RICHMOND, Va. — The finish definitely won’t show it — 30th place because of a blown tire on the final restart — but Chase Briscoe had the fastest NASCAR Cup Series car on the track Sunday in the EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.
The statistics do reveal that fact because the 27-year old driver from Mitchell turned the fastest lap of the race in Austin at 133.177 seconds, faster even than any laps race winner Ross Chastain put in. Yet, as is often the case, circumstances trump speed, and Briscoe was a victim of misfortune. Now he hopes to keep that speed, and jettison the bad luck, this Sunday in the Richmond 400.
“We were able to keep making the car better through the race and at the end there it felt like we had a chance,” Briscoe said of the Texas road-course race. “The 1 (Ross Chastain) kind of ran me off and I was trying to get back to him and made a mistake and let the 16 (AJ Allmendinger) by.
“Then I locked the left-front (tire) up on a restart and from there every restart after we were just trying to hold on and we blew the right front (tire) on the last restart. We had another really fast Mahindra Tractors Mustang, which is encouraging.
“We had the speed and we were able to run up front again. We just need to put it all together. That has been the story all year long. If we can put the whole thing together, we are really tough. That is what we did in Phoenix and we just need to continue doing that.”
Richmond 400 a rumble
The Richmond 400, which is the seventh race on this year’s schedule, often turns into a car-banging, wall-walloping rumble as 43 cars line up on a .75-mile oval. The 400 laps are divided into stages of 70, 160 and 170 laps, adding up to 300 miles.
It starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday and will be televised by Fox and broadcast by MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Expect the rough-and-tumble nature of the Richmond 400 to remain at a track that was opened in 1946 and last paved in 1988. Briscoe has two Cup Series starts at Richmond with a best finish of 16th earned in September 2021. In his five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Richmond, Briscoe earned his first top-10 in April 2019, then returned that September to earn a fifth-place result.
Though he struggled to earn top results on short tracks in his rookie year, Briscoe continues to adapt his dirt-racing style to stock-car racing on pavement and has already made gains this season in the NextGen car. Briscoe hopes the new car adapts well to Richmond.
“The racing at Richmond has been good in the past, but it’s just so circumstantial,” he said. “Everybody’s view of what makes it a good race is different. Some people want to see a lot of passing. Some people want to see the cars slipping and sliding around. Some people want to see wrecks. Others just want to see a close finish at the end. That definition of a good race is different for everybody, so I think for me at least, in the past Auto Club has been a blast. I had a blast there this year, too.
“Richmond, I don’t really know what to expect. I do think this car probably creates a little more grip than the old car does at places like Richmond, but I honestly don’t know what to expect when we get there. I think that we haven’t really seen this car on a true short track. Yes, Phoenix is a short track, but there’s not a lot of tire falloff, where at Richmond there’s a ton of falloff, so we have to see how this car reacts to that.
“It’ll definitely be interesting to see how this car impacts tire saving and guys going hard and things like that. I do think that, with this car, everywhere we go there are a lot of comers and goers. You have guys that are extremely good on the short run, guys that are good on the long run, and with this car you’re just constantly changing positions. You throw in the tire falloff side of things at Richmond and it’s going to be interesting, for sure.”
Briscoe 9th in point standings
Briscoe and the No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) are ninth in points, 42 behind leader Chase Elliott. He currently holds a spot in the 16-driver playoff field by virtue of his win at Phoenix. He’s led laps in four of the first six races and ranks fourth in total laps led to date.
Briscoe feels he has clicked well the NextGen car, but it’s hard for him to pinpoint the exact reasons for it.
“I don’t know; I don’t feel like I’m really doing anything different,” he said. “The last few weeks, the car has driven pretty similar to the old Cup car – not the 550 stuff, but the 750 package. I feel like just as a team we’ve gotten better. We’ve had more speed in our racecars where last year was obviously a struggle but, to me, the cars don’t drive a whole lot different.
“I don’t know if other guys just have more habits to break, where I didn’t really have a lot of things I needed to change as far as from an experience standpoint. The NextGen is kind of a hybrid between a Cup car and an Xfinity car in terms of feel, but I just think our cars have been really good.
“We’ve had a lot of speed and we’ve been able to capitalize on that, where last year we never had the speed we needed a lot of the time, and the races we did have speed and ran up front, we didn’t have it consistently like we have this year, so far.”
Briscoe, Klausmeier clicking
Briscoe also believes his strong relationship with crew chief Johnny Klausmeier has helped pave an increasingly-smooth transition.
“I feel like from the beginning we’ve always gotten along really well,” Briscoe said. “From a personal standpoint, we’re both a lot alike. That’s kind of been different for me than crew chiefs I’ve had in the past. A lot of my crew chiefs aren’t as, I guess – I don’t even know what the word would be – just as laid back and relaxed as Johnny is.
“So, it’s been kind of different for me because normally it’s a deal where it’s hot and cold, where one guy is more amped up all the time and the other guy is really relaxed, where me and Johnny are both pretty relaxed all the time. I think, as we’ve continued to learn more about each other, we’ve only gotten better. Last year was tough with no practice and no qualifying. He was trying to figure out what I was even asking for sometimes. He hasn’t worked with any Sprint car guys before, and just our lingo and what we look for is different.
“I felt like toward the end of last season we really started to click as far as what I liked in the racecar, and this year we’ve done a phenomenal job of doing the same. I think our success on the racetrack has honestly come from having practice and having qualifying and all these things.
“Last year, we were always trying to catch up and it just made it a real struggle to where, by the end of the race, I always felt like our car drove really good and we were one of the faster cars, but we were just buried from a track position standpoint. We were already a lap down from the beginning of the race, so us being able to have practice and get our car driving really good and then go qualify and be able to start up front has been really good for our team.”
Contact Times-Mail Sports Writer Jeff Bartlett at [email protected], or on Twitter @jeffbtmnews.
This article originally appeared on The Times-Mail: Briscoe bracing for rugged NASCAR afternoon Sunday at Richmond Raceway