CONCORD, North Carolina — Most people predicted Chase Briscoe to be among the first four drivers to get eliminated from this year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. A lot also had Kyle Larson marching his way back to the Championship 4 to defend last year’s title.
However, it was Briscoe knocking Larson out of the playoffs in a wild set of circumstances in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Yeah, man, what a wild day. I told my guys before we took the initial green in the race, there’s a difference between thinking we could move on and knowing we could move on. This team never gives up. I told them I was never going to give up,” said Briscoe.
Briscoe came into the playoffs without a top 10 finish since this very track back on May 29 in the Coca-Cola 600. He had 5 straight finishes outside the top 20 at that. His stay wasn’t likely going to be very long in this postseason. Especially being a rookie.
However, while he didn’t have a top 10 finish in any of the first round races either, they weren’t beating themselves and capitalizing on others’ misfortunes.
Kyle Busch blew 2 engines in 3 opening round playoff races. Kevin Harvick had a fire in Darlington, a tire blow and crash in Kansas and a bad pit stop in Bristol. Austin Dillon was 17th and 14th in the first two races then caught up in a crash at Bristol. Tyler Reddick cut a tire and crashed also in Kansas and was collected in a crash at Bristol as well.
Briscoe was 27th in Darlington, 13th in Kansas and 14th in Bristol. It was enough.
This round, he started outside the top 30 in Texas but with so many cutting tires and having problems, Briscoe wound up 5th on a day he had a car capable of 20th or worse. In Talladega, he snuck by 10th.
That had him -12 entering Sunday’s race.
Briscoe scored 7 stage points and benefitted from Daniel Suarez’ power steering failing and Ross Chastain as well as Kyle Larson each getting into the infield wall and having to pit for repairs falling multiple laps down. It also didn’t hurt that a few laps after Erik Jones spun him in the bus stop, he spun Austin Cindric who was -1 to Larson at the time.
It brought out a caution. Briscoe was 5th when he was spun and now 25th after. Then the caution came out and he took new tires. So did a few others. His pit crew got him out in 21st.
He went from 21st to 12th to 9th while Larson was stuck 5 laps down without any positions to gain.
That pushed Briscoe in and Larson out.
“It took every bit of it there at the end,” he said. “To be easily in, then that debris caution comes out. Still, I thought we had a really good shot of making it in. Get wrecked on the backstretch. Crazy at the end of these races, especially the road course race, how much can change so quickly.
“I had no idea we were even going to have a shot. Truthfully I knew we were probably out. I saw the 2 wreck, I thought maybe there’s still a chance. We had so much fresher tires than anybody. Johnny pumped them way up to qualifying pressures, let me go attack, have the ball in my hands.
“Super proud of this race team. Pretty cool day for Ford Performance Racing. It’s cool. They’re based right here at Charlotte Motor Speedway at their oval. So got a lot of laps around this place in those cars. Yeah, a really cool day.”
Briscoe now looks forward to the next round because there’s some good place for him. Then, if he can get to Phoenix, he won the race there this past March.
“Looking forward to the Round of 8. A lot of really, really good racetracks for me. If we can get to Phoenix, we know we got a good car there, too.
“Just overall awesome day, proud of my team. Move on.”
On a day that saw a dirt driver in Christopher Bell win, and a dirt driver in Briscoe knock out another dirt driver in Larson, it was a big day for the dirt ranks.
“It’s weird. Seems like dirt guys, especially sprint car guys, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Bell, you’re slipping and sliding so much,” Briscoe said. “You have more power than you can typically put down. It’s similar to a sprint car. The sprint car background definitely helps when you come to a place like this. Cool to see a sprint car guy win and another one move on in the playoffs.”