RIDGEWAY, Va. – Chase Elliott‘s return from a leg injury was the major storyline entering the NOCO 400 on Sunday afternoon (April 16), but it was another injured Chase who nearly stole the show.
Chase Briscoe finished fifth in the Martinsville Speedway race, his second consecutive top five since breaking the middle finger on his left hand. Briscoe also finished fifth on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway last week just three days after the injury happened in a dirt late model crash.
Still, the finish was a disappointment for the third-year driver, especially in a race where Stewart-Haas Racing appeared to have the fastest cars. SHR cars combined to lead 265 of the 400 laps.
“It would have been more of a statement if we won the race, obviously,” Briscoe stated after the race. “I thought as a company, we had a really good day. All four cars were in contention. I felt like a Stewart-Haas car probably should have won the race. We couldn’t catch the breaks that we needed.
“But overall great day, something that as a company, we needed to go and run up front, all four cars being competitive. I wish one of us would have won the race, but … go onto next week and hopefully, we can continue to speed and this momentum as a company.”
Briscoe alone led over 109 laps in the race, the second time in his career he’s led for triple digits. The only other time he did that was last year at Phoenix Raceway, his first career NASCAR Cup Series win.
The No. 14 appeared to be pulling away from the field and riding off to an easy victory when a caution for a JJ Yeley wreck on lap 343 took the race out of Briscoe’s control.
Briscoe’s crew chief Johnny Klausmeier called his driver down for four tires while a handful of cars either stayed out or took two tires. With passing being incredibly hard at the paperclip in the Next Gen car, Briscoe was unable to get back to the lead after being buried in the middle of the top 10 on the final restart.
“I would like to think [we had them covered],” Briscoe said on if the final caution hadn’t come out. “I mean, having a two-second lead, honestly, just kind of riding, trying to just maintain a two-second lead. I thought our car was really good at that point.
“Even with the caution, I thought we were going to be OK. And then, I thought we were going to stay out, and at the end, it looked like more guys were going to come down to pit road. So we decided to come down with them, and, obviously, Monday morning quarterback, it’s a lot easier to say we probably should have stayed out, but we didn’t.
“And we win and lose as a team, and, at the time I thought that was going to be OK still with just the amount of laps to go. But track position was obviously super important to have. It was really hard to pass, even if you were better than a guy, they could just kind of hang on.”
Despite not getting the win, Briscoe has had his best two races of the season since breaking his finger. Prior to Bristol, he had zero top fives and only one top 10 through the first seven races. And prior to Martinsville, he had only led five laps in eight races, all in the Daytona 500.
“I told Jamie Little on the [FOX] TV broadcast, maybe I need to break another finger,” Briscoe said. “It’s kind of been the turning point for us all year long.”
The fifth-place finish moved Briscoe up six places to 14th in points, his highest position of the season. Prior to breaking his finger, Briscoe was 21st.
As for the finger, Briscoe plans to get surgery on it Monday morning. He noted that he thought he might be able to avoid surgery, but, in the long term, it would affect his ability to make a fist.
“It’s OK,” Briscoe said about his finger after the race. “I definitely had some pain there a little bit. It was really hard for me when I get it really far turned to the left,
but then also it was extremely hard for me to counter steer.
“I had to be really patient about making sure I was straight up off the corner, which probably honestly was helping me there quite a bit, but it was OK. I’m sure I’m gonna be in quite a bit of pain tonight. But I have to be at the hospital at 5 a.m. and see what they can do.”
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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