Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Chase Briscoe on Winning the Dirt Derby, IMSA and XFINITY

For Ford Performance development driver Chase Briscoe, the past couple of weeks have been nothing short of a whirlwind.  First, he won his first race in a winged sprint car at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind.

Then, he went to Eldora Speedway in a fifth ThorSport Racing Ford on little notice.  He showed up to the track with nothing to lean on, points-wise.  He had to get in on his own merits, or pack up early.

Not only did he get the No. 27 Ford F-150 into the 150-lap main feature, he held off teammate Grant Enfinger to win the Eldora Dirt Derby.  It was a very sweet victory for the 23-year old Indiana native.

In addition to his NASCAR schedule, Briscoe has competed in all but one of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge races so far this season (the exception was Watkins Glen, where Ty Majeski drove).  So, after earning literal paydirt at Eldora, Briscoe packed up and headed straight to Connecticut to press his luck on a 1.474-mile road course.  It was there that Briscoe talked to Frontstretch about the Eldora trip, his year to date and more.

Phil Allaway, Frontstretch: We’re 36 hours removed from you claiming the Golden Shovel at Eldora Speedway.  Before we get into the race itself, how did the ride with ThorSport Racing coming together for you?

Chase Briscoe, No. 15 Ford Performance Ford Mustang GT4: I was begging ever since February for the chance to run that race. Obviously, as a dirt guy, Eldora’s the one NASCAR race that’s on dirt. You always have it scheduled on your calendar.

Honestly, I thought it was a done deal. With [NASCAR] moving the Indianapolis weekend [to September], I thought they’d move the Eldora race as well. So, I was looking at the Truck schedule and it was about three weeks away. I called up the Ford guys and asked, “Are we still good?”  They said, “Nah, we haven’t really been thinking about it lately.”

They made a phone call the next day and three days later, I found out I was going to do it. That was the week before the race. I flew up to Sandusky, Oh. and got fitted. Ended up winning the race the other night. It was cool to reward those guys, thankful that they let me do it, and hopefully, I can continue to do it.

Allaway: You showed up to Eldora with what amounted to a team cobbled together of guys that don’t necessarily go to the track every week. What was it like to work with such a team in those circumstances?

Briscoe: It’s definitely always unique when you’re going to run for a team you don’t normally run for and meeting new guys. That’s a good thing that this year has gotten me ready for. I’ve been jumping around from team to team, whether it’s Stewart-Haas, Roush [Fenway], the IMSA stuff. That part of it has been nice to get used to.

The ThorSport guys treated me like gold. I felt like I was at home. A lot of the guys were guys that don’t go on the road every week, but they used to be on the road. Probably the most experienced guys in the shop. It was cool to have those guys come and work on our race weekend and get them a win. That was awesome to do that and I’m so thankful that ThorSport was willing to take a fifth truck. It is a lot to do, especially at Eldora since you know it’s going to get torn up. It means a lot and I’m thankful that Duke Thorson allowed me to do it.

Allaway: In the final laps, the race came down to yourself and Grant Enfinger. Where did you feel that you were stronger than Grant?

Briscoe: In the second stage, Grant was a little bit better than me the whole time, even though we led [the race]. I just had the track position. I was in the lead and could dictate where he had to run to be able to pass me.

At the beginning of the [final] stage, we both went to the back after we pitted and [Enfinger] actually got ahead of me. He was a little bit better than me all the way around. It seems like as the run progressed, we just got better on the long run. I had a little more forward drive than he had.

That was really the biggest difference there at the end having more forward drive. We could get off the corner a little bit better and keep the tires hooked up. Plus, being able to pick the restart lane and getting to dictate when I went. That was huge. If Grant were able to pick when he could go, he would have definitely beat me. I’m thankful that it all worked out.

Allaway: Wednesday night was your first Truck race of the season. Have you been trying to get any more Truck opportunities?

Briscoe: I’m willing to do whatever as long as it’s capable of winning. I don’t care if it’s the IMSA deal or what. I would be more than willing to run a Truck race if I knew [the truck] would be capable of winning.

Obviously, I’d love to do it at tracks I enjoy running, but at the end of the day, with me being part-time, I have to take every opportunity that I can to get into a race car. I texted Duke Thorson and told him, “Thank you for letting me run Eldora and I’d be more than willing to run any other time,” so we’ll have to see. Hopefully, it’ll all come together.

I think I might run an ARCA race later in the year, too. Just trying to get in a good race car. Doesn’t do you any good if you’re not up there battling for the wins. That’s kind of the big thing. Getting something that’s capable of winning.

Allaway: What does winning the Eldora Dirt Derby truly mean to you?

Briscoe: For me, it’s huge. Winning at Eldora is something that I’ve always dreamed of since I was a little kid. I’ve been going over there since I was about four or five years old. My grandpa’s won there as a car owner. My dad’s raced there tons of times.

For the dirt guys, Eldora’s our Daytona. It’s as big as it gets, as far as a stage goes. To be able to win a race at Eldora, I’d never thought in a million years that it’d be in a NASCAR Truck. I thought a sprint car would be more the way I’d go there.

Eldora is the one marquee event for the Truck Series. To be able to add my name to the really prestigious list of guys that have already won it is huge. Hopefully, I can be the first back-to-back winner.

Allaway: That’s no easy feat, especially with the quality of the drivers that show up. They had 39 drivers trying to make the race and you were right up against it from the start because you had no points.

Briscoe: That was the tough thing. Honestly, this year, the entry list was the most stacked field going into it just because there were so many true dirt guys actually running really good trucks. That was one thing we were worried about was racing into the field.  Luckily, we did that.

Definitely added a little more stress to the weekend because if we did have a bad heat race, we would have gotten buried in the B-main. You never know what can happen there.

