Instead, Briscoe kept the lead, held off the pack on a late restart and scored his first career Cup victory Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
It nearly could have been Chastain’s first Cup win, though. Or Tyler Reddick‘s.
A restart with 20 laps to go proved to be Chastain’s best chance to win even with a restart three laps from the end.
On that penultimate restart, Briscoe led the bottom lane. Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick was beside him. Chastain lined up behind Briscoe in the second row. Tyler Reddick was outside of Briscoe.
Before the green waved again, Chastain debated about how brazen a move to make.
When the green flew, Chastain dived below Briscoe, both cutting the dogleg. They nearly made contact.
“I drove way deeper than I meant to … and almost had him clear,” Chastain said after matching his career-best finish by placing second.
“It was just chattering all four tires. I ran him all the way to the wall on the exit of (Turn) 2. Besides wrecking both of us, I couldn’t have done any more. … That was kind of the defining point of winning the race for us.”
Said Briscoe of that restart: “I thought when I was outside of (Chastain) that one time off of (Turn) 2, I already thought in my mind that I was going to plug the fence and I was going to be done, but I was committed at that point. I was kind of blown away that it stuck as well as it did and that he even left me a lane because he was all but clear. Everything just worked out perfect.”
It also worked out that well on the final restart for Briscoe.
He again chose the bottom. This time he had Reddick beside him. Chastain restarted behind Briscoe in the second row. Harvick was in the outside lane behind Reddick.
Chastain didn’t have as good a restart and couldn’t come as close to taking the lead as he had the previous restart.
“(Ryan Blaney) got to me coming to the restart zone and shoved me,” Chastain said. “I had a run on (Briscoe) but I got there too quick. I couldn’t lift, and I couldn’t turn left yet because of the start/finish line (drivers must stay in their lane until passing that line on a start or restart).
“I just hit (Briscoe), and I pushed him ahead. I couldn’t lift at that point because (Blaney) would have been right back to me or the outside line would have rolled all of us.”
That left Reddick with the best chance, but he couldn’t make it work.
“I wish I could have been able to drive it in deeper,” Reddick said. “That was all I had. I couldn’t have gone any further.
“I knew some ridiculous, crazy move wasn’t going to win the race for me.”
While Chastain and Reddick couldn’t get by Briscoe, they left feeling good with their results.
“I wouldn’t trade anything for today,” Chastain said. “I learned a lot.”
Reddick’s third-place finish is his best of the season.
“Those type of situations are the ones you work all week to put yourself in, the end of the race, a restart or a long green-flag run, whatever it might be,” he said. “You have those moments, all the work you put in in the offseason, whatever it may be, however long it may be. That’s what it is all for, so you have the good payoff. Not first. Third is not bad. We’ll learn from it.”