Chase Briscoe was humbled quickly in his rookie season at the NASCAR Cup Series level.
Promoted to Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 car in 2021 after winning nine races the year before in the Xfinity Series, Briscoe struggled to find his footing. It wasn’t the best year for the team, which didn’t help a young driver trying to learn the ropes after being thrown into a much deeper talent pool. Briscoe admits now that despite thinking you’re ready for the top level of NASCAR, that is never the case for a new arrival.
Four races into the 2022 season and it’s a different story.
“I think just from a confidence standpoint, I’ve felt like I belong this year,” Briscoe said Sunday after winning at Phoenix Raceway. “Last year, you’re very eyes wide-open. You’re racing against guys you’ve watched on TV for years and you’ve looked up to. Now, I don’t look at the 18 car and go, ‘Oh, that’s Kyle Busch.’ It’s just the 18 car, another guy out there.
“I think that confidence has come a long way. Obviously, with the results, the confidence builds. I feel like I belong. And especially now winning, I feel like I’ve proven I belong in the Cup Series… To run up front consistently and lead laps is special, for sure.”
Briscoe didn’t win at Phoenix, but he flexed his muscles at his self-described worst racetrack. The final stage (127 laps) was all Briscoe, as he was out front for 82 of them. In all, Briscoe led 101 of the race’s 312 laps.
The win adds to a solid start to the season for Briscoe and company, who are now tied for fourth in the point standings. While Daytona and Phoenix were the weekends that netted results, he has been relevant during all of the races so far this season.
Helping his cause is the car. Briscoe has looked much more comfortable driving the Next Gen car than he did in its predecessor.
“It’s definitely a relief to win a race,” Briscoe said. “You can run second, third, but people want a winner at the end of the day. You have to win races to stay here. This isn’t is a guarantee. This could be my only win. I hope not, but hopefully, it shows that I was capable of being at this level. But you still have to keep working.
“There are 39 other guys that are going to try to be the best next week. We’ve just got to continue to do all we can do. We’ve been really fast and I felt like (Sunday) we put a whole race together. We’ve proven now to ourselves that we can do it, and I think that’s a lot of the battle and confidence to carry.”