Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric had a tall order in store for them when the 2020 Xfinity Series season began.
A year after struggling to find success against the onslaught of the “Big 3” of Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer, they had a chance grab more of the spotlight.
But Briscoe, in his second full-time year with Stewart-Haas Racing, and Cindric, in his second full year with Team Penske, had to do it as the only Ford drivers in the field.
It’s worked out so far.
Ahead of the doubleheader races at Kentucky Speedway this week, Briscoe has a series-leading five wins – four more than in his last two seasons. Meanwhile, Cindric is winless but he’s fourth in the points after posting seven top fives in addition to two top 10s.
Their resilience against the competition is helped in part by the defacto Ford teammates having been joined at the hip in their rise through the racing ranks.
“We drive for different race teams, but we’re the only two Fords in the series and as soon as I came to pavement (from dirt racing), Austin’s really been by my side throughout that whole thing,” Briscoe said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track.” “When I was driving in ARCA for (Briggs) Cunningham, he came in and ran a limited schedule. The next year we’re teammates in the Truck Series full-time (at Brad Keselowski Racing). Then following year in 2018 we’re teammates at Roush (Fenway Racing) and do an IMSA stuff together. Austin really has been my mentor throughout all the road course racing stuff.”
Briscoe said when they first started in IMSA, he was four to five seconds off Cindric’s pace. On Saturday, he topped Cindric and road-course ace AJ Allmendinger to win the inaugural race on the Indianapolis road course.
“(Cindric) was there to coach me along the way and teach me all the little things he knows,” Briscoe told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Now even in the Xfinity car, every time we go to a road course, even at Indy, the day of the race I talked to him, we went and had lunch together. I’m asking him questions that truthfully I’m probably not expecting him to give the honest answer. But I know he’ll shoot me straight just because that’s the kind of guy he is.”
Even though they’re the closest thing they have to teammates, Briscoe believes “no matter what, me and Austin are always going to be really hard competitors against each other for winning races. But we still want to see each other succeed. If I can’t win, I want to see Austin win. I know he’s the same way with me. So it’s really nice when you can have that camaraderie.”
Of Briscoe’s five wins this season, two have been on 1.5-mile tracks. Thursday’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1) will be his fourth overall start at Kentucky Speedway and his second in Xfinity. The 25-year-old driver isn’t too fond of the track in Sparta, Kentucky.
“Statistically, I’ve always been terrible at Kentucky for whatever reason that is,” Briscoe said. “I haven’t had the best luck there.”
However, backed by his five wins, Briscoe is confident he’ll have a good car for the doubleheader. He also notes his former Xfinity teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, Cole Custer, was “really good” there last year, when he led 88 laps and won. Briscoe finished fifth.
“I feel like from an experience standpoint and a confidence standpoint, I’ll be way better this year,” Briscoe told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I’m looking forward to going there and trying to get two wins.
“Normally if you have a bad race you gotta wait a whole ‘nother week to get back behind the wheel. And we’re fortunate to have another chance the next day. It kind of goes back to Homestead this year. Saturday, we had an issue and felt like we were the best car but we were able to redeem ourselves Sunday. Hopefully you’re there this week and get two wins.”