Race Weekend Central

Chase Briscoe Learning From Kevin Harvick How To Lead Stewart-Haas

Chase Briscoe was one of the biggest surprises in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs last season, making the Round of 8 one year after finishing 23rd in points.

The Mitchell, Ind., native exceeded his 2021 rookie season in nearly every category last year, including top fives (zero to six), top 10s (three to 10) and laps led (18 to 280). He even won his first Cup race, coming at Phoenix Raceway.

With much uncertainty in the air with Stewart-Haas Racing’s future as Kevin Harvick retires after 2023 and Aric Almirola nears the end of his career, Briscoe is the one constant. SHR rewarded Briscoe with a multiyear extension during the offseason, securing him in the No. 14 Ford well past the 2023 season. It marks the first time in his career the 27-year-old enters a season already knowing what he will do next year.

Frontstretch caught up with Briscoe just prior to the Busch Light Clash to talk the contract extension, Harvick’s impact, becoming the leader at SHR and how to build off of a strong 2022.

Michael Massie, Frontstretch: You signed an extension with SHR. Congrats on that. How much of a relief is it to get that out of the way?

Chase Briscoe: It’s nice, for sure, to know that you’re gonna have a job for a few more years. You can kind of just focus on the racing. Not that you want to have a bad year, but you know that you’re gonna have another shot to kind of redeem yourself, which I’ve never really had that in my career.

So that’ll be nice just to know that I’m going to be here for a few years, I’m going to be able to work with same group of guys, just continue to build our relationships and just to have stability.

I don’t know if it would have meant as much if I didn’t have a family and things like that now, but now that I have a son and a family that I’m trying to provide for, it definitely makes it nice to know that you don’t have to lay your head down at night and worry if you’re gonna have a job next year. So that part’s definitely nice to have that security and something that I’m definitely thankful for.

Massie: You got that bread on the table, right? It’s secured. So that’s the first time you’ve ever had it not year-to-year, right?

Briscoe: Yeah, I’ve never not had a year-to-year deal. So it’s definitely unchartered territory for me. But honestly, I feel like it’s gained confidence. Like, I feel like I have more confidence in myself, and as a company, they believe in me that much to take a risk. They’ve obviously taken a risk on me in the past signing me in the first place and things like that.

But for them to see, I guess, the value that I bring is definitely something that I appreciate. And it’s going to be different knowing that I’m not on a year-to-year deal. It’ll be different, especially in the later part of the year. And it’ll definitely take some stress and anxiety away just knowing that, come July through really November, you’re not going to be sitting there every week trying to figure out what you’re going to do for the next year. So that’ll definitely be nice.

Massie: Granted, it never really looked like they were gonna get rid of you or anything this offseason, right?

Briscoe: Yeah, not this offseason, that was good. Definitely in the past, there’s been times where I was concerned. But yeah, this year, with how we ended the year, I felt confident that I was going to be back, just a matter of putting it all together. And I was glad that we were able to do that.

Massie: Kevin Harvick, it’s his last year. What does he mean to you?

Briscoe: Kevin has been by far the best teammate I could ever ask for. That guy has done so much for me on and off the racetrack. Anytime I have any question, whether it’s about racing, about business, where he lifted, just literally anything, he’s always been an open book.

Literally the first time I met him in 2018 at Atlanta [Motor Speedway], running an Xfinity race, I just walked over and asked him for advice. And from that day forward, he’s been nothing but incredible to me.

So it’s gonna be weird not having Kevin at the end of this year, just because that phone call and that guy ā€” I would always walk over to his trailer and ask him questions ā€” isn’t going to be there anymore. So I’m gonna have to find somebody else to kind of confide in and things like that.

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But yeah, for me, to grow up and watch Kevin’s career and watch him have 60 Cup wins and now to be teammates with him and just see the preparation that goes into that. And I find myself still to this day like pinching myself that Kevin Harvick is my teammate, somebody that I have a personal friendship with and things like that.

I’m going to miss Kevin when he’s gone. I’m glad that he’s able to go out when he wants to go out. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went on a tear this year and went out on top.

Massie: So Harvick’s gonna be gone. Almirola, it seems like he doesn’t have too many more years left. Do you feel like there’s gonna be this void where it’s gonna be your job to step up and take that leadership role?