We were fortunate enough to win the heat race and lock ourselves into the [Dirt Derby]. It was definitely a unique situation to be in a truck that only planned on running one race all year long and not having any points.

Allaway: Today’s your first time here at Lime Rock Park. What do you think of the circuit so far?

Briscoe: It’s definitely way tighter, narrower and hillier than I thought. I turned a lot of laps here on iRacing and the Ford simulator before I came here, but nothing compares to actually seeing it in person.

Note: The current version of the track on iRacing is from before Lime Rock Park was renovated.  It is currently not possible to race the current track with the “Alternate Uphill” that the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams raced on Saturday.  Briscoe was racing on the classic circuit this past weekend.

Definitely way narrower than I thought. It’s going to be more difficult to pass than I thought, so track position’s going to be important.  We need to qualify up front and stay up front.

Allaway: Obviously, Scott Maxwell is the veteran here with [Multimatic Motorsports]. You and your fellow Ford Performance development drivers have worked with him all season. What’s it like having him in the fold?

Briscoe: It’s nice to have a guy that has experience, especially for myself. Pretty much every track we’ve been to, with the exception of [Canadian Tire Motorsports Park], I’d never been to before. So, to have a guy that has experience driving the exact same car that you do with the same setup is definitely big.

The biggest thing for me over here, unlike NASCAR, is that we have data to look at. We can overlay our brake, throttle, steering [traces] and everything. That’s been a big help to have someone that has experience, knows what he’s doing, is a proven winner.

Allaway: The results probably don’t show this, but what kind of improvement do you believe you’ve made so far driving in these five IMSA race weekends?

Briscoe: It’s been huge. For me, up until this year, I’d only done two road course races. I felt like it was definitely something I lacked in and didn’t have a lot of confidence in.

Looking back, at Mid-Ohio, that was probably the first race that I felt like I was good enough to battle for the win. Last time out [at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park], I ended up having the fastest lap of the race. That was a big deal for me, personally.

I really don’t know how much I can tell how much it’s helping me yet, but I’m going to run the XFINITY car at Mid-Ohio next month (for Roush Fenway Racing). I feel like that’s where we can finally judge ourselves on how much this has helped me. I know that I’m way up confidence-wise on road courses, so I definitely think it’s been a big help.

Allaway: Speaking of road courses, you’re scheduled to run the No. 98 at the Charlotte ROVAL in September.  They’ve had a couple of big test sessions there for Cup the past couple of weeks.  What do you think about that whole scenario down there?

Briscoe: I know the Cup guys have been testing down there, and they’ve wrecked a lot of race cars. I know that everyone I’ve talked to says that it’s really fast and narrow. It’s going to be super-hard to pass. I don’t think the XFINITY cars are going to test there. We’re just going to show up, get our two hours’ worth of practice and go. It’s going to be tough.

iRacing is talking about getting it on their simulator. Ford’s been working on it as well to get it on their simulator. It’s going to be huge just getting laps on it. I don’t really know what to expect going into it. I think everybody’s [going to be] green on it, so that’ll help, but it’s going to be exciting.

Allaway: Is 200 kilometers (55 laps) too short of a race for the XFINITY Series on the ROVAL?

Briscoe: I think that the road courses seem to race so different, everyone’s so much more aggressive on the road courses, no matter how long the race is.

To me, 55 laps is not too short because the same fast guys are going to be up front all day long. The only thing that’s going to make it hard is if you have a bad pit stop or something, it’s going to be hard to rally from it with the [amount] of laps, especially with how hard it’s going to be to pass. I don’t think it’ll be too short. It’ll probably be a really good distance. We’ll just have to see.

Allaway: What’s your schedule like for the rest of the year here in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge?

Briscoe: This is my second to last [race of the year]. I’ll do this one, then I’ll run at Road Atlanta. All the other weekends, I have conflicts with the XFINITY stuff, so I’ll do this one and Road Atlanta, then hopefully do some more next year.

Allaway: So far in the XFINITY Series, you’ve run eight races. Your best finish is ninth last time out in Joliet, but it’s been an up-and-down year with bad luck, quirky instances. How would you describe your year to this point?

Briscoe: Man, it’s been awful as far as performance goes. Ninth place is our best finish. In my personal opinion, that’s unacceptable on my end. Definitely feel like we’ve been making gains as a team on the No. 60 side. We’ve been getting more and more speed.

The No. 98 over at Stewart-Haas, it seems like we can’t catch a break. It seems like every race we’re in, we get caught up in something that’s not of our own doing.

Going to Iowa next weekend, that’s probably my all-time favorite pavement track. I feel like that’s the best place I get around. The No. 60 car ran really good there earlier in the year [with Ty Majeski]. We feel like we can honestly go there and run top three and battle for a win.

We’ll see. It’s going to be nicer towards the end of the year. That’s when I finally get into the car on a consistent basis, week after week.  It’s been kind of tough trying to learn the new race car and racing once a month in it.

In August, I think I run three of the four weekends. That’ll be nice to build some momentum over there.

Allaway: On dirt, you won your first winged sprint car race last week. You won the Dirt Derby. What’s the next big dirt race that you want to snag?

Briscoe: The Chili Bowl is obviously the one that every dirt guy wants to win.  It’s the toughest one to win at the same time.

As a driver, it would definitely be the Chili Bowl. As an owner of my dirt team, Indiana Sprint Week is probably one of the biggest for me personally growing up in Indiana. It’s a title I’d love to win as an owner. Having Thomas Meseraull driving for us starting tonight, hopefully, they can put a good week and a half together and go win that thing. Trying to find a driver right now for the Knoxville Nationals as well. There’s definitely some races I’d like to win as an owner. I know they’re going to be tough to win as a driver, so we’ll put our best foot forward and see what we can do.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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