Briscoe seeks to “surprise” in the playoffs

When it comes to the championship hunt, it’s hard to find a more stoic number than No. 14.

During the 1970s, the iconic AJ Foyt drove his crimson red No. 14 race car to countless wins, wins in the Indianapolis 500 and Indy car championships.

Three decades later, NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart found success aboard the No. 14 stock car in the NASCAR Cup Series.

What may be one of his biggest accomplishments came in 2011, when Stewart tore himself up during the playoffs to secure his third series championship.

As he looks to continue the legacy of No. 14, Chase Briscoe feels his boss and hero’s championship run in 2011 is an inspiring indicator that the playoffs offer a clean slate.

Briscoe enters the playoffs in 12th place on the grid. (HHP/Chris Owens)

“Everyone had written him off and thought there was no way he should be in the playoffs, and he even said it himself and then went out and ran like he did. I think using that to your advantage and knowing that it’s a reset in a sense,” Briscoe said. “Everything we did the first 26 weeks, yeah, it mattered to get to this point, but now you can win the first 26 races and if you have three bad races in a row, you’re out of the playoffs.

“Everything is irrelevant to some degree other than bringing you here. So I think, for us, just using that to go and know that, ‘Hey, just because we’ve had two or three bad months doesn’t mean we can’t do this yet.’ We’re fully capable of making a run, and then just talking to some of my teammates who have been in the playoffs about limiting mistakes and making sure you don’t take yourself out.”

Nullifying mistakes during the playoffs can make or break a team’s championship aspirations.

For Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team, surviving each round weighs heavily on maximizing points each weekend.

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“That’s a big thing, especially the first round: how you don’t have to win,” Briscoe said. “You can point your way there and that’s something that’s hard for me obviously sometimes it’s getting the big picture and realizing you don’t always have to win the race or try to take a 12th-place car and win with that, that you have to be able to take a 12th-place car and run ninth with it.

“That’s a big day as far as playoff timing goes, so talking to those guys on that side of things has been a big help.”

Although it may be his first time competing for a Cup Series championship, Briscoe has experience competing in a playoff format.

In 2020, Briscoe raced to the championship round in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs, before finishing fourth in the standings.

The formats may be extremely similar, however, racing on the track is what Briscoe won’t get to know until this weekend at Darlington (SC) Raceway.

“It’s hard because until you’re there and experience it, I think it’s hard to say exactly what it’s going to be like. But I know that at least in the Truck Series and even in the Xfinity Series, the intensity definitely ramps up,” Briscoe said. “The stages, I remember on Xfinity, I think it was Kansas, fighting for seventh was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done just because I knew one point was going to make a difference.”

Briscoe’s first two seasons in the Cup Series have been different in every way imaginable. Although Briscoe didn’t win a race in his rookie season and missed the playoffs, he won for the first time in the Cup Series in the fourth week of this season at Phoenix Raceway.

Briscoe celebrates after his first career win at Phoenix. (HHP/Tim Parks)

“It’s definitely different. Last year, it’s not like you don’t have anything to run for anymore, but it’s different when you’re not in the playoffs,” Briscoe said. “You go to the racetrack and you know the focus is not going to be on you and you know the attention is different when you’re not in the playoffs.

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“I think for me this year it’s definitely different knowing that you have a chance to win a championship, just being in the playoffs, all the things that come from that just from the point of view of care for our partners and things like that is definitely different. It is nice. I feel like our team is excited.

“For us, we won Phoenix in the third or fourth week of the year, so we’ve had a lot of time to think about the playoffs and think about what we’re going to do and how we’re going to try to do things. in the playoffs and now that they’re finally here, it’s good because we’ve had a lot, a lot of time to really think about them. I’m excited that they’re finally here.”

Since its win at Phoenix in March, the No. 14 Ford has only finished in the top 10 twice, most recently in May in the Coca-Cola 600.

The summer months haven’t been kind to Briscoe, but the 27-year-old is optimistic now that the playoffs begin.

“It’s going to be good to hit the reset button. We haven’t done a lot of things right in the last two or three months and we haven’t really had the finishes to show what I feel like the speed that we’ve had,” Briscoe said. “Hopefully we can get to the gate running these first three weeks or the next three weeks for this first round and show what I know we are capable of. I feel like they are all very good tracks for me as well career-wise, so I’m looking forward to it and hopefully we can surprise a lot of people.”

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