Ford Performance catches a rising star in Chase Briscoe

Chase Briscoe never imagined he would rise through the NASCAR ranks so quickly.

Until 2016, the third-generation dirt tracker had not raced full-time on pavement. That was the year Briscoe entered ARCA and won the championship in that division. His career path changed dramatically and has been on the rise ever since.

2017 NASCAR Truck Series ROTY and Most Popular Driver

Briscoe, 22, ended his first year in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series with Brad Keselowski Racing on a high note. In addition to winning the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the pole, Briscoe was named CWTS Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Popular Driver. 

“I would have liked to have had a little more success, but I guess that’s just part of it,” Briscoe said of his freshman year. “Looking back on it, I didn’t even realize, honestly, how many rookies there were going for it. It was a pretty tough deal. I think Grant Enfinger is a really great race car driver. I think he ended up second in it, so to edge him out of it is definitely a big deal.

“There were a lot of rookies that won races, too. So to be the top rookie is certainly a very special award. I think a lot of great drivers have won in the past. I don’t know if it’s something I set my sights on, because I wanted to win the championship. But to at least win that award is special and it means something.”

Briscoe battled an impressive freshmen class which included Enfinger, Kaz Grala, Noah Gragson and his BKR teammate, Austin Cindric, the only rookie to qualify for the Championship 4.

Advancing from ARCA to NASCAR's national ranks

After winning 30 percent of the races in ARCA as a rookie, Briscoe naturally expected to be competitive in trucks. He quickly learned that racing in one of NASCAR's national touring divisions was a big step up. But Briscoe believes the lessons will come in handy as he transitions into the Xfinity Series with Roush Fenway Racing in 2018.

“Every series will have its share of top competitors that are hard to beat,” Briscoe said. “In ARCA, if we had a bad day, we could still salvage a fifth-place finish. In trucks, if you miss the setup or don’t have speed, it’s tough to run in the eighth to 10th area. The biggest challenge for me is learning that some days you’re not going to have a winning truck, and you have to manage what you’ve got and try to make the most of each day.

“In the ARCA deal, it was easy to battle for a win, a close finish or a top three. In Xfinity—the same as trucks—if it’s not your day, you’re going to be struggling to get up there and battle for it. You just have to accept it, take those days as a loss and move on to the next weekend.”

The next step

On Tuesday, Briscoe will tour Roush Fenway Racing with his new crew chief Mike Kelley, who will oversee the No. 60 Ford team’s squad. Briscoe will share the ride with Team Penske racer Cindric and RFR development driver Ty Majesky. Briscoe credits Ford Performance with elevating his learning curve.

“It’s huge to have manufacturer support,” Briscoe said. “To me, they really control everybody’s destiny in the sport. To have Ford behind me is awesome. It’s a blessing. For me, growing up, I never thought I get a chance in a stock car. Looking back at it, two years ago, making my first start and now being in the Xfinity Series and signed by Ford, it’s just crazy to think about.

“I don’t even have 50 pavement starts and for Ford to believe in me the way they do and move me up through the ranks as fast as they have, I can’t thank them enough for sticking with me. Especially, after this past year in the truck, I honestly felt like I didn't perform up to the standards I would have liked to. For them to stay behind me has been a blessing.”

Ford announced Briscoe would also compete in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Series.

“If you want a championship driver you have to train the young driver, and that’s what our program is all about,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “It’s about developing him and developing his skills.

“Chase is taking a step up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but we’re also going to pair him up with the best in the business, and he’s going to understand what it means to go out and road race.”

Briscoe is in awe of the doors Ford has already opened for him as the manufacturer’s first development driver.

“ As a Ford driver, it helps to have my name in the hat when teams are looking to recruit drivers—particularly once you get to the Cup level,” Briscoe said. “For me to be able to do so many things outside of the Xfinity Series next year is awesome. Last year, I got to test and develop street cars. Being a manufacturer driver opens up so many avenues, it’s huge.”

Humbled by Most Popular Driver award

As for winning Most Popular driver in the truck series, Briscoe appreciates the honor but was quick to shine the light on the staff at Brad Keselowski Racing.

“It’s humbling to be completely honest with you,” Briscoe said. “Obviously, the success of winning Most Popular Driver goes to the people at BKR that are behind the scenes—(public relations representatives) Jessica Trippy and Jimmy White. They put a huge effort into it.

“But for me to be the guy that ends up winning it is definitely humbling because the fans had to vote, and I guess I’m a likable guy by their standards. As I continue to grow in the sport, hopefully the fans will continue to stand behind me, because if it wasn’t for the fans, me and the other drivers couldn’t do what they do what they do for a living.”

Not done with dirt

Briscoe isn’t finished dabbling in the dirt. Last Thursday he competed in the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Speedway. He finished third in a field of 60 cars behind Tyler Courtney and Brady Bacon in the sprint feature. He finished 21st in the midget race after his battery died. Christopher Bell captured his second GP, with defending winner Kyle Larson finishing second.

On December 16, Briscoe will run midgets again in the Junior Knepper 55 at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin. The 1/6-mile indoor dirt track sits in the shadows of the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. In January, he returns to Tulsa to tackle the Chili Bowl Nationals.

“I’ll run my own car at Chili Bowl and at Du Quoin,” Briscoe said. “The guys got back to the shop on Monday. They’ll try to figure out how to make the car wider and better before we go to Chili Bowl and see if we can’t improve on last year’s results.”

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Drivers Chase Briscoe
Article type Commentary