columbus, Indiana, native who grew up in USAC open-wheel racing before claiming three NASCAR Cup Series championships and two Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard wins.

When Briscoe goes home, his orange Tony Stewart blanket still covers his bedroom window, and No. 20 memorabilia still adorns his childhood walls. He even had a Home Depot helmet and uniform he would wear while he played sprint car video games, pretending to be Stewart.

Winning at Indianapolis while driving for Stewart would be a dream come true for Briscoe.

“To this day it’s still unbelievable that I get to drive for the guy, let alone be around him,” he said. “If I could win at Indianapolis driving Tony Stewart’s car, for me, that would be the icing on the cake. That would be the coolest thing I think I could ever do.”

Briscoe and Stewart share similar interests, including racing on dirt. Briscoe’s full-time Xfinity Series commitment has forced him to scale back on dirt racing, something he admits is still a passion. He said he drove in nearly 30 dirt races by this point last season, but he hasn’t competed in a dirt race this year since the Chili Bowl in January. 

Still, Briscoe hasn’t forgotten his roots. He made sure he would run at least one more dirt race this year: the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink at The Dirt Track at IMS. Briscoe said the USAC National Midget race inside Turn 3 of the historic oval is a big deal for himself and the entire dirt racing community.

“I think it just shows the significance of how much the BC39 means and how much IMS means,” he said. “I made sure I got this race approved so I could run it. It’s the thing I’ve always been passionate about and always will be passionate about. Even if you look at Tony and guys that have run the same route I have, they always get back to dirt and run the sprint cars. I think it’s just because it’s what we love to do. We just want to be a part of it because of how fun it is and how much we enjoy it. I can’t wait to get back there and run the midget. I’m so excited to get back in the seat.”

The meaning behind the BC39, the race that honors the late Bryan Clauson, is special for Briscoe. Just a few years younger than Clauson, Briscoe remembers watching and following Clauson. He was the guy to both be and beat.

“It’s just an honor to get to race there, especially in Bryan’s honor,” he said. “Bryan was a guy that I absolutely looked up to growing up. I started racing sprint cars when I was 13 years old, and he was the kid that was 14 or 15 years old racing against my dad and racing against the guys I looked up to a lot and beating them. Bryan was always a guy I wanted to be like and looked up to. He was a great race car driver, and he was an awesome guy off the track, too.”

Briscoe, who scored his second career Xfinity Series win in July at Iowa Speedway, said he is more prepared for this year’s Indiana 250 on the IMS asphalt oval than in 2018. Last year’s race was his first start at IMS, and he and the rest of the field never turned a lap until the race due to persistent rain. 

That made his ninth-place finish even more impressive.

Briscoe said he now knows corner exit, especially onto the long front and back straightaways, will be crucial to scoring a good finish. He also will be on alert for chaotic restarts, which will be stressful for the drivers but thrilling for fans.

“I remember last year the field getting checked up really bad going into Turn 3 on restarts,” he said. “It made for a lot more chaos than you’d expect. Hopefully we can be up front and ahead of all that. It’s going to be a good race.”