“I went there with the mentality I was just gonna ride around and hopefully the wreck would happen and I wouldn’t be in it and I’d maybe finish in the top 10 or whatever,” Briscoe said. “And not that I wasn’t going there to win, but I was just there making laps essentially.”
But early last year Briscoe had a lengthy phone call with Earnhardt, the winner of six Cup Series races and one Xfinity race at Talladega, that “changed my entire outlook on those races.”
The changed perspective in part resulted in Briscoe’s fourth-place finish at Talladega last year in his second Xfinity start at the track.
Before that he had a 16th-place finish in 2018 and he placed 22nd in his lone Truck Series start there in 2017.
“I’ve logged a lot of laps and been up front and in contention and just talking to (Earnhardt) and how he approaches those races and his mentality, just how you race them was the total 180 (degrees) opposite of how I was going to go in there,” Briscoe said. “And I felt like ever since I talked to Dale, it’s been a night and day difference, my outlook going to the races. But typically, whenever I get done, I’m like, ‘Man, that was a lot of fun. I’m ready to keep going,’ where the past I would have never said that.”
Added Briscoe: “A lot of people say for the most part that (doing well in) those races are luck, which there is a certain variable of that, but typically you see the same guys winning at the superspeedways, whether it’s Denny (Hamlin) or Joey (Logano) or Brad (Keselowski) or any of those guys and even Dale back when he was racing. So it’s not a coincidence that he got lucky necessarily that many times, there’s something to it. Talking to Dale I feel like really opened my eyes up a lot.”
What was the biggest piece of advice Earnhardt passed on to the 25-year-old driver?
“Just be the aggressor,” Briscoe said. “Now I go there with mentality, I’m going to try to lead every single lap. If I get hung out to dry or whatever, and I fall back to 30th, that’s fine. I’m going to try to drive right back to the lead anytime I get any kind of a run whatsoever. … I just feel like you almost approach it like you’re going go-kart racing. If you wreck, you wreck. But you’re going there to try to lead every single lap you can and it’s just a different style of racing. On the mile-and-half-stuff that’s the mentality I use, and there’s no reason why on superpeedways I wouldn’t use that same mentality of trying to lead every lap.”
That mentality has resulted in Briscoe earning a series-leading three wins so far this year, at Las Vegas, Darlington and last weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That win qualified him to compete for the Dash 4 Cash bonus today at Talladega (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1). He will race against Brandon Jones, Ross Chastain and AJ Allmendinger for the $100,000 prize.
However, for the second race in a row Briscoe will be without his main crew chief, Richard Boswell. Boswell, the team’s car chief and an engineer were suspended four races after last weekend’s first race at Miami, a result of a piece of ballast falling off Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford during the pace laps.
Boswell was replaced on the pit box on Sunday by Stewart-Haas Racing’s vice president of competition, Greg Zipadelli, who will also be in that position Saturday.
“Right now the point is to have him do it at Talladega,” Briscoe said. “I think that’s kind of all of our goal is to have Zippy do it for the following two races, but it’s just dependent on what is going on on the Cup side. That’s obviously priority No. 1 for him. … It was different in a sense of how Zippy communicates and just some of the lingo he uses and his demeanor compared to Boswell. … Obviously, Zippy, he’s won plenty races and championships in the past. So we know he’s more than capable of the job.
“At the same time, this is the perfect opportunity for an interim chief to step in just because of the situation, we’re not practicing or anything. So Boswell’s still setting the car up and everything at home. He’s just not allowed to go to the racetrack. So all that Zippy has to do is really call the race and get the car through tech. So it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for us if this was going to happen just because of the situation we’re in. The only place that it’ll even affect us is Indy (July 4), where we have practice. But we’re confident Zippy’s more than capable of doing the job. And that’s the great thing about Stewart-Haas, we have so much depth all across companies, if something happens. We always have a perfect backup plan.”