Last week, Clint Bowyer announced that he was retiring from the drivers seat at the completion of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. He was trading his firesuit for a regular suit as he’d join Fox Sports’ NASCAR coverage for the 2021 campaign.
Immediately, the successor to Bowyer was clear – Chase Briscoe. The 25 year old driver had a similar background to Tony Stewart, so what better driver to hop in and take over the reigns of Stewart’s old car (No. 14 Ford)?
On Tuesday, that move was confirmed. Briscoe, will take over for Bowyer in that ride starting in 2021 in a multiyear deal.
But, Briscoe knew for the last couple of months though that he had a future in this sport with this team. Stewart, said on a zoom call on Tuesday that he let Briscoe know a few months ago that the 14 seat would be his eventually. It was just that they needed to figure out on whether to bring Bowyer back for one more year or to just move Briscoe up.
“I talked to Tony and everybody at SHR earlier this week,” Briscoe said about the 14 car in Cup and his future with them this past weekend. “They said focus on this week and we’ll talk about it.”
Briscoe, won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race to stamp his name into the Championship 4 in a couple of weeks. His goal for 2020 was to win seven times. He felt like if he did that, it would be tough for SHR to look away from him for a Cup season. His win on Saturday was his ninth.
“Winning the race (Saturday night) is certainly going to help that situation,” Briscoe continued. “Any time you can bring a trophy back, it just helps the cause.”
See, Briscoe is a Ford Developmental Driver and he had a contract with them still for 2021. SHR didn’t want to lose out on him, so the obvious choice was to just bring him up now. Why wait?
Some though, thought it would be best to just wait until 2022 to bring rookies up because that’s when the car car comes out. Why waste a year in 2021 when the rookies would have to relearn everything again a year later?
“Getting Chase in a car this year,” Stewart said on why they’re moving him up. “Getting him used to his team. Getting him used to the drivers, the tracks in a Cup car, I think, is a valuable learning year even though you’re gonna be switching to a different car the next year. I think having him get that experience this year with that group will even make year two and getting into that new car put him on a more level playing field with everybody once he’s got that first year under his belt.
“Everybody is gonna have to start kind of from scratch when the new car comes out, but financially it’s good for the sport and good for the teams and for Chase I think getting this year is a gonna be valuable for him before he gets in that car.”
Briscoe, agreed and said that 2021 will be a big learning year for him, so why delay it even further when he can just compete against the best of the best now?
“The amount of experience you would gain just from running one year, even in the old car, getting to race against those guys, getting to see their tendencies, getting humbled quite a bit and (making) you go learn more, to me, that experience is invaluable,” Briscoe said after his win on Saturday via a zoom call.
“I find myself every time Kyle (Busch), Denny (Hamlin) or any of those guys come into the Xfinity Series, I learn so much just from being around them. If I was able to move up to the Cup side next year, I feel I could learn so much, getting to race 36 races and a lot longer races.”
Stewart, also said that by bringing Briscoe up now, it in turn helps the overall organization immediately as well.
“I feel like obviously that’s part of why we made the decision,” Stewart said on if the team will improve with replacing Bowyer with Briscoe now. “I love Clint. You’re not gonna have more fun with anybody than Clint Bowyer and you’re not gonna have anybody that’s got any more passion, drive and desire than Clint Bowyer, so losing him is a detriment, obviously.
“But looking down the road in the future of Stewart-Haas Racing, knowing that Clint was going to the booth in another year, we had an opportunity to get Chase I think now at the right time to get him in a car and work on the future. We could have ran Clint another year in the 14 car, but I don’t know that it really was gonna progress the program any further than where we’re at with him right now, so giving Chase an opportunity to get a year under his belt and, ultimately, at the end of the year it may not be a step forward in one year, but long-term and down the road we feel like Chase has a lot of potential.
“You obviously have seen what he’s done in Xfinity this year and the competition level goes up when you go to the Cup Series, but we feel and have a lot of confidence that he has what it takes to be a great Cup driver.
“So in year one, at the end of the year will we say it was a great decision? Maybe or maybe not. I hope he goes out and rattles off three wins and wins rookie of the year next year and ties our record for most wins as a rookie, but the big picture is what we’re looking at and I feel like even if the first year is a struggle for him, we’re committed to him and we’re gonna make sure we get him where he needs to be, and I think we will have a lot of success with him down the road.”
This is a dream come true for Briscoe. He’s from Mitchell, a small Indiana town, and grew up a huge Tony Stewart fan. He followed his idols path right into his own team. Now, he has a chance to drive his old car too.
From Stewart, to Bowyer, to Briscoe.
“When I go back to Indiana in my hometown, my bedroom still has Tony Stewart stuff everywhere,” said Briscoe. “I was a diehard Tony Stewart fan. I used to literally dress up in a Home Depot uniform and helmet and play my sprint car video game every single day. And now I get to drive for the guy and got a win at Indianapolis for the guy and won eight other races (this year). It is unbelievable. Hopefully I can win the championship.”