Briscoe: Yeah, it’s a weird spot to be in, sitting here in my third year in the Cup Series and thinking that I can be the leader of one of the bigger organizations. Just how inexperienced I still am. I’ve been in the company a long time, but I haven’t been on the Cup side for a long time. And when Aric leaves, I’m gonna be the longest guy that they’ve had here at the time.

So that’s gonna be unique, just being in that situation. I’ve never had that situation in my career, where I’m kind of the lead guy, especially when I’ve had multiple teammates. So that’ll be kind of uncharted territory for me as well.

But I think that puts even more emphasis on this year for me to try to learn from Kevin as much as I can about how he kind of steers the ship and how he does it, that leadership role. And I’ve always liked the leadership side within my own team, but I’ve never had to do that within an organization.

If that’s the kind of the title I’m appointed, then I’ll definitely, gladly take it on. But I think that’s something that just kind of naturally happens, it’s not something that […] You don’t work for that opportunity, it’s just kind of given to you. And when your results are showing that you’re the best car week in and week out, the eyes kind of start turning to you.

So hopefully, our results will show that we’re going to be that lead guy, but yeah, we just got to continue to get better and better. And if we do that, hopefully, we can be that guy.

Massie: So a huge improvement in year two from year one in Cup, right? Why were the two years so different?

Briscoe: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things. I think anytime you come into your first season in the Cup Series, it’s just way harder than people realize, especially drivers. For me, I went from winning nine races the year before coming into the Cup Series, you think you can still go and compete because some of them guys would come run Xfinity races, and I would run with them.

The Cup Series is just a whole ‘nother level, just the competitive side, how long the races are, you have to do everything right. And then, also, Stewart-Haas was in a very down year in 2021. […] And so you start your expectations, thinking as a rookie, you can maybe go win a race. And then as a company, we don’t win a single race other than Aric at New Hampshire [Motor Speedway].

So I think it would have been, for me, a lot harder if Kevin would have won nine races again, and Aric and everybody else is winning and I didn’t win. But as a company, we kind of struggled in general.

So I felt like, for us, our cars were more competitive, but also I got way better after running my first couple years, just learning things, understanding how to put a whole race together and things like that. So hopefully, I’ll just continue to get better. I feel like, every race I run in the Cup Series, I learn so much just racing around these guys that have way more experience and just getting laps. So hopefully, we’ll just continue to get better as the year goes on.

Massie: You’ve been climbing up. Entering year three, what do you and the team do to ensure that you keep climbing and don’t go the other way this year?

Briscoe: I think we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, continuing to try to get better. I’ve never ran a series for a third year. So that’s going to be something different for me too. My second year has always been better than my first year.

I think, statistically, if you just look at guys in their third year in the Cup Series, that’s kind of when they start having a breakout season. You look at [Tyler] Reddick. Chase Elliott, I think he didn’t even win until his third year. […] Christopher Bell is another example. That third year, you kind of have your feet underneath you a little bit more, you kind of understand what to do, your confidence is higher.

So hopefully that third year will be the same for us, where we can go and win more races and just be more competitive. I think that’s the biggest thing for us. We’ve proven that we can win, that we can run up front. We just haven’t done it consistently, and I would say a large majority of that falls on me.

I feel like I learned a ton last year in the playoffs as far as putting races together and honestly just watching Kevin [Harvick]. There’s a lot of days Kevin does not have the fastest car, but he just kind of nickels and dimes them one spot at a time. By the end of the race, he’s in the top five, [there’s a] restart happening and he’s got a shot to win.

In the playoffs. I tried to have the same mentality. If we don’t have the fastest car, just try to be one or two spots better every restart, every pit road, and by the end of the race, I found myself in the top five a lot in the playoffs. So if I can apply the same teachings I learned last year, hopefully, this year I can be a lot more consistent.

About the author

Michael.massie 113x150

Michael Massie joined Frontstretch in 2017 and has served as the Content Director since 2020. Massie, a Richmond, Va., native, has covered NASCAR, IndyCar, SRX and the CARS Tour. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad and Green Bay Packers minority owner can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies and Packers.

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