Chase Briscoe’s a phenomenal story for the win at the Phoenix Raceway on Sunday. But, so is the second place finisher too. Both Briscoe and runner-up, Ross Chastain, had unexpected paths to Cup Series seats but both not only paid off, they’re thriving.
Briscoe, left Indiana as a teenager to head south to make his dream of becoming the next Tony Stewart come true. See, he grew up in the same state as the NASCAR Hall of Famer and looked up to him as his idol. He dreamed as a kid of winning races in Stewart’s No. 14 Ford.
But, his journey to doing so on Sunday was nothing short of remarkable. From winning in the Truck Series only to see the team shut down at seasons end, to going to Ford as a developmental driver in the Xfinity Series to see the team literally a few weeks away from shutting down only to win nine races and making the Championship 4, to racing for Stewart-Haas Racing a couple of years later, Briscoe is here and doesn’t have to worry anymore about his future.
He’s going to be a star one day. He’s a Cup winner for a top team. He went from sleeping on couches, to literally a day from quitting and moving back home, to finding each path have a door close only to have another one soon open, to winning, to having his wife lose a baby to becoming a father after and now a winner.
Chastain hopes he’s next. A runner-up on Sunday in Phoenix after a third place finish a week prior in Vegas shows that he’s close.
Chastain knew he had a lot of talent and could make it in the sport, but if he continued on the path that he was going down, there’s no way anyone else would know of his talents. So, he bet on himself.
So, instead of returning to a full season ride in an underfunded Xfinity Series team in 2018, he decided to take his money to Chip Ganassi Racing for what initially started off as a three race deal. He’d run Darlington for them on Labor Day weekend, Vegas two weeks later then Richmond a week after that.
His career rode on those three races. If he looked pedestrian, then he’d likely never get a shot that it took in the big leagues with the top teams. At that time, Chastain was 25. He’d turn 26 in December. Most top teams have good drivers already in place, so they go with youth to groom them to replace the veterans when contracts lined up.
Chastain was stuck in the middle. Wait too much longer and he’d get passed over. So, he took his chance then. It paid off.
He won the pole in Darlington, swept both stages and led the most laps but had an incident towards the end with Kevin Harvick and finished 25th. That proved he had the speed that it took, but did he have the patience and know how to get it done in the end?
Vegas though, was the spot it came full circle. He’d win and stamp his name on the top teams’ radar. This was the site it happened. Just like last Sunday was in the Pennzoil 400.
Chastain, would finish runner-up a week later in Richmond would earned him two more opportunities later in the year. He’d finish 10th in Kansas and second in Texas that season to earn him three top two’s in five tries. As a result, Ganassi signed him for a full season in 2019 to compete for them in this car in the Xfinity Series.
That’s where another fork in the road came. The main sponsor, DC Solar, was in deep trouble from a federal investigation and all that hardwork and betting on himself fell flat. Ganassi, lost their sponsor and in turn had to shut down the Xfinity program.
Luckily though, Ganassi likes winners and saw the value of Chastain. So, he honored his agreement and commitment to Chastain and kept him under contract while finding him a ride with Kaulig Racing. He’d win in Daytona that July and that would lead to a full-time opportunity with Kaulig in 2020. He’d make the playoffs that year and show exactly what he could do. With an open Cup car for Ganassi in 2021, he was brought up to the big show.
Unfortunately, it was a steep learning curve for Chastain as he struggled some. He had some highlights but finished 20th in the final standings. Mid summer, Ganassi sold his team to Trackhouse. Chastain had another fork in the road. What would his future be?
Trackhouse had one car already and would keep it intact. What would they do with this second car. Wouldn’t Kurt Busch, Chastain’s teammate at Ganassi get first dibs on this season?
Luckily for Chastain, Busch had his eyes elsewhere and landed with 23XI Racing’s second team. Trackhouse saw Chastain’s value and signed him to their second car for 2022. He rewarded them by a top five the last two weeks.
“Dream come true,” Chastain said of his day in Vegas. “This is what all the work is for. This is why we train, done our whole lives and careers, once we realize we can race at this level is to have race cars like that. Couldn’t be more proud of Trackhouse.
“It took a lot of patience inside the car from our fast racing. It’s tough for me to not get too aggressive, a lot of neutral thinking, and Josh Wise, and a book by Trevor Moawad really helped me today. That’s progress.”
Chastain, in four races, has already led the most laps in a race (83 of 274) in Vegas, brought them their first stage win and finished third and second respectively.
Trackhouse is proving that they’re a formidable team this season with Suarez coming home fourth a week prior in Fontana.
“That was so much fun to get to race like that at this level. Trackhouse Racing believes in me. Advent Health. These people, they believed in me early in the season whenever stuff wasn’t going great. If we can keep putting these together, that’s so cool to race with Tyler and Chase.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s everything I’ve ever wanted. My crew chief, people don’t know how good he is. His adjustments this year have been so incredible. He gave me exactly what I needed. We came up one spot short. But I’m so happy.”