Chase Briscoe’s dirt racing past helped him to first Xfinity win

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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CONCORD, N.C. — Chase Briscoe stood in the Charlotte Motor Speedway garage Saturday morning and was not generous in grading his Xfinity Series career.

“I would say it’s D- for me,” Briscoe told NBC Sports. “It’s been a disaster.”

The 23-year-old sprint car driver was roughly five hours away from making his 14th series start, a race magnified as NASCAR’s first event on the speedway’s 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course.

In his first 13 starts – 10 spent with Roush Fenway Racing and three with Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBest – the Ford development driver had three top 10s had failed to finish on the lead lap seven times. He had three DNFs in his last seven starts.

“Other than a (Camping World Truck Series) win at Eldora, a couple of sprint car wins, it’s been a rough year,” Briscoe said before the race. “It would be different if we were wrecking up front.”

Eight hours later, he pulled out his cell phone. There were 151 text messages awaiting NASCAR’s newest winner.

A native of Mitchell, Indiana – a town with two stoplights and nothing to do but visit Wal-Mart – Briscoe led 33 of 55 laps on the way to the win.

The Briscoe of Saturday morning would have been shocked to be told he’d win on a road course, let alone lead a lap.

“The road course stuff is probably the one (type of track where) no one has any idea what I’m talking about anytime I go to the pits,” Briscoe admitted.

Briscoe said after his win that his dirt racing roots helped him conquer the Roval, which nearly the entire field had not been on until Thursday. Many drivers noted the slickness of the infield portion of the track.

That’s where Briscoe’s dirt instincts kicked in.

“I felt like that was why I was better always at the end of the run,” Briscoe said. “Honestly, running Eldora this year helped quite a bit, just because it did relate on corner exit.”

Briscoe also credited Billy Johnson, the 2016 IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS champion.

Johnson was brought in for the Mid-Ohio race in August to advise Briscoe in his first Xfinity start on a road course.

“I feel like in the past on road courses I always came into them with the mentality of drive as hard as you possibly can, just drive it to the absolute max, slide around everywhere,” Briscoe said.

Johnson told him he was wrong.

“I started to do what Billy told me, just let it roll as much as possible and try not to abuse the front tires,” Briscoe said.

Without Johnson’s advice and racing Fords in IMSA, Briscoe is sure he would have been in “left field even more than I was at the beginning of the weekend.”

Managing his tires helped Briscoe fend off Daniel Hemric in the final stage until Hemric cut through the frontstretch chicane and served an on-track penalty that dropped him to 10th. Briscoe cruised to the checkered flag.

Briscoe is unsure what his future holds, but a Ford executive said they are working to get him a full-time ride.

The win didn’t boost Briscoe’s grade for himself dramatically.

“We’re up to about C- minus now,” Briscoe said. “We’re going to keep working.